Cops for Kids: Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders, today

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mike Tryon
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Many of Warren's defenders spend most of their time in the missile field safeguarding the nation's number one deterrent, ICBMs; however, during time off, many members of the 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron spend their time mentoring tomorrow's leaders.

First Lt. Tate Grogan, 90th MSFS flight commander, said he created the concept "Cops for Kids" early last year to help get his Airmen involved in something requiring long-term commitment.

"Any type of community service is good," Grogan said. "However, I like getting involved in something long-term, and being able to see the lasting impact over time that my service has on the organization and community."

Grogan contacted April Gates, Pioneer Park Elementary School, Cheyenne, Wyo., principal, about allowing him and some of his Airmen to volunteer their time reading books to various classes once a week.

"Shortly after the start of this program, it went from reading books to us actually assisting the teachers, working one-on-one and in small groups with the students," Grogan said. "In the beginning, it was just me and a couple of Airmen, but now, most of my Airmen are interested in volunteering."

Airman 1st Class Victor Balboa, 90th MSFS response force leader, said he enjoys helping the children with math and reading.

"We play mathematical games so the kids can be entertained and have a good time while they are learning," Balboa said.

"The most rewarding aspect of all this is knowing you are doing something good for the community, especially the kids," he added. "It's also nice to know you are doing this because you want to, not because you were told to."

Grogan, Balboa and other volunteers said one of the things they most enjoy out of volunteering is being positive role models.

"We spend a lot of time with the kids," said Senior Airman William Young, 90th MSFS flight security controller. "It's nice when we go back a week or so later and the kids still remember who we are. It is a big thing because you know you made a great first impression on them."

The Airmen have made such a great impression on the students that sometimes they would rather do the work for the volunteers instead of for their teachers, Grogan said.

It is really interesting to see a teacher ask the children if they want to practice math or write a story and the students say they don't really want to, Grogan added, but, when one of the Airmen asks the students the same question, the children are so eager and willing to do the work.

"When the Airmen come to work with the students, there is energy and excitement," Gates said. "Students really enjoy making connections with this special group of military volunteers."

According to the volunteers, the mission always comes first; however, when there is time for volunteering it is nice to be able to take time during an "off-day" to help the local community.

"The community does so much for us and sometimes, we don't recognize it enough," Balboa said. "I believe that a good collaboration between the community and our military will make for a better place in Cheyenne."

Adult mentors enhance learning activities for students in the classrooms, and their role modeling and participation is powerful, Gates added.

"Lieutenant Grogan's leadership and organization of volunteers is of high quality, and promotes the importance of our youths' education," she said. "He does a nice job connecting with our educators to maximize efforts and time Airmen spend at Pioneer Park."