By Mr. Jorge Gomez (USAREC)April 28, 2011
MILWAUKEE -- Tom Stokes, a Fond du Lac High School teacher, has students who have never participated in his physical education class, but on April 15 he saw them doing as many push-ups as they could muster before drill sergeants.
Stokes and his students visited the Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion's Pathway to Success, an interactive tour that promoted health and fitness at Stevens Point Area Senior High and Fond du Lac High School April 13 and 15 respectively.
The tour was designed to produce an experience that motivates students to make healthy choices and garner the strength to overcome hardships, said Lt. Col. Robert L. Cody II, battalion commander.
"Our intent was to promote health, fitness and strength among high school students to set them on a pathway to success," Cody said. "Whatever their future endeavors, students need to develop a lifestyle that embraces these three core principles. We as Soldiers wanted to place ourselves as positive role models among students."
Pathway to Success hosted a series of stations that challenged students physically and mentally. Presentations by drill sergeants, military working dog handlers, and self-defense experts demonstrated that health, fitness and strength are the foundation for everything they do. A local Partnership for Youth Success agency also supported the event.
Joe Sagen, a Fond du Lac physical education teacher, said the Soldiers achieved the same learning goals he aims for only better because Soldiers bring credibility.
"This event hits on cognitive, physical and social learning aspects that we try to do with students," Sagen said.
"It's a good thing because it affirms what we are doing as teachers," he said.
Jan Omernik, a teacher from Stevens Point Area Senior High, said she was impressed with the event's emphasis on education.
"Some students get the idea that if they don't study hard they can go into the Army, but the Army is interested in education," Omernik said. "This event is more informational, not recruitment. I'm thrilled to see how education is stressed."
Pathway to Success hosted a March 2 Success station where students could register for free online access to SAT/ACT preparation.
Mitchell Fischer, a SPASH guidance counselor, said the March 2 Success program is an invaluable tool.
"If you make a mistake (on the program) you get immediate feedback and best of all it's free," Fischer said.
As a counselor, he said he was pleased to see the educational aspects of the overall event but he also liked the Army exposure this brought to the students where there is no military presence.
Selena Oliver, a SPASH student, said she was initially intimidated by the Soldiers.
"I realized that the Soldiers can be serious but they can also be fun," Oliver said. "And I had no idea that military police did that with dogs."
Two military working dog handlers from Fort Lee, Va., demonstrated how a trained dog can help law enforcement operations.
Lexy Eergman was impressed with the ability of the working dog to switch from aggression to friendly.
"The Soldiers are really down to earth. They're intimidating at first but they turn out to be genuine guys and not macho people like you see on TV," Eergman said.
Becca Biddick said she noticed how passionate the Soldiers are about what they do.
"You can tell they love what they do and it makes me want to do something I love," Biddick said.
She currently does not plan on making the Army a future career but having a similar passion as the Soldiers will now be a factor in her career decision.
James Snyder Jr., a Fond du Lac student, said the event showed him how challenging it is to be a Soldier.
"You got to be an overall smart person. It takes mental toughness to be in the Army," Snyder said.
Mental activities and physical fitness were two of the most engaging activities throughout the event. They were designed to motivate students to embrace a mindset and lifestyle anchored in health and fitness.
Sagen said there was a time when physical education was much more regimented. Now with today's sedentary lifestyles, physical education has fallen to the wayside. But this Army event rejuvenated interest in physical fitness.
"The students really need to see someone (besides teachers) doing these activities," he said.
As a result of the positive responses from faculty, administrators and students, the battalion intends to take Pathway to Success to more schools in the fall.
"Now that we have experimented with this concept and seen the impact we can make, it makes sense to do this again at the beginning of the school year," Cody said.