The MCLB-Albany "Mentors in Action" initiative brings 26 Marine volunteers to act as "big brothers" or "big sisters" to students at International Studies Charter Elementary School.
ALBANY — Staff Sgt. Juana Delossantos knew how to work the crowd of kids at International Studies Charter Elementary School Monday.
“Can you hear me?” Delossantos asked from the podium. “I need to know who in here likes candy? All right, I see the hands. Who in here likes to read? Well, today I have something much better than candy. I have Marines.”
Delossantos, who heads the “Mentors in Action” initiative, or MIA, went on to call the names of 26 local Marines who had volunteered for the program and to match them with classes they would visit. Monday would be just the beginning of the association, according to Delossantos.
“The Marines will be coming by to see how (the students) are doing,” Delossantos said.
“They’ll talk to them about their school, their lives and anything that pertains to them and how we could help mentor them and guide them to prosper. The idea is for us to get to know them — to let them know we’re here and that we care.”
Delossantos said that for the children, some of whom come from single parent homes, it’s crucial to have role models and the Marines will be there to help fill the void.
“The Marines help keep us safe,” said Zeda George, head of the charter school.
“Everybody knows that. To have them here in our school working with our boys and girls says something about their commitment to excellence, to our neighborhood and to our public schools.”
According to George, the Marine mentoring program had been in place for some years, but for an unknown reason came to an end.
“It’s like a friend has been gone away but they’re here again. We welcome the Marines again. It’s a good thing,” she said.
During an address to the students and their new mentors, Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB-Albany, urged the mentors to “be the example, don’t just set the example.
“We at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany believe in country, corps and community,” Davis said.
“And this is only one way for us to give back.”