July 27, 2017
School & Youth
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  • Midshipman Caroline Watts helped third-grade student Addison Albert with a worksheet about volcanoes.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Midshipman Caroline Watts helped third-grade student Addison Albert with a worksheet about volcanoes.
  • Mids for Kids volunteer Ray Gerrety stood at attention while Keven Arias took down the American flag. Observing was Dusten Hooper, who takes down the Maryland flag.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Mids for Kids volunteer Ray Gerrety stood at attention while Keven Arias took down the American flag. Observing was Dusten Hooper, who takes down the Maryland flag.
  • Midshipman Shannon Dillman played with kindergarten student Lauren Bell.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Midshipman Shannon Dillman played with kindergarten student Lauren Bell.

Mids For Kids Provides Area Students With Role Models

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
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May 18, 2017

To many kids in the greater Annapolis area, seeing a midshipman in uniform is like seeing a superhero. Mids for Kids, a campus program under the Midshipman Action Group, partners with local schools to put midshipmen volunteers in the classroom. About 140 midshipmen are actively involved with 15 different schools throughout Anne Arundel County, including Sunset Elementary.

Midshipmen volunteer with Mids for Kids during breaks in their weekday class schedules. When possible, they are placed in the same classrooms on a weekly basis to build relationships with the same group of students.

At Sunset Elementary, the volunteer coordinator for the school pairs every midshipman with a specific student. Midshipman Samantha Nourse of the class of 2019 enjoyed that particular aspect of volunteering in the classroom at Sunset this semester.

“That’s a really great opportunity to have some one-on-one mentorship and some added support to local children that actually need it,” Nourse said.

Nourse also served as a school manager at Arnold Elementary. In this role, she worked with the school and parent volunteers to ensure each midshipman had a ride to school.

Debbie Hunter, a third-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary, has had mids in her classroom for four different school years.

“The students love seeing the mids come in. The student they are assigned to always feels extra special for having that one-on-one contact from someone they highly respect,” Hunter said. “We always talk in class about colleges, and the Navy is a part of that discussion. Students know these mids are incredibly intelligent and have promised service to our country. The may not understand the depth of that, but they respect the uniformed people.”

Sunset front office staff member Lorene Conklin notices a more positive attitude from the staff and students when the mids are present in the school.

“The kids love them,” Conklin said. “The mids have been such an encouragement to those kids, especially kids who don't have as much support and attention at home.”

Two students who have been especially impacted by midshipmen are fifth-graders Keven Arias and Dusten Hooper, who are responsible for hoisting up and bringing down the flags in front of the school at the beginning and end of the day.

Michelle Zitofsky, the school counselor and Mids for Kids coordinator at Sunset Elementary, has noticed a positive change in both Arias and Hooper since a midshipman, Ray Gerrety, has worked with them.

“While they have always taken pride in this task, this pride has increased since working with Ray, the midshipman who taught them how to properly fold the American and Maryland flags, just as they do in the military. Now, they spend extra time and effort folding the flags just right,” Zitofsky said. “Each of them has even taken ownership of a flag, where Keven believes that he folds the American flag best, because he is from Virginia and Dusten folds the Maryland flag best because he is from Maryland. Watching them take pride in this task has been inspiring.”

On the last day that the mids were in the classrooms for the semester, Gerrety stood at attention while Arias and Hooper let down the flags. They then proudly walked into the office holding the flags and folded them with Gerrety.

When midshipmen sign up for the program, they are able to note age-range preferences, school preferences and skills they have that may be of use in the schools. Mids for Kids program managers Noah Becker from the class of 2018 and Yash Khatavkar from the class of 2019 work to match individuals with particular skills, such as music or robotics, to classes and activities that can use those skills. The mids are used differently in each school and classroom, and it is up to the schools how they want to incorporate the mids into their classes.

Khatavkar, who has spent multiple semesters volunteering with Mids for Kids, has helped during gym and recess as well as with math, Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL) students. “You really become a part of their lives and they become a part of yours,” Khatavkar said.

Nourse recalled a memory from her time with the Naval Academy jazz band in which they did a combined event with a local middle school’s band.

“One of the kids that I had volunteered with more than a year ago had recognized me and came running up and said my name and said, ‘Sammie! It’s so nice to see you!’” Nourse said. “That was a really big moment for me because I didn’t think I had made that much of an impact or that they would remember me after so long.”


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