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Freshman Advisory Curriculum Includes Etiquette Training

Can you remember your freshman year of high school, with all its newness and transition?  For most students, 9th grade can be at the same time exciting and intimidating, yet the pathways chosen and the foundations laid during this critical period are essential to future successes.  To help our 9th graders in this important transitional year, Fork Union Military Academy has created and implemented a Freshman Advisory Curriculum. 

The Freshman Advisory Curriculum is implemented over 13 advisory sessions wherein an array of college-readiness skills and developmentally relevant topics are discussed.  To date our freshman Cadets have been introduced to concepts related to such things as what a high school transcript looks like, how to calculate a grade point average, what it means to take an honors or AP course, tips on study skills, and introductions to some of the standardized tests they are likely to see during their high school years.  The class has taken personality and academic proficiency inventories designed to help them begin to think about educational and career paths which may best suit them.  They have also been instructed as to the importance of participating in extra-curricular enrichment activities and athletics to help them identify their passions and develop their individual talents outside the classroom. 

As the Freshman Advisory Curriculum winds down this year, we thought it important to have 9th grade Cadets participate in an afternoon etiquette training session.  At this session the boys were instructed in such old fashioned concepts as how to shake hands with someone, how to greet people while making eye contact, how to introduce a friend to someone else, why a gentleman should open the door for a lady, how to be seated at a formal meal, and of course, a healthy refresher about a timeless variety of table manners. 

Chess Team Brings Home Trophies

by COL Chris Nothnagle

The Fork Union Military Academy Chess team went to the Mary Munford Open this past Saturday in Richmond and competed in the High School division. In our division were twenty-one students of which we had four. Four schools competed through four rounds of competition. We had two cadets win three out of the four rounds so there were about five players with three wins apiece. So they had to use the tie breaker system that determines the rating of the players you beat which then places the winner in trophy contention. They add up the rating points of who each player defeated and see how far the winning player's rating is from each person they defeated, along with who you lost to also (a complicated system!). After all the calculations, Cadet Ruilan Wang was declared the winner of the Individual first place trophy. Cadet Coleman Hoyt also won three matches. Our team's total score secured the first place team trophy for Fork Union. The chess team brought these two trophies to West Lake restaurant and celebrated their success for the day. We ate well that night!

Three Trophies, Three More State Qualifiers

The Debate Team traveled to Clover Hill High School for our last regular tournament of the season.  We were once again scheduled for departure at 0600.  Twelve cadets boarded the bus along with our bus driver, Chaplain Benson, and Miss Welch.  We stopped for breakfast at Hardee’s and headed to the Richmond area.  The cadets worked on final preparations upon arrival.  Four cadets read news articles, five discussed Student Congress speeches, two rehearsed Oral Interpretation prose and poetry selections and another practiced reciting his Declamation speech.

After two sessions of “Congress” and three rounds of Speech, the awards ceremony began.  Three cadets won trophies – Mario Tcheukado – 3rd place in Extemporaneous Speaking, Joshua Rodriguez – 4th place in Extemporaneous Speaking, Tate Brumfield – 5th place in Extemporaneous Speaking.  Three additional cadets were named State Qualifiers – Jonathan Muniz in Declamation, Jonathan Walker in Oral Interpretation, and Andy Kim in Oral Interpretation.

Miss Welch cannot recall a year when FUMA had more State Qualifiers than this year -- eleven.  Nine of these cadets are ninth graders; the list is below.

Swimmers Repeat as State Champs

In the midst of the worst snow storm of the year, the Fork Union Military Academy Swim Team hit the road last Thursday to compete in the VISAA State Championship at George Mason University.  Despite only having eight swimmers and two divers make the trip and being one of the smaller teams in attendance, expectations were high.  Coming off a state title last year the team had every intention of a repeat performance.  When all was said and done they came away with another State Championship, edging out rival St. Christopher’s School by one point, 267-266. 

The team’s strong performance was headed up by Senior Ali Khalafalla who was named Male Swimmer of the Meet after breaking the State Record for 50M Freestyle with a blazing time of 20.37.  He also broke his own 100M Freestyle record with a time of 44.81 on his way to winning that event, as well becoming the first swimmer in Virginia with a time under 45 seconds.  Other 1st place performances came from the 200M and 400M Freestyle relay teams, both earning All-American considerations. The 200M Freestyle Relay was made up of Ali Khalafalla, Robert Cavotti, Brandon Bennett and Zachary Romeo and the 400M Freestyle Relay was made up of Ali Khalafalla, Ian Milburn, Karim ElSayed and Robert Cavotti. The team also had several Top 3 finishes with Ian Milburn finishing 3rd in the 100M Backstroke, Karim ElSayed finishing 3rd in the 100M Fly, Robert Cavotti finishing 3rd in the 100M Breaststroke and the Medley Relay made up of Ian Milburn, Karim ElSayed, Brandon Bennett and Zachary Romeo taking 3rd as well.

Storm after Storm, but Blue Sky is Coming

I was invited to the Middle School Chapel Service this afternoon, and told them that today was going to be "every Middle Schooler's dream," a day when they would get two chapel messages, one from me, and one from Ms. Payne.  The faculty chuckled...the cadets did not.  My message was about looking after each other, whether asked or not, and my perspective on storms.

You see, this winter has brought many storms to Fork Union Military Academy...some literally, like the 10 inches of snow last night and some figurative storms.

