ATLANTA (NNS) -- Take an elementary school and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, put them together and what develops is a partnership in education.
The Navy/Marine Corps Reserve Center, Atlanta and Park Street Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia have such a partnership.
The concept of the program was developed during a hiking trip. Chief Personnelman Mark Sette parked his jeep and went for a hike. Another hiker and school teacher, Mardy Schicker, was drawn to the jeep because of the Navy anchor in its windshield. As Sette was finishing his hike, Schicker, whose grandfather was a retired Navy chief, struck up a conversation with him.
From that conversation came the idea of how the Reserve center could help the students of Park Street Elementary School, where Schicker was a teacher. Sette, who has worked with several other schools during his career in the Navy, wanted to work with other children. He started talking to Schicker about the Reserve Center volunteering and becoming the school's partner in education.
"We didn't have a full-on partnership or any type of community program here," said Sette. "I wanted to create something that tied us to the community and tied us together in both the Navy and Marine Corps so that we have partners, people that go out and help the children."
Twenty-one Sailors and Marines participate in the program. The Reserve Center staff members spend about four hours every Wednesday working with the students.
"We schedule one day a week, but we have some staff members who actually make it to the school at other times," said Sette.
The program works for both the Reserve Center and the school. It provides a great command presence in the community, and the school children get to see the Sailors and Marines in their uniforms. The Sailors and Marines benefit when their efforts unfold.
A child they helped reads without stumbling over words, or another child they worked with recites multiplication tables.
The Navy & Marine Corps volunteers fill in at all grade levels by assisting the teachers where needed. Some listen to a child read a book and then ask comprehension questions. They may even monitor the child when he takes the computer based skills test on the same story. Other volunteers work on a student's arithmetic, using flash cards, while another volunteer performs science experiments with the older students.
At times, the volunteer will read a book to the class or work out a lesson plan on the board. This allows the teacher to provide some much needed one-on-one time with a child who may be having problems in other areas.
Phil Hynninen, Assistant Principal for Park Street Elementary School, sees the program as having a positive impact on the students. "There are a lot of different plusses from a pure instructional point. It gives us another person to work with the students. For most of our students, especially in the lower grades, it's reading they need the most help with. This partnership gives them another person to interact with and help them.
"Having the Navy come into our school provides the students an opportunity to see a positive male role model," said Hynninen. "The students look up to them. It gives the students ideas of what they might want to do some day."
Kindergarten teacher, Jan Ashley, and her volunteer, Hospitalman 3rd Class Alisa Johnson, work really well together. Ashley said, "Some of my students are a little bit low on their achievement level. She's helped them bring their levels up. It has helped me to have a little bit of extra one-on-one with students who really need me."
Schicker, a first grade teacher, said, "Chief Sette comes in and helps the kids with their math activities and reading stories. They have a very positive relationship with him."
The students really enjoy and get very excited about working with the Sailors and Marines. Eight-year-old Terrance Barley said, "Chief Mark plays Chutes and Ladders with us. He helps with math. He taught me how to double (multiplying by two). He's a lot of fun."
Debra Pickett, principal at Park Street School said, "When I was approached by the Navy, 'Would I be interested?' I jumped at the chance."
The Navy & Marine Corps volunteers vary in the amount of time they spend at the school, from a minimum of three to four hours a week to as much as eight or nine hours, at times," Pickett said, "I'll look up and one of the volunteers will be there saying, 'I just stopped by to see my little buddy'. You can't measure that."
For related news, visit the Navy Information Bureau 108 Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nib108.