A Pleasant Surprise
After a busy morning at the school, I took Betsy (and two hams) to Richmond. We've continued the tradition of delivering Kite Hams to our trustees and the school's most ardent supporters. Well after dark we were making the final turn onto Careby Lane, and noticed more than a handful of cadets walking along the sidewalk.
"Oh, no!" I said to Betsy. "What are they doing out?" As we drove down the long driveway to our house, Betsy told me they were following us. "Can't be," I said, only to see the silhouette of cadet heads as I got out of my GO2FUMA car. Soon after getting inside Careby Hall I heard the wonderful sound of Christmas carols, and after opening the front door, realized that CWO Bruce Patterson, our music director, had decided to astonish Fork Union with song.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear the cadet choir sing a song on the front porch, after which we invited them in for a quick tour of the house, and one more song. I've attached a picture...and wish I had recorded their voices. Certainly a highlight of the week...otherwise filled with almost a thousand miles of driving to visit the many friends of FUMA.
Over thirty families attended our Open House on Saturday. Many from Charlottesville, Richmond, and Northern Virginia...with one family from as far away as Atlanta, GA, and a few families from North Carolina. Most came as a result of positive feedback from current cadets and their families. Many will start as early as this January, but some were researching options for the Fall of 2013. I capped off the afternoon by watching our Prep Basketball Team win another game at home, this time against Randolph Macon Academy.
The week began with cadets loading 5,752 pounds of food, almost 3 tons, collected for the Annual Cadet Food Drive. The food will go to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and the Company collecting the most food was Charlie Company (again), with Bravo and Echo close behind. We are very proud of the young men, and First Sergeant Eugene Brice, USMC, Retired, the Charlie Company Tactical Officer, for setting an example of service before self.
I also learned that our Chess Team won a first place trophy at the Hopewell High School Chess Open...and that we had three state qualifiers at the Debate Team Tournament...both over the weekend. Photos of all of these events are available online.
My travels to deliver holiday greetings, hams, poinsettias, and my personal thanks to those who share their time, talent, and treasure with Fork Union Military Academy pulled me away this week from the day-to-day activities of the school, but provided an opportunity to share the "good news" and communicate a vision for the future.
I also enjoy learning more about the school's past, and the conversations always help me realize how much the school means to so many. My strength lies in shaping the future, but weeks like this help me understand the significance of the past, and remind me how important it is to ground that future in fundamental values.
One night this week I met at the Firehouse with the Fork Union Volunteer Fire Department's Chief, Jamie Baughn. While it will take much time and effort, I would like to develop a partnership between Fire, Rescue, and FUMA. I plan to encourage our staff and faculty to participate in serving and protecting the local community, and am most interested in developing a program where interested cadets can learn about emergency services, train to become EMT's, and perhaps volunteer firemen and rescue personnel. There is much work remaining, but the conversation has begun...
Before leaving today for Richmond, we discussed a recruiting initiative for South America, Central America, and Mexico. We will begin this September to further diversify the international cadet population. With a growing Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, it is important that our cadets live and learn with a diverse student population. This is an exciting initiative for the school, and one we will learn by doing...
Many of our postgraduate students, particularly those who are interested in playing college football, will leave on Friday. This "half year" PG program is the result of NCAA changes that allows entering college freshman to arrive in January for college. While most of us believe the young men could reap more benefit by attending a full year here, the market now requires us to allow more and more of this "half year" PG program.
We were blessed today in Chapel by a sermon delivered by one of the postgraduate cadets, Cadet Shayne Leonard, whose message challenged all the cadets to use God's power here at Fork Union Military Academy. He said "God has given us the power" and that the cadets should use that power to serve Him...and then quoted Matthew 19:26: "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Cadet Leonard's point seemed similar to my perpetual missive, which is that the school's greatness will be achieved only after everyone here at Fork Union Military Academy works together toward a common vision and mission, inspired by the truth that we were all placed on this Earth to serve God. We need not be afraid to boldly move down a path of national leadership among independent boarding schools.
"Everyone," means administrators, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, trustees, community, and cadets. I believe that college preparatory, Christian, military schools, of which there are very few, are uniquely postured to provide the values-based disciplined environment necessary to prepare today's young men for an uncertain future. We will only be truly successful when everyone works in a common direction with each other's full support.
All things are possible...and the pleasant surprise this evening...the visit by young men singing ageless songs of the past while preparing for bright futures...reminded me that this is so...