My message was that we need to always prepare for storms and respond to them, but we must always realize that sun and warmth will follow.  We can live our lives waiting in anticipation of the storms, or weather the storm knowing the blue sky will be here soon.

Later in the afternoon as I was walking back to my office, a staff member rolled down his window to tell me that an ice storm was on its way, so we cancelled basketball practice, and that he was heading home.  One of the middle school cadets overheard the conversation, and after the car drove off, came up to me and said: "Admiral, you were right, he must be one that looks for the storms."  I smiled. It is always refreshing to know that cadets are listening.

To help me through the storms, my mother-in-law forwarded Psalm 121.  Through her, God provided the exact words I needed to get through a stormy week.

Last weekend we hosted an orienteering meet at FUMA.  It was open to beginners, intermediates, and advanced competitors, and served as a fundraiser for our Orienteering Team.  I walked the beginner's course, but had the advantage of "local knowledge."  It was still challenging, and flashbacks of my Boy Scout days came back quickly.  It was the most fun I'd had in quite some time...

Our Orienteering Team brings the school national recognition.  Please visit the team's Facebook page to learn more.  This team prepares young men for many adventures, and I'm told that at least one past team member took their skills to the Marine Corps and the knowledge made Officer Basic School just a little easier.

Our Indoor Track Team competed in the State Tournament, and were edged out as repeating State Champions by Woodberry Forest School.  Congratulations WFS, but know that we are simply slipping back into your wake to draft a bit until we pass again.  We are proud of our coaches and the team for a second place finish, and look forward to the Prep League Championship Meet and the upcoming outdoor track season.

Our Debate Team continues to gain momentum, placing 3rd, 4th, and 5th in Extemporaneous Speaking, and qualifying for the State Finals in Declamation and Oral Interpretation...and our new Robotics Team made an outstanding showing at their First Robotics Event.  Please see the Robotics Team pictures posted in our galleries.

I also spent some time over the weekend reviewing 54 pages of "student survey" comments our cadets filled out for our upcoming VAIS Decennial Accreditation.  I was impressed by the cadet comments about our mission and philosophy.  Two of my favorites were:

"Cadets build character and leadership"...it's just so true.  I came here as a middle school failure, now I am one of the highest ranked cadets among the Corps.  It's just an amazing experience, and it's totally worth it."

"What I value most about Fork Union's mission and philosophy is that Fork Union aims to provide an environment best suited for the growth of the young leaders of the world."

The area for improvement mentioned most was about communications, perhaps summed up best in this comment:

"I believe that more communication between the officers to the NCO's to the privates will improve knowledge of things that are going on in the school, not just activities that may be available but also the plan for that day or week."

It was clear that we need to send more information to cadets about the plans for the week, and any changes to the normal routine that may affect them.  We are also working to have our twice-a-day announcements go out electronically.  These surveys highlight the value of the accreditation process, and this great opportunity for self-reflection and continual improvement.

Today, while "stormy," had some light moments: Organized and supervised snowball fights and snowplay; several conversations with cadets since many of our staff were unable to make it in because of the treacherous road conditions...including one where, after I asked a question, the cadet asked if I wanted to hear the "truth" or a typical FUMA cadet answer...to which I told him I would like to hear both, so that I could compare the two.

We declared today "100th Day," which means we now have less than 100 days to graduation.  2LT Brian Zitterkopf, USMC, a Naval Academy graduate and FUMA 2008 Salutatorian, will deliver the Commencement Address.

Today also brought 3 new "serving line attendants." The weather delayed some of our Dining Facility workers, so our Chief Financial Officer, Sharon Higginbotham, my Secretary, Carol Childress, and our Accounts Payable Manager, Ellen Melton, volunteered to serve lunch during Mess II.  There is some debate as to whether they served too much food, or too little...but one thing is for certain, they served it with enthusiasm and love.

I will close with a quote from our featured faculty member, Ms. Jennifer Payne, who answered the question:

What advice can you offer to current cadets to help them understand the importance of a good education, as well as how FUMA can benefit their future success?

"Nelson Mandela once said that "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." FUMA cadets are provided a great education and given the weapons they need to succeed.  It is up to the cadets to use these weapons and reach their full potential."

Go FUMA!

Get to Know Jennifer Payne - Middle School Faculty

Name: Jennifer Payne      Title: Middle School Chaplain, ESL/Resource Teacher, Housemother, and Basketball Coach              Years at FUMA: 2

Duties:  As Chaplain I conduct two weekly chapel services, lead Bible studies and aid in the spiritual growth of the cadets. In the classroom I am responsible for teaching English to international students and providing extra help to students who may be struggling in academic areas. “Momma Payne” is my title three nights a week as I supervise the Middle School cadets in the barracks.

Describe yourself in one sentence. A truly blessed child of God

What is your favorite FUMA memory?  We moved to Fork Union when my son, Nathan Jensen, was five years old. Nate looked forward to FUMA graduations because, when the graduates threw their hats into the air in celebration, he would collect them.  The hats were then used by Nate and his friends as they played soldier. It has been fun watching him grow from the young boy that collected hats to being a cadet officer and senior who will have the opportunity to throw his hat on May 24th.

In the time you have been at the Academy, what do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment? Surviving barracks life with the Middle School boys

What job duties/responsibilities do you have at FUMA that others may not be aware of?  I teach 11th grade English and do cadet laundry during FUMA’s Summer School session.