As Annapolis residents, it's common to see midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy striding around downtown or strolling along Ego Alley. Now, however, thanks to the Midshipmen Action Group (MAG), a campus organization devoted to volunteering, residents can become accustomed to spotting them at area schools as well, including Wiley H. Bates Middle School.
Starting Oct. 13, the midshipmen are volunteering at the middle school, helping sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders with their four core subjects—Math, Language Arts, Social Studies and Science. This is the second year that the mids have assisted at the school, but already their presence is having an impact.
Their numbers have increased significantly at the school. Last year, a dedicated group of 11 midshipmen showed up once a week to help out in math and language arts classes. This year, 55 mids are offering to help students in those classes, but with this increase in numbers, the school is also bringing them into social studies and science classes.
Miriam Stanicic, the community relations director at the Naval Academy who helps coordinate the volunteer activities of MAG, attributes the growth of the program at Bates to the positive feedback from the original group of midshipmen. "The first year is very important. In any new effort, we start small to ensure success and to give the mids a sense of ownership."
But since Mids for Kids, the program that places the midshipmen in area schools, is entirely voluntary, it's obvious that the success of the program lies largely with how welcome the mids feel at the school, how well the logistics work of getting them back and forth to the school, and whether they feel their efforts are making a difference. Evidently, last year's inaugural effort at Bates got the thumbs up from
them because the increase in volunteers speaks for itself.
Mark Hyman, a parent volunteer at Bates who has handled the transportation schedule both years, was well aware of the good reviews Bates got from the midshipmen. In fact he was quite surprised to discover how effusive they were in their praise.
"Our kids are the ones benefitting from this program, and yet the mids told us repeatedly 'thank you' for allowing them to help out," Hyman said.
According to Stanicic, one in four midshipmen will be involved with MAG at some point during their time at the Academy. MAG volunteers are typically involved in 22 to 25 projects each year, ranging from helping at homeless shelters to community cleanups. Over the years, the group has also participated in Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots, and Special Olympics, among others. But within MAG, Mids for Kids is by far the largest group, with area schools being the beneficiaries of their hundreds of hours of community service.
Typically, the midshipmen who volunteer at Bates will be assigned to one classroom. That way, the kids will get to know the mids and vice versa. In addition, as the classes progress, the teachers can use the mids to the best advantage in the classroom. That might mean having them work one-on-one with students who need a little extra help. Or it could mean going over a study point in a small-group format. The mids might also help out with a large class project. Whatever form the assistance takes, it allows the teachers the flexibility to structure their class in a way that works best for all involved.
Sixth-grade Language Arts teacher Pat Watkins is very appreciative of the hard work that the mids perform in her classroom. "They are the perfect young role models for our students," she said. "I love their dedication to serve our country and our students."
The mission of the Naval Academy reads, in part, "to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty."
Knowing that the mids have willingly volunteered to add one more thing into an already crowded and intense schedule makes one realize that part of the Academy's mission is already being fulfilled— with the kids at Bates, and other area schools, benefitting greatly from the midshipmans' enthusiasm and sense of community service.