By Maya Pottiger
As part of its School Improvement Plan, Severna Park Elementary wanted to focus on building relationships with students.
The school implemented numerous practices to develop relationships: all classes now begin the day with a morning meeting; a handful of students have faculty mentors to eat lunch and touch base with during the school day; and now, on Thursdays, four midshipmen visit designated fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.
“We really wanted them to work with the fifth grade and the fourth grade because we’ve been having some respect concerns,” said school guidance counselor Katie McCord. “There’s something about when these guys come in the room and they sit next to you that makes kids straighten up and really think about what they say before they say something. It’s pretty awesome.”
The four midshipmen — Scott Tanner, Ethan Wheeler, Evan Doe and Jack Bambury — volunteered for the program through the Naval Academy.
Doe said he heard about the program from his classmates, and he heard only great things.
“It sounded like a great way to experience something outside the campus, especially as an underclassman,” Doe said. “It sounded like a fun way to volunteer and to get to see the community outside the Naval Academy a little bit more.”
All four midshipmen agreed that the program adds a breath of fresh air to their hectic schedules and allows them to connect with the community in ways they can’t through the academy.
“You’re in a bubble at school. Volunteering with kids gives an opportunity to give a positive reinforcement of somebody in a uniform,” Tanner said. “When you wear a uniform, people mostly see the uniform, so it could give them something to work toward or give them a positive reinforcement and maybe some inspiration.”
In the classroom, the midshipmen help however the teacher decides is necessary for the day. Sometimes they are helping hands during activities, and other times they work with small groups of students who may be struggling with the lessons.
During the first visit, students asked the midshipmen a lot of questions.
“Almost immediately after you introduce yourself, they become really comfortable,” Wheeler said.
Now students look forward to the midshipmen’s visits. The midshipmen are helping students to rise above, be respectful and feel connected, McCord said.
However, the experience is also helping the midshipmen feel connected, as well.
“At the Naval Academy, you’re totally in your own bubble, and it’s totally easy to forget that normal life happens sometimes. It’s so unique over there,” Bambury said. “To be able to come out here on a weekday and see normal life and interact with kids, it’s a nice break.”