News: HQBN Marines step up to mentor Puohala students
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
PUOHALA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, KANEOHE, Hawaii — Rising above the status quo, volunteers from Headquarters Battalion have extended their services beyond the base. They’ve again become involved in the local community, partnering with Puohala Elementary School in Kaneohe through Hawaii’s Adopt-A-School Program.
Together with the battalion’s volunteers, Lt. Col. Patrick R. Owens, HQBN commanding officer, and Sgt. Maj. Marvin Dixon, battalion sergeant major, joined students, parents and staff members to renew the partnership at the school, Oct. 27.
“The partnership is good for both the community and our base,” said Owens. “It’s important for the community to know we are serving our country, and we care about them.”
Once introduced, the leaders took the stage in the school’s crowded cafeteria. Owens offered the students an “ooh-rah,” explaining the phrase’s significance and asking them for some spirited motivation in return. Certain they could get louder, Owens had the students repeat the phrase until the cafeteria overflowed with sounds and smiles.
“We enjoy this partnership with Puohala,” Owens, of Pittsburgh, told the crowd. “We are trying to do more for the school volunteer-wise, so we are going to give you 110 percent this year.”
After pledging the battalion’s support to the school, Owens joined school principal Alexis Kane in renewing the contract.
Though the process took only a few short moments, the signatures written on the paper marked the beginning of another year of collaboration between the organizations.
“The partnership is a win-win situation,” Kane said. “The fact that the volunteers are coming every week is magnanimous. Consistently being here for the kids and ready to talk to them is pretty special to the kids.”
In the past, the HQBN Marines have contributed both monetarily and with manpower, Kane said. During the 2003-2004 school year, they helped pay for and install the school’s sign at the entrance of the parking lot. Last year, they helped with maintenance, cleaning out a culvert and drainage ditch on the property.
These labor-intensive services have been beneficial, but the partnership’s most valuable asset lies in the volunteers’ interactions with the students, Kane said.
“The volunteers have always provided us with support, but the most valuable part has been their mentorship of the students,” said the Kaneohe native. “They’ve been excellent about honoring their commitment."
During their visits, volunteers join students for various activities such as lunch and recess, or simply chat with them about what is happening in their lives.
Capt. Bradley Creedon, company commander, Headquarters and Service Company, HQBN, said Marines’ fulfilling the mentorship commitment now enables the partnership’s effect to extend into the future.
“The goal of the partnership with the school is to help the students become good citizens and mentor them toward college,” said Creedon, of Albuquerque, N.M.
With a freshly renewed partnership, this rapport between Marines and students has the opportunity to grow. Students look forward to their mentors’ visits, but they aren’t the only ones discussing the program’s benefits.
“I’ve had little kids come up to me and ask, “When am I getting a mentor?”” Kane said. “The kids love the visits and look forward to them. We hear them talking about the activities they do with their mentors, and the parents are talking about it too.”