Patriot Academy brings holiday cheer to local families
Jaiden Abshear, 10, was one of several children from 15 different families to recieve presents from Santa Claus Dec. 11 at the Patriot Academy. All presents were purchased by Patriot Academy students with their own money to help wish a happy holiday season to families who may have otherwise had to go without this year.

MUSKATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. (Army News Service, Dec. 17, 2010) --The Patriot Academy here spread holiday cheer to several North Vernon, Ind. families Dec. 11, inviting them to the school's holiday party and providing the families with holiday gifts for children that otherwise may have gone without this year.

Fifteen local families were selected for the event, with help from local schools. According to Sgt. Crystal Hempstead, a Columbus, Ind. native and cadre at the patriot academy, the event provided a unique opportunity for Patriot Academy Students to give back to the community.

"This is a not only a great opportunity to give back to the community, but a great learning tool for the students," she said. "They learn to focus on helping others instead of thinking of themselves. These students are learning how good it feels to help their neighbors."

"Many of our students came from underprivileged homes themselves and really related with the children in these families," she said. "They were extremely motivated to help."

Students bought piles of presents using money out of their own pockets. They decorated the school's gymnasium for the event and worked at booths where children could participate in activities such as making tree ornaments.

"This is a great opportunity for us to give back to the community and help out people who really deserve it," said Pvt. James M. Martin, an Oklahoma City, Okla. native and student at the Patriot Academy.

Among the families was Vigil A. Abshear, a North Vernon, Ind. resident raising five children between the ages of 5 and 12.

"It's really an honor to be here around these Soldiers," he said. "These are such good people, and I know it means a lot to my kids."

The Patriot Academy is a program from the National Guard Bureau open to candidates from all 54 states and territories who want to earn their high school diploma and serve their country. The Patriot Academy grants newly enlisted National Guard Soldiers the chance to get their high-school diplomas -- not GED certificates -- while in a military environment and while receiving full-time military pay and benefits.

(Staff Sgt. Matt Scotten writes for Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

Page last updated Fri December 17th, 2010 at 12:46