A Day in the Life of a Middle School Cadet
Just as the sun’s rays begin to reach over the horizon, “Reveille” blasts over the loudspeaker, letting the boys know that it’s time to rise and shine. Shaking off the vestiges of their eight hour shut-eye, the boys crawl out of their beds to begin their morning routine. They trudge down the hall to take care of business. Teeth are brushed, faces are washed, some have the beginnings of a mustache that needs to be shaved. Then, it’s back to their rooms to begin the process of cleaning their quarters. Roommates work together to sweep the floor, empty the trash can, straighten their belongings, and make their beds. In almost robotic fashion, these duties are accomplished in preparation for the room inspection that they know will be coming later in the morning as they are sitting in their classes. The Middle School Commandant of Cadets expects everything to be in its rightful place.
With rooms clean, the cadets form up outside on the Middle School Circle at attention and in formation. Upon an accounting for each and every cadet, the Middle School Battalion Commander, an eighth grade top-of-the-line leader, marches his charges to the dining hall for breakfast. The cadets then move en masse to the Middle School’s Study Hall, a large assembly room filled with desks that fits the entire Cadet Corps…and then some. The Middle School Headmaster, mustering as much enthusiasm as possible, does his best to rally the cadets behind the upcoming events of the day, and throws in a mini-character lesson along with the morning announcements. Called to attention, the boys pledge their allegiance to the United States of America, and then they march dutifully off to their 1st period classes, but first stop off at their hallway lockers to get their books and necessary school supplies. First period always begins with the reading of a devotional and a morning prayer to get the day started on a positive note.
English, math, science, social studies, and health and physical education fill a cadet’s academic day. The schedule might also include art, drama, foreign language, and perhaps even a resource or E.S.L class. Class sizes for academic courses rarely rise above fifteen; most hover around ten. Cadets get to know their teachers well, and vice versa. Relationships are built which provide cadets the freedom to ask questions, explore thoughts and ideas, and to even engage in good hearted banter. Teachers pepper the class period with a blend of lecture, group work, hands-on projects, seat work, and, of course, the occasional quiz or test.
Afternoons hold a variety of activities for the boys. Twice a week they practice marching during drill sessions with the Commandant. Leadership classes are held during this time, as well, during colder, inclement weather days. Twice a week after the academic day, cadets attend chapel services to help them understand and, hopefully, embrace the Christian faith on which the Academy was founded. Also twice a week, cadets have the opportunity to avail themselves to Extra Help sessions with their teachers. For some, this isn’t an option but a requirement.
Mondays through Thursdays, from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., all cadets are involved in supervised athletics. Most participate on organized athletic teams; some participate in a less rigorous intramural program. But all receive a good dose of physical activity through their afternoon activities. Shower time is followed by dinner time. Having worked up a good appetite, the cadets again line up in formation, offer a prayer of thanksgiving, and march off to the dining hall for a full-course dinner.
After dinner, cadets enjoy a bit of free time until the bell for mandatory Study Hall sounds. The mad rush of cadets enters the Study Hall a minute or so before 7:00 p.m., with books, school supplies, and assignments in tow. They take their assigned desk and proceed to get to work. The sound of pencils on paper, books opening and closing, and the stifled cough are the only sounds heard…though the occasional ill-timed whisper, followed immediately by the Study Hall monitor’s admonishment, sometimes disrupts the flow of information from book to brain.
As Study Hall nears to its end, eyes make contact with the clock on the wall at the front of the room with increasing frequency. A cadet clears his throat in a bit of an exaggerated manner, alerting the Study Hall monitor that he and his fellow cadets are ready to be let free. Upon the order for dismissal, the cadets file out of the Study Hall, put their books away in their lockers, and head back to the Middle School Barracks to enjoy a brief moment of free time before bedtime. After a bit of visiting friends on the hallway, teeth are brushed, uniforms are hung up, and the boys get ready for bed. “Taps” wafts through the Barracks over the loudspeaker, signifying that the day is done. Eyes close, and sleep overtakes the cadets until the familiar sound of “Reveille” springs them yet again into a new day.
Very few teenage boys can begin to relate to the schedule followed by the Middle School cadet at Fork Union Military Academy. Every day is filled with activity…from sun up until sundown. And with each activity, attention is paid to helping cadets in their development of “Body, Mind, and Spirit”, the Academy’s motto. In following such a rigorous schedule, the boys learn self-reliance but also benefit from a program that stresses the value of working together as a team. The teaching, coaching, and mentoring provided to these young men by the adults in their midst provide much needed support and help them to more fully realize their potential…and build on the foundation already laid by their parents. By the time a cadet completes his eighth grade year at the Middle School, he stands proudly ready to take on the rigors of high school.
A parent sent the following testimonial regarding his son at the end of this past school year: “The amount of character, self-discipline and maturity F.U.M.A. has given my son is an immeasurable gift. This is not possible in most schools! His self-image, confidence and goal-oriented focus are 360 degree turnarounds from the day he first set foot on campus. No matter WHAT a kid's potential is - whether athletic ability, intelligence, or charisma - they can stumble, fall or completely FAIL if they do not learn the life skills that F.U.M.A. instills. Thank you for giving my son what was hidden so deep inside him...a confident, personable, bright, ambitious SUCCESS STORY!! I can't wait to ‘read’ the next chapter of his promising future at F.U.M.A. and beyond!”