WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2015) - After coming home Dec. 12, from the exchange program at the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 2016, Cadet Nicholas Ives was ready to make a change.No, he certainly didn't want to become a Midshipman, but he did want to take a page from their book.While spending time at Annapolis, Ives took part in a group called Mids for Kids, a community outreach initiative that sends Midshipmen to local elementary and middle schools to help tutor students. It is the largest volunteer organization at the Naval Academy with over 200 Midshipmen involved."I could go into the classroom and I would spend two hours in the classroom teaching these kids," Ives said. After experiencing the reward from teaching children, he knew he had to bring a similar program back to West Point.He and Brigade Public Affairs Officer, Class of 2016 Cadet Michael Auten, began a pilot run for "Cadets 4 Kids" in April, going to Highland Falls Intermediate School every other week, teaching math to fifth through eighth graders.They were able to get over 20 cadets on board. By November, they had 60 cadets on the email list and the group began to go every week."This is one of the cooler things I've done," Ives said about Cadets 4 Kids.
When he isn't writing 10 page proposals, submitting the trip sections and talking to higher authorities, Ives likes spending his time with the children."My favorite part is working with kids," Ives said. "It's fun to organize everything but working with the kids is ultimately the payout. The primary focus of the program is to tutor the children and these are children who are at risk or have been identified as children who could use a little help. But the fact that we are role models and can be there as a supportive function is a secondary thing but it's no less important."Organizing the program, however, was not just a proposal away. Ives contacted Michi Carl, the school liaison officer, to figure out the logistics of his plan.Carl and Ives were able to get the Superintendent of the Highland Falls/Fort Montgomery School District to send a bus to pick cadets up from West Point every Wednesday and bring them back to post.
"We can do so many things but if there is no transportation they can't go," Carl said. "Time is a commodity and so by the district supporting transportation it has saved time on the logistical side and it just makes it so much easier."Aside from transportation, Carl linked Ives to the resources to make the program possible. She was more than happy to connect him to leaders from both West Point and local schools."We are always looking for those connections with our community to support our kids, and what better than a premier institution," Patti Lofaro, Highland Falls Intermediate School counselor, said. "Knowing those relationships needed further nurturing and developing, I said this is a prime opportunity to make a positive connection and start a program at its grassroots."As a counselor, Lofaro explained that the relationship between the cadets and kids is vital. "It supports our students at many levels, not only academically, but socially," Lofaro said. "Having someone to work with them and establishing that mentoring role is invaluable."The devotion to the program is what most impresses School Assistant Principal, Adam Gerson. "There is a level of dedication and achievement on the part of the cadets," Gerson said. "There are quite a few who have been here every time." Having the cadets come to teach kids every week "definitely has an impact on the kids," Gerson said.He hopes the short bus ride from West Point to Highland Falls Intermediate School remains seamless and that the dedication of the cadets remains. The relationship between the academy and Highland Falls has certainly become a symbiotic one.
Col. Gerald C. Kobylski, from USMA at West Point, is both the Officer-in-Charge and a parent of a HFIS student. "I understand the significant impact these cadets can and have already made on these students," Kobylski said. "Cadets 4 Kids provides these cadets opportunities to contribute to their local community and to interact with community leaders." Kobylski expressed his gratitude to the Superintendent and the leaders at Highland Falls Intermediate School. Those leaders expressed their thankfulness right back.All are hoping to grow the program next year and continue to help one another.While Ives will be graduating in 2016, he is ready to pass the torch to Class of 2018 Cadet Ekaterin (Kat) Gjonaj who currently serves as one of the leaders of the group. Gjonaj has been a part of the program since the beginning and looks forward to serving as the club's Cadet-in-Charge."I have been working with (Ives) on getting it started as an official club over the summer and it's really just been us two," Gjonaj said. "We meet up with Michi and Patti and Col. Kobylski, and we plan events. We're a brand new club and program so we have some things planned for next semester so hopefully we can get the kids a little more excited about school." Gjonaj hopes to resubmit Ives' Cadets 4 Kids proposal in the fall semester because DCA did not bring on any new clubs this semester.Other than making Cadets 4 Kids an official club, Gjonaj looks forward to the future of the program."We hope to bring the kids up, hopefully show them a day in the life of a cadet and get them excited about that," Gjonaj said. "It's a great program, I really love it."