MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Calif. -- Fifth-grade students from Desert View Academy visited the Canon Air Defense Complex April 24 to interview and create portraits of Marines and sailors from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371.
Twenty students from the charter school were randomly paired with 20 Marines and sailors from the squadron to complete projects assigned to them from their art and English teachers.
The students were given a photo of their assigned Marine or sailor and asked to develop 10-15 questions for that Marine, said Jaya Chopra, Desert View Academy English teacher.
They were given almost complete freedom on the topic of their questions as long as they remembered to ask about life experiences and birth statistics, added Chopra.
Alicia Young, Desert View Academy art teacher, said she thought it was a great idea for the children to interview Marines and wanted the students to create portraits of their assigned Marines to show the community the students’ perception of the Marine Corps.
The air station is Yuma’s neighbor, but there are many people who know very little about it. The station is an untapped source of knowledge, said Young.
The children started the day kind of quiet because they were nervous, but after talking with the Marines for about five minutes, they began asking questions like their best friend was across from them, said Navy Lt. Jennifer Bixby, MWSS-371 chaplain.
“It’s fun to get to learn about (Marines),” said Amanda Martinez, fifth-grader. “It’s interesting to learn about what (Marines) do.”
“I’d rather interview (Marines) because they have more interesting things to say,” said Dante Gilliam Jr., fifth-grader and son of Master Sgt. Dante Gilliam, Sr., MWSS-371 communications chief.
“To have my son ask me what my goals are threw me for a loop,” said Gilliam. “But it’s better to get the knowledge from the source. They can hear us and see us in our environment, which is a unique experience.”
This is a good way to show the community we are here to serve them, said 2nd Lt. John A. Fulton, MWSS-371 Incident Response Team platoon commander and native of Linden, Pa.
This is also a way for MWSS-371 to give back to the community for all the support it provides to the Marine Corps, said Lt. Col. Phillip Woody, MWSS-371 commanding officer.
It also gives the children a chance to sit down and get to know Marines in a way the public does not show, he added.
Children tend to be afraid of Marines because the media shows them in war and fighting scenarios, said Woody.
Woody said he hoped the day would give the young children a good foundation of knowledge about the military.
The children were so excited to be here. This really helped develop their interview and communication skills, Chopra said.
The Marines were very helpful and now the children have something to strive for in the future, she added.
The Marines are public servants and MWSS-371 never passes up a chance to help, said Woody.
The completed biographies and portraits will be presented to the on Marines Monday at Desert View Academy.