The hardest part of any activity, including this weekly blog, is always getting started. Tonight, I hope the music will help. For those who subscribe to iTunes podcasts, I'm listening to Music to Pray By. Ron Johns plays the piano, and the music is suitable for running, prayer, easy listening, and I hope blogging.
Last week ended on a positive note. I presented awards to Middle School cadets on the President's List, which is a combination of Honor Roll and Excellent Conduct, and presented my "command coin" to the Cadet of the Month, and also to the winner of our Spelling Bee (picture at right). Cadet Blake Chiovaro, our local winner, will represent Fork Union Military Academy at the Regional Spelling Bee in Charlottesville.
Blake is the third Chiovaro son to attend FUMA. His brother Brad is a senior, and Ben is in the ninth grade. In fact Ben was recently a student in our new ninth grade etiquette class. This class is taught to all freshmen to help them begin developing good habits early. Ms. Lynn Armstrong, Ms. Bev Hanlin, and Ms. Betsy Burhoe taught the first two sessions. In Betsy's words, "you can never be too polite."
Saturday brought three young men and their families to the campus for our Board of Trustees Scholarship. They were provided tours by other 9th grade cadets, and each was interviewed by a team of faculty, staff, and administrators. I had the opportunity to meet with these three finalists and their families over a formal lunch in our Trustee Boardroom.
We notified the winner of this competitive full scholarship earlier today. He is indeed "a young man who possesses exceptional academic, extracurricular, and citizenship credentials." This will be our second year offering this scholarship, and was even more competitive. There can only be one person selected, but our prayer is that many of those who applied will attend, and we plan to do everything possible to draw many into our Corps of Cadets.
All three, one from as far away as Los Angeles, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Alexandria, VA, are exceptional young men...bright students, participants in organized athletics, and admired by peers and teachers. Two were also accomplished musicians, and one has already founded two non-profit organizations to support those who are in need.
It was a day that reminded me that the future of America is bright, and Fork Union's future will be brighter if all three are able to attend.
This week brought many conversations, emails, and even visits by parents, alumni, and friends. Regardless of how the discussions started, they always ended with improved communications. In some cases it was as simple as updating an email address, looking in the "spam" or "junk mail" folder, or clearing up the reason behind a policy or procedure. One thing was never in doubt, and integral to every conversation, and that was the extent to which the faculty, staff, and administrators here support, care, and love our students.
We will continue to improve the methods, sources, and frequency of our communications, but I'd also ask parents to please communicate directly with us about anything affecting or impacting their sons' lives outside FUMA. All these matter, and impact his outlook and behavior here.
We are always interested in knowing more about the "whole person," and we recognize that the "cadet-persona" we see is only part of each young man. Sometimes the grey, black, green, blue, or red they wear masks the complexity of what is going on inside...and what goes on inside each cadet is impacted by their lives outside and inside Fork Union Military Academy. Please continue communicating early, often, and in particular with the tactical officers, teachers, and coaches.
The highlight of my week was a presentation to our State Championship Swim and Dive Team. Six swimmers, two divers, two coaches, and two cadet managers drove up early to Northern Virginia, just ahead of a February blizzard, and took on a talented field of Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association teams. This is our third state championship in four years, and a tribute to swimmers of character (and of course blazing speed), and coaches who showered them with high expectations and outstanding preparation. Congratulations!
In anticipatory celebration of our Alumni Speaker Day planned for Saturday, March 1st, here is a [slightly edited] email entitled "Thank You from a Former Cadet" which was sent to a member of our Commandant of Cadets staff:
"I was a cadet [from 1993-1995]. You may not remember me, but trust me, I remember you.
I am a high school English teacher...[now reflecting] on how fortunate I have been in life. I often look back on my time at Fork Union, and I do so with great admiration. I [didn't realize at the time], but FUMA really defined the man I am today. Had it not been for the wonderful opportunity to be a cadet there, who knows who I would have become? I was never a trouble-maker, but I was never difference-maker either.
I think that is the best way to sum up what FUMA did for me. It made me forever concerned with making a difference. It is because of you and the other teachers and officers at FUMA that I chose to become a teacher.
...I think every day about how much my students would benefit from an atmosphere like Fork Union...[you] could do so much for them. I know; I saw it happen with many of my fellow cadets...I will never be able to do what you all did for me. I'm not sure I can teach them to live their lives with discipline and courage. I'm not sure I can teach them to love their brother and to celebrate diversity. This is so unfortunate, for again, I know first-hand how these lessons can define the way a man lives his life.
I just wanted to touch base to tell you how much my experience at FUMA meant to me...I have nothing but fond memories of life there, and the lessons you all taught me have been paid forward to my family...What you all do for the young men that are privileged enough to attend FUMA is invaluable."
Fork Union: Character is key. Leadership legendary. Body fit. Mind sharp. The Spirit lives.