IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors participated in a local community relations project at Bayside Elementary School Sept. 17 as part of the command's continued commitment to the San Diego area.
Sailors from the ship's Petty Officer Third and Second Class Association, (3 & 2) participated in various classroom activities with the students.
Ronald Reagan has partnered with Bayside Elementary as part of the Adopt-a-School program. The event was the first of several planned visits.
"These visits not only benefit the school and show them that we're here to help in all aspects and not just on the sea, but they show that we care about the community and the kids," said Chief Air Traffic Controller (AW/SW/EXW) Seneca Hall, USS Ronald Reagan Adopt-a-School coordinator. "It also gives the Sailors a lot of experience helping in the community and gives those without children a first-hand look at what it can be like to have a kid."
Bayside students and school facilitators appreciated the presence of the Ronald Reagan Sailors.
"The kids love it," said Jeannie Dittmer, Bayside Elementary community volunteer coordinator. "As soon as [Sailors] walk in the classrooms, the kids' faces light up. I think the kids look at them with admiration, and I know the uniform adds a lot to it."
Ronald Reagan Sailors who volunteer at Bayside Elementary work with the children on everything from subjects like math or language arts to activities like reading and physical education. Sailors will also be on hand to help teachers pack and move items during on-going renovations at the school.
"I have a lot of respect for the teachers that work here," said Operations Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Dion Johnson, 3 & 2 president. "They have a lot on their hands, because it's just them with 20 kids. If we can do these things overseas, why not do it here in our hometown? Helping with the kids, and helping clean up is a big plus."
"Everyone should do it," said Dittmer. "At some point in their career they should volunteer and work with kids because they are our future. I'm really happy that they're coming. The people are extremely sweet to the kids, and the kids just love it. I think it's just like when you're little, and you don't know the cops but you know their uniform. It's like they're heroes, so it gives the kids a chance to get to know some heroes."
Martha Ibarra, a substitute special education teacher at Bayside, was thankful for the Sailors help during the project.
"I loved it." said Ibarra. "Thank you guys for coming, and for protecting us."
The volunteers said they hope their time cultivates the minds of the children and inspires their future. Even if the students do not choose to join the Navy some day, their smiling faces are rewarding enough.
"It is so awesome working with all the kids, and they get so excited to see you and they look up to you so much," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class Ciena Shey Faeth, the group's master-at-arms. "They get so excited to see us. Getting to work with them and help them learn is awesome, because it's going to help them later in life. I just hope we get to do this more often."
Bayside teachers say they are thankful that Ronald Reagan Sailors have chosen to volunteer and be positive role models for these children.
"I think the best part of the Navy coming here is the interaction and being a role model for my kids," said Angelica Magallon, Bayside Elementary kindergarten teacher. "The Sailors teach them the rules of things, and they help my students and work with them. They look up to them."
"I'm really looking forward to seeing them coming back again and putting them in with the older kids too, because they're just as excited as the little kids," Dittmer said.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.