Partnership promotes education, health, citizenship

Marines with Marine Air Control Group 2 visited W.J. Gurganus Elementary School in Havelock last week to make their adoption of the school official.

The affiliation between the Marines and school is part of the Adopt-A-School program, a partnership designed to promote education, health, fitness and citizenship.

“We’re partnering with the school to help tutor the students and help them develop the academic skills needed to succeed,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Naylor, commanding officer of MACS-2.

This is the second year W.J. Gurganus Elementary School is participating in the program, and thanks to the positive experience by all who participated, school administrators are embracing the return of the program.

“This program is awesome,” said Debra Hurst, principal at W.J. Gurganus. “The Marines come in once a week and work with our students in all academic areas. They built a great bond and friendship with our students. It’s amazing.”

Beyond providing academic help to the students, the Marines also serve as role models, participating in mentoring programs, as well as special events at the school. The opportunity gives students the chance to see the Marines on a personal level.

“They started off as being our Marine tutors, and came to be our Marine friends and pals,” Hurst said of the experience with Marines last year. “The thing we saw come out of it were some of the shyer students found somebody they could connect with and were able to talk and feel comfortable with. Sometimes when you have a teacher, your teacher is the authority figure, but the Marine can act as a friend, and some of our shyer students opened up a little bit.”

The students participating in this year’s program are in good hands as they’ll be receiving help from some top-notch Marines.

“We have a bunch of really high quality Marines; really smart, really intelligent,” Naylor said. “We are a service organization. We serve our country and we serve the community as well. Most of us are not from Cherry Point, and this is now our home for the duration of our tour here, and the duration of our lives as we look back on the meaningful impact we’ve had during our service as Marines.”

The Adopt-A-School program serves as a great benefit to the students, but the program also gives the Marines an opportunity to furnish their skills as leaders, Naylor said.

“This is an opportunity to develop leadership and practice mentoring,” Naylor said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to start practicing what we taught them in training in their initial schools, and they’re turning around and applying it to some of these young kids.”

As the short ceremony ended, the mentoring began as Marines spent the rest of the morning working with the students.

“They bridged the gap of being a tutor who came in once a week, to a friend,” Hurst said. “A lot of the kids would ask, ‘are my friends coming today?’ That was really neat to see that kind of connection.”