By Federico Martinez
Tribune Staff Writer
<strong>West Point, New York </strong> – The first K-5 students who walk into Muskegon Maritime Academy this fall will be making history by attending the first public school in the nation to use curriculum developed by a West Point Performance Enhancement Specialist, the illustrious U.S. Military Academy known for producing some of the country’s greatest leaders.
While the core curriculum will focus on developing strong reading and math skills, a strong emphasis will also include developing students’ self-esteem and confidence, self-discipline, and leadership, noted school founder Franklin A.Fudail.
“I really want the community to understand there is no public, private or charter school with a program like this,” Mr. Fudail said. “The fact that a Performance Enhancement Specialist from West Point put this together for our kids in Muskegon is ground-breaking.”
That specialist is Dr. Kathryn Longshore, a renowned psychologist who prior to joining West Point’s staff, worked with professional and elite college athletes to develop mental toughness.
She integrated those strategies into the curriculum designed for the Maritime Academy.
“The Performance Psychology program is designed to both cultivate and enhance the mental toughness and resilience to perform at each student’s best in all areas of life, academics, physical fitness and sport, leadership, and performing under pressure,” Dr. Longshore explained.
“Students will learn tools and develop skills for self-regulation, including building self-awareness, understanding thoughts and emotions, managing stress, breathing strategies, focus and attention, and coping with adversity. Through the program, students will also learn valuable lessons about teamwork, communication, and leadership.”
Those lessons will be based on the following principles: helping students to “master their mindset (self-talk),” “ride the waves (understand emotions),” “tame the butterflies (nerves),” “be aware of where their feet are (mindfulness),” “know thyself (confidence),” and “reach for the stars (goal setting),” Dr. Longshore said.
“Starting early with these young students will empower them to take control of their inner world early on in development, and set them up for future and lasting success,” Dr. Longshore said.
Mr. Fudail said the major impetus for launching the new charter school was prompted when he discovered alarming reports that 61 percent of third-graders in Muskegon County are not reading at grade level.
Numerous national studies conducted over the years have concluded that if students are not doing well by the end of third grade, the chances for future academic success is greatly diminished, Mr. Fudail said.
“Why are we doing this,” Mr. Fudail said. “To help develop the self-confidence and self-esteem of our students at a young age, teach them how to become mentally tough and bounce back from setbacks and teach them how to perform at a high level under stress, for example on standardized testing.”
Muskegon Maritime Academy will be the first Naval academy in Muskegon County, Dr. Frank Marczak, the school’s first board president, said earlier this week. The school will be partnering with the United States Naval Sea Cadets Corps for a youth leadership development program that will also be incorporated into the curriculum at the school.
“I believe this academy can be a change agent and I have faith we can get there,” said Dr. Marczak, a longtime educator who retired as president of Muskegon Community College in 2005. “If the discipline is there and the military is involved, we’ll see action.”