MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The Partnership for Education program started Jan. 24 involving volunteers from station squadrons and Yuma schools.
The general purpose of the program is to get Marines involved with their own community.
Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Aircraft Group 13 Personnel Support Detachment, Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and Combat Service Support Company 133 are the squadrons supporting the program and will be visiting Yuma School District # 1 schools.
Marines from each squadron will visit their assigned school once a month and conduct whatever activities the school has lined up for them.
For example, MAG-13 PSD is scheduled to volunteer the third Tuesday of each month and read to the children from noon to 2:30 p.m.
“This was a nice chance to interact with the children,” said Cpl. Marcus Burleson, MAG-13 Marine Corps Property administration chief. “This is good for the kids because it causes them to open up and be less afraid around adults. This also helps the Marines because it gets them out of the base setting. At first, I didn’t think the children would be this interested in the book (I read to them). I would like the opportunity to do this again.”
Cpl. Ralph Garcia, MAG-13, Consolidated Personnel Administration Center separations clerk, also agreed about the positive effects that involvement with young children leaves.
“I wish we could do this type of volunteer program more,” said Garcia. “It seemed like they were very interested in the book (I read). Every word seemed like it was new to them and the children appeared marveled by every word that came out of our mouths. This isn’t just good for the children, but also for the parents. Parents know that Marines aren’t here to cause trouble on the weekend and that we do care about the community.”
The idea for the program started last summer, and since then, has been a work in progress to organize everything, said 1st Lt. Kevin Schultz, Partnership for Education coordinator and public affairs community and media relations officer.
“We didn’t want this to be some kind of recruiting tool by going out to the high schools. We wanted this to be more of a mentorship program for children,” added Schultz. “This allows the Marines to get out and gives the kids someone to look up to.”
People in uniform fascinate most children, and hopefully with time, the children can see them as role models, said Rob Monson, Gwyneth Ham Elementary School assistant principal.
“The program was suggested to us from the superintendent who was contacted by (station personnel),” said Monson. “They thought it would be a good idea, which I completely agree with. Some of the children may remember the Marines coming down to read to them and want to emulate them when they get older. This is a nice way to start getting involved at the first level. Anytime we can get involvement from the community, you have to embrace it . We are very glad to have them and we will do our best to welcome them, and get them to be influential to the students.”
On the first day of the Partnership for Education, it appeared to already have an impact on the children involved with the program.
“I really like the fact that (the Marines) came here today to read to us,” said Shaun Wood, 5, Gwyneth Ham Elementary School kindergartener. “I would really like if they could come again to read and spend time with us. It was a surprise. I didn’t think they would actually come and spend time with us. It was really cool and fun to be with Marines.”