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."