JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla. hosted a ceremony to kick off Project Navy Appreciating and Valuing Youth, a pilot program which promotes mentorship to students by Navy personnel, Nov. 29.
Sailors from Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) and Naval Station (NS) Mayport commands partnered with four Duval County Schools - Forrest High School, Ribault Middle School, Stillwell Middle School and George Washington Carver Elementary School to connect with students and provide positive role models.
The event began with the playing of the national anthem by Navy Band Southeast and presentation of colors by members of the Forrest High School Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Unit. Forrest High School student and AFROTC member James Stevens then led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We are very fortunate that the Navy has chosen these schools to partner with," said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. "Navy personnel are exemplary citizens and outstanding role models in providing service to our community and to our country and will be great mentors to our students," said Dannals.
"A mentor can have a significant positive impact on someone's life, students typically have better grades and attendance, are more focused and have great goals. And to have a person next to them to help move them along and provide support is critical," he said.
NS Mayport Commanding Officer Capt. Doug Cochrane gave the students a short history lesson about the Wright brothers and how they fulfilled their dreams doing something they loved. "On a cold, windswept day on the North Carolina dunes, they changed the world forever. They were dreamers. Their previous business ventures failed because with great achievement there frequently comes failure," he said.
Cochrane also talked about Capt. Scott Speicher, a Forrest High School graduate who was killed during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and whose remains were recently returned home to Jacksonville.
"Like the Wright brothers, he dared to dream too, he dared to be brave and he dared to change the world," said Cochrane. "And, let's talk about the man who wanted a better world for his children - a world where they would be viewed by the content of their character and not the color of their skin - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also was a world changer"
Cochrane also acknowledged the teachers and staff members. "These people have given you nothing more than 100 percent since you stepped into this school. They dream of a better world and that will come from you and their efforts on your behalf," said Cochrane. "They will not let you fail. The community, our Navy personnel, your parents and your own personal initiative will not let you fail."
"We in the Navy do what we do around the world to make sure that our children and all of you inherit a safer and more peaceful world," said NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Maclay. "What you do with that world depends in large part on your teachers and their commitment to making your education the most meaningful they can. We in the Navy, hope to help with that commitment and to promote excellence in yourselves by acting as tutors and mentors.
"The last line of the Sailor's Creed states, 'committed to the excellence and fair treatment of all.' And that's what you can expect from the Sailors who will be mentoring you. They want to see you excel, reach your goals and perhaps raise your goals and be the best you can," Maclay said.
Forrest High School Principal Dr. Alvin Brennan offered closing remarks. "I, and I'm sure my colleagues will agree, understand the significance of partnering with the Navy and what it will do for our schools. I know that at Forrest High School, it will bring a wealth of opportunity for our students as they transition out into adulthood. I'm really excited about this collaboration and the benefits it will provide."
The program was initiated by Freedom Reid, Forrest High School psychologist, who approached the Navy school liaison officers about having Sailors come into the schools to mentor the students. "We have a real need for this program. The students will meet positive role models and learn about career opportunities. And the Sailors will benefit because they will be invited to the school events and be part of our community," said Reid.
"It's a win-win partnership and really a great idea to get our Sailors involved out in the schools and help these students," said NAS Jax School Liaison Officer Dawn Mills.
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.