Muskegon – When Muskegon Maritime Academy, the first naval academy school in Muskegon, opens this fall, its curriculum won’t just emphasize reading, math and science. Another cornerstone will include teaching students the value of discipline, honor, respect and service to others.
Those principles will be based on the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps youth leadership development program that will be incorporated into the school’s curriculum, academy founder Franklin A. Fudail said.
“It’s important to instill discipline, honor, respect, and service into young people early,” said Mr. Fudail. “It will give them a strong foundation to build on as they progress through life.
“A lot of the problems we see with youth are not simply socio-economic related, some of these issues stem from inadequate and misguided morals and values. I believe this is one of the crucial missing pieces in the public educational system.”
The unique approach has attracted the attention of hundreds of parents throughout West Michigan this summer who have already enrolled their children or have inquired about the new charter school, academy officials said.
“All Muskegon Maritime Academy students will enter the Naval Sea Cadets program in 5th grade,” said Mr. Fudail. “We will also have an MMA Junior Cadet Program for grades 1-4 that will use the military model to build character and leadership or leaders of character.”
The program for students in grades 1-4 will be less formal than it will be for 5th-graders, Mr. Fudail explained.
The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a federally chartered nonprofit youth development program for youth, from age 10 through the completion of high school, according to the Sea Cadets website.
Lieutenant Commander Jon Baker, regional director of Naval Sea Cadet Corps and retired Captain William R. Radomski, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Commander, North Central, have been instrumental in helping Maritime Academy officials incorporate their program into the new charter school’s curriculum, Mr. Fudail said.
Fifth-grade cadets at Maritime Academy will have the opportunity to participate in monthly drills with their unit, Mr. Baker said. The students will also attend advanced training camps in various fields, including field operations, robotics, space camp, leadership, and medical training.
“Local units hold four drills a month and drills are four hours, so they may do a whole weekend depending on the unit, or four Saturdays, it all depends,” Mr. Baker said.
The program stresses respectful and supportive leadership by example and opportunities to lead and teach others through progressive responsibilities, Mr. Baker explained.
“The training will provide students challenges that are outside their comfort zone,” Mr. Baker said. “It will also expose cadets to the prestige of public service through hands-on training.”
The naval program is divided into two groups: the Navy League, for ages 10 to 13, and the Sea Cadets, for ages 13 to 18.
Cadets will have the privilege of wearing the U.S. Navy uniform with appropriate Sea Cadet insignia, Mr. Baker explained. Cadets have absolutely no commitment regarding future military service, but cadets who do decide to enlist may be eligible to enter at an advanced pay grade
One of the biggest benefits is that youth participating in the Sea Cadet program will learn a great deal of leadership, he said.
“We have a very strong focus on appropriate leadership,” Mr. Baker said. “They have to uphold their shipmates, so it becomes a very safe place for [boys and girls]. Our environment doesn’t have bullying or social cliques. Those are the lessons that they take away and we expect them to exhibit outside when they go back to their schools.”
Mr. Fudail said Muskegon Maritime Academy plans to set the bar high, and will create an atmosphere conducive to academic success.
“A lot of schools are chaotic and disruptive,” Mr. Fudail said. “Having a military-influenced program incorporated into the school will create a culture that will help us maintain an orderly environment, which will benefit our students in their quest to learn.
“We are excited about having the Sea Cadet program incorporated into our curriculum, it sets our school apart from any school in Muskegon County. This is not just another charter school, this is a revolutionary approach to education. particularly for an urban community.”