The Citadel Class of 2020: Getting Ready

Matriculation Day check in

Matriculation morning the knobs and their families report to the Holliday Alumni center early to receive their company assignments.

Across the country high school seniors are graduating. In the South the graduations have already begun. In the North June tends to be graduation month. That means families getting their students ready for Matriculation Day at The Citadel are turning their focus to getting things for their soon-to-be Knob.

The school will post an updated list of items the new students are required to have. (you can view the previous year’s information on page 6 of this document. it changes very little from year to year.) The Citadel Family Association also has a list of items that families have found helpful to have. It is called the “Nice to Have List.” You do not need everything on the Nice to Have List. Parents should ask their student what they would like from that list since they will be the ones to go through the 4th Class System.

I will pause here to give a word of advice to parents. Your student will be attending a leadership school. I’ve written previously about what I learned about what that means. The hardest, but most regarding lesson for parents of cadets is this, your student will have to be the one to navigate the rules and regulations of the school. You can help them get ready to report, but once they are on campus the students are the ones who must take control of their process. Your role will move from one of guiding and teaching your child, to the role of encourager and support person. You WILL NOT be able to navigate the system for them day to day.

Knob reports

Matriculation morning the knobs and their families report to the Holliday Alumni center early to receive their company assignments.

This first year is a rollercoaster of emotions for the knobs. My advice to parents is to avoid getting on that rollercoaster with your student. Obviously you will be concerned, but try to remember that the challenges your student will encounter are learning experiences for them. You will be the only one they can confide in and vent to this next year. Often times the knobs will vent to a parent, leaving the parent worried, while the knob moves on and never tells the parent they’ve resolved the issue.

In the next several months local alumni groups sponsor “Send Off events” for incoming knobs and their families. You can check with the Citadel Alumni Association to see if the club in your area will host an event. The Citadel Family Association also has area reps who are current parents who volunteer to help the new parents. you can find a list of the Area Reps here. The Atlanta Citadel Club has asked me to serve as the chair of the new Parent Committee. We will have a parent orientation meeting in June then the club will host a send off event August 4. Contact me if you’d like additional information. waitingwithboxes

There are three things an incoming knob can do NOW to prepare for the next year: (The office of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs also has a good list for incoming knobs. You can access the link HERE.)

  1. Make sure you can meet, or better yet, exceed the Physical Training requirements.
  2. Buy and wear your black plain toe Oxford shoes (MUST be Polishable leather) and your 8″ desert boots.  Now through May 28 you can get 35% off site wide when you use the promo code EXTRA35.
  3. Begin to memorize the Knob Knowledge in the Guidon. It is available online or in the bookstore. You’ll get a copy when you report.

Parents often wonder about company assignments and roommates. The majority of cadