Volunteerism impacts community, one school at a time[MIGRATE]

By Cristina N. Gil | September 19, 2008

The Adopt-a-School program affords U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Marines the opportunity to extend their hands to the community and impact children in the Hawaii public school system.

The program helps establish good rapport between the Marine Corps and the community and encourages Marines to put service before self, said Staff Sgt. Arthur L. Rainey, combat camera production chief for Headquarters and Service Battalion, MarForPac and School Liaison Officer for Pearl City Elementary.

“(The Adopt-a-School program) gives Marines the opportunity to think about others.  The military is a way of life and it should be applied in everything we do,” he said.           

Altogether, U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii units established 16 school partnerships for the 2008-2009 school year.

MarForPac sponsors Pearl City Elementary, Palisades Elementary, Aiea Intermediate and Aiea High School.    

Marines who participate in the program have the opportunity to earn the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and/or a Hawaii Department of Education military recognition letter, said Ramos.

Service members who volunteer for the program frequently visit participating schools and provide educational support.

“The events are a lot of fun,” said Sgt. LaVonne A. Watkins, MarForPac electronic key management system alternate manager, and an active Adopt-a-School participant. “It’s inspirational to see the kids smiling and to know that you are being a positive influence for them.”

By participating in the program, Marines have the chance to become more familiar with the local population.

“For those of us, not from Hawaii, it is a good opportunity to get out there and see Hawaii’s communities,” said Watkins.

One Marine is assigned to each school to act as the Marine School Liaison Officer and coordinate event volunteers and one Marine oversees the program as a whole.

“The program lets Marines be seen in the community doing good things,” said Staff Sgt. Jesus N. Ramos, substance abuse control officer for H&S Battalion, MarForPac and coordinator of the Adopt-a-School program here.

Some of the activities include, but are not limited to, reading to students, providing help with homework and conducting physical education, said Rainey.

Although there are events scheduled during the school day, Marines are not obligated to attend every event with the school they choose, but are encouraged to participate as much as their schedules and chain of command allow, said Ramos.

Licensed drivers who would like to participate in the program and do not have a vehicle can check one out through motor transportation depending on availability, Ramos said.

 “It’s one thing to read about the program, but you really have to go out and do it and see the children to know what it’s really all about,” Rainey said.

Marines who would like to volunteer for the Adopt-a-School program or obtain additional information can contact Ramos at (808) 477-8361 or via e-mail at jesus.ramos@usmc.mil.