From left, Staff Sgt. Juana Snell stands with sisters Ashley Fipps and Jasmena Fipps as Southside Middle School Principal Johnny Scott and Assistant Principal Steven Dudley help present a Thanksgiving basket to the sisters. The basket was donated by Mentors in Action, a program founded by Snell last year. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Mentors In Action, or M.I.A., a group of Marines volunteering in area schools with the desire to reach out and enhance the growth of school-age students around the Albany community, presented Thanksgiving baskets — including a 15-pound turkey — to select families within two of the schools they are partnered with Friday.
Representatives from M.I.A., including founder Staff Sgt. Juana Snell from Marine Corps Logistics Command at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, were at Radium Springs Elementary School and Southside Middle School Friday presenting the baskets before the students were released for Thanksgiving break.
M.I.A., officials say, is designed to facilitate an educational and motivational environment where students can strive for excellence as well as provide a place where mentors can serve as positive enforcers of leadership, professionalism and dedication. The program is partnered with the International Studies Elementary Charter School, Southside and Radium Springs Elementary.
There was one family per school selected by the staff at each respective school based on need and work ethic. A basket was presented at International Studies on Thursday.
This was the first Thanksgiving basket hand off the program has done.
“We collaborated with all the Marines in M.I.A. to make it happen,” said Snell, who works as the equal opportunity advisor for LOGCOM.
” … This was something as a program (we wanted to do). The Marines recently asked: ‘What can we do (as a way to give back).’”
Last year, Snell brought M.I.A. to International Studies as a way match its students with mentors in uniform to enhance the growth of the school’s student body. The program continued this year, expanding to other schools. The hope is to eventually be able to move it into a high school setting, Snell said.
“We are very excited to be in our second year … We hope to continue to pay it forward,” Snell said.
The idea behind the program, officials have said, is to take Marine Corps leadership ethos and infuse classrooms with ideals and principles that will make students stronger leaders. In order to incorporate a tie to the Corps, Snell took the word “Marine” and created the acronym “Mentoring Above Resistance and Inspiring New Endeavors.”
A minimum of one hour per week is being required of the Marines who volunteer, and one mentor stays with a class throughout the year. Last year, there were 26 Marines who volunteered to be matched up with classes to visit as part of the program.
This year, the program includes 20 Marines and 10 Albany State University Global Ambassadors.
“It’s been said that it takes a community to raise a child. This is one way we can collaborate to make it happen,” Snell said.