MUCH APPRECIATED
1st Sgt. Delwin Underwood, BNCO branch chief at the NCO Academy, hands over a check for $600 to the Harvest Youth Club while the club's children shout "Thank you!"

What started out for the Soldiers of the NCO Academy as a simple afternoon of fund-raising became a lesson of hope and inspiration to a group of children at the Harvest Youth Club.

A few weeks ago, many NCO Academy Soldiers spent their weekend washing cars to help raise money for the club. On Sept. 17 the same Soldiers had the chance to visit the children.

The Academy raised $600; and the club will use the money to pave the back lot behind the club's main building. The paved area will give many of the children the chance to play games and learn how to ride bicycles, according to executive director Melvin Allen. He said the money raised by the Academy will be matched by Old Navy, bringing the total to $1,200.

Once the Soldiers arrived at the club, the children were called to their assigned rows and stood at attention. They preformed military facing movements and then sat quietly. The Soldiers were impressed by the well-disciplined children.

But the visit wasn't for the Academy Soldiers to brag about their accomplishments; it was to meet with the kids and give some guidance toward school, teamwork and life.

"It's important to be here. We need to let these kids know that school is extremely important," said Sgt. Nicolette Pringle, 114th Signal Battalion, who is a student at the Academy.

"A good way for us to show these kids that school is imperative is to have an adult, a Soldier and a NCO, like myself, to show them that even we are still in school," she said. "We need to show them there's never a time where we're not learning. We can show them there's always something to learn and they should continue to expand (their minds) even as they become adults. We also can show them the teamwork is the key to success. I was telling the kids that we all worked together as a team to raise the money for the youth center. We were showing them that if you work together, you can accomplish more."

"We were telling the kids that we held a carwash, where one person was hosing down the cars, one washing, one drying, and so on," said Sgt. Scott Aumiller, a student at the Academy and the father of three children. "We all pitched in and helped raise the money for these kids. It was all teamwork."

Said Pringle, "My mother always told me, 'One hand always washes the other.' I want to share that with these kids. I want to lead by that example and show these children how to be an outstanding man or woman. You never know, with this little bit of help and guidance, we might have influenced one of these kids to become a doctor who cures cancer or even the next president. This is why we need to keep facilitating education and to help out these programs who want to guide and lead our children to better futures."

Fund-raising projects and special interest from the community help the club's children the most, according to Allen.

"Five years ago, we started out with 32 kids," Allen said. "Out of those 32, we only had nine who made the A-B-C honor roll. Today, we have over 100 kids and about 98 percent make the honor roll. It's all from the hard work of our staff and the support from our local community which has helped us get to where we are today.

"I think one of the motivations to help these kids strive and succeed is what we experienced and observed today - having people from the community who have been kids before, who have sat in the same seats that these kids have, have gone through the same things these children have gone through, and they were here today to say, 'Hey, I made it and this is how I made it. I made good grades in school. I might have come from a single-parent home, but I succeeded. Today I'm in a uniform and I'm a Soldier, and if you put your mind to it, you could be one of us, a successful person, too,'" Allen said. "I think this is a life changing moment for these kids. A lot of these children come from those situations that we read about in the newspapers and that we see on television."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16