Coast Guard honors school partnerships
By: JEAN L. KAESS
Two Morgan City Coast Guard units received a national award in a ceremony Thursday for their work with local schools and organizations.
Marine Safety Unit Morgan City (MSU) and Aids to Navigation Team Morgan City (ANT) received the Partnership in Education Best Collaborative Program Award from the Coast Guard Civil Rights Directorate for the 465 hours donated by 51 volunteers between July 2010 and June 2011.
“We in the military lead a nomadic existence. When we move from place to place, we become part of the place … and it’s very important we become a part of that community,” Capt. Peter Gautier, Commander of Sector New Orleans said.
Of the 100 Coast Guard units across the country that have Partnership in Education programs, 20 submitted nomination packages. Morgan City’s program was received for best collaborative program between units while MSU Baton Rouge received the equivalent award for a single unit.
This isn’t the first time Morgan City has been honored. In 1997, MSU and ANT received the same recognition, MSU Morgan City Partnership in Education Coordinator Jodee Jones said.
MSU and ANT volunteers worked with Hattie Watts, J.B. Maitland, M.D. Shannon and M.E. Norman elementary schools as well as Morgan City Junior High School, St. Mary Outreach and the St. Mary Parish unit of the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots.
According to the Coast Guard website concerning the program, all members of the Coast Guard family are encouraged to participate in school and community activities approved by their local command. Often, they work directly with students to heighten their awareness of traditional Coast Guard values — drug-free lifestyles, emphasis on scholarship, personal initiative, responsibility and individual self-worth. Members also inform students of careers offered by the Coast Guard.
Some of the programs volunteers worked with included:
—Monthly library walks for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students as well as manning booths at the Wee Jacks Festival for Hattie Watts. The festival raised over $6,000 and catered to over 600.
—Bi-weekly tutoring in one second-grade classroom for students with difficulty in reading and math and 119 hours in one week toward pressure washing and painting the playground at M.D. Shannon. Student scores and confidence were boosted.
—Served as celebrity readers during the book fair and ran an information booth during career day at M.E. Norman.
—Partnered with J.B. Maitland to participate in the Soldier’s Angels Program to collect and distribute greeting cards to soldiers overseas and local veterans. Over 1,400 cards were collected.
—Participated in an after-school mentoring program for students at MCJHS. Members were paired with a student to serve as a role model.
—Dedicated 119 combined hours to the Toys for Tots drive assisting with the annual kick-off event, toy collection, bagging toys and in the final distribution of toys.
—Assisted with St. Mary Outreach’s annual food drive and sponsored a Junior Officer 5K race in which canned goods (for donation to Outreach) were the entrance fee. Over the course of one week, volunteers also participated in the Pumpkin Patch event, in conjunction with annual Red Ribbon Week activities, where they assisted children with various activity stations. The Pumpkin Patch benefits Outreach.
The Morgan City program, is “organic … (but) its leaders do make a difference,” Gautier said, crediting MSU Commanding Officer Capt. Jonathan Burton, J. Jones and ANT liaison Nick Jones.
While J. Jones continues her assignment at the MSU, N. Jones is no longer stationed at ANT
Each unit, along with each school and civic program, received a plaque during an awards ceremony Thursday at M.D. Shannon. Also receiving recognition were the Joneses, who were given challenge coins by their commanding officer. This is a recognition of work in excess of a guardsman’s regular job description.
Superintendent Donald Aguillard thanked the Coast Guard for their participation in this parish.
“We had a rather large event in this parish this spring with the flood. Your work in keeping us safe allowed us to have a full year of school. Thank you for your role, especially in the Morgan City area. … We appreciate your role in the schools and your participation,” he said.
Morgan City Mayor Pro Tempore Lou Tamporello Jr. echoed Aguillard’s sentiments.
“It is a true pleasure to have y’all here. Thank you for what you do with the kids, and thank you, teachers, for what you do with the kids and with this program.”