Two Soldiers who volunteer for III Corps and Fort Hood's
Adopt-A-School program, visited the Middle School here Friday.
Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance, Operational Test Command's Test
Technology Directorate NCOIC, and Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson, Command
Group NCOIC, stepped foot into Monica L. Mitchell's 8th-grade Earth
Science class, just in time to see student Blayne Smith do a
show-and-tell of his ball python, Killer.
September 9, 2016 - Florence Middle School 8th-grade Earth Science
Student Blayne Smith does a show-and-tell of his ball python,
Killer, as Sgt. Jacob D. Wilson (left), U.S. Army OTC's Command
Group NCOIC, and Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance, U.S. Army OTC's Test
Technology Directorate NCOIC, listen to the boy's presentation.
Monica L. Mitchell, 8th-grade Earth Science teacher, observes at
right during an OTC Adopt-A-School visit. (Photo by Michael Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
A second-year teacher after changing careers,
Mitchell appreciates the presence of the Soldier mentors in
"I struggled a little bit last year as
a first-time teacher, and they came into one of my more
difficult classes," she said. "They instill a level of
discipline that raises expectations. Having these guys out
here, it just boosts the kids' self-esteem and boosts their
expectations of what they can be in the world."
Another teacher who concentrates on Math for grades 6
through 8, said the Adopt-A-School program with OTC works
out just right.
"I had a student," explained Carol
Nolan, "who didn't have very good handwriting, and I was
told, 'You won't ever be able to read his handwriting.'
"Officer Vance didn't take that," she continued. "He was
like -- 'No Sir! You can write this more neatly.'
According to Nolan -- sure enough -- Vance's mentoring and
encouragement vastly improved the pupil's handwriting.
"They're able to see a need and spot it," Nolan said of
the Soldier mentors. "They don't have any fear to just jump
in and start helping. And, any time you can make a
connection with a student on a subject or share a mutual
experience, they will trust you. The students share a mutual
respect with the Soldiers."
Like any Volunteer,
neither Vance nor Wilson are present at Florence Middle
School for the notoriety.
"I see these kids
struggling, and a lot of these kids, we can relate to," said
Wilson. "We've been there -- going through school and taking
it for granted. I came from a small town and was on the
football team, so teachers just naturally slid me by, and
nobody ever told me, 'Hey, school matters. You need to focus
Wilson said not knowing how to focus hurt
him in the long run.
"When I got to the college
level, I was behind. I was struggling," he said. "Then I
started partying. Then it got to the point where I had
nothing but withdrawals and incompletes on my transcript, so
that's when I left. And because I was on an ROTC
scholarship, it was either pay back the money the Army spent
on me, or enlist."
Wilson also involves himself as a
Volunteer Fireman, and with the Big Brother Program.
"So, that's how I got in the Army," Wilson said. "I wasn't
pushed at an early age. There's nothing wrong with my life
today, but if I would have focused and buckled down, who
knows what my life would be today?"
September 9, 2016 - U.S. Army Master Sgt. Earnest L. Vance (left),
OTC's Test Technology Directorate NCOIC, and U.S. Army Sgt. Jacob D.
Wilson, Command Group NCOIC, stand before OTC's Adopt-A-School sign
at Florence Middle School, Florence, Texas. (Photo by Michael Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
Vance said just showing up every two weeks is a routine
that's necessary for him, and the kids.
them every two weeks, and we let them know we're coming
back," he said. "And, we try to hold them accountable for
students accountable can be as simple as looking through their
backpack for homework they're missing; then showing them how to
become and remain organized.
"To show up every two weeks
also keeps us accountable," said Wilson. "If we didn't see results,
we probably wouldn't do it. They're getting something out of it and
we're getting something out of it."
By Michael Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
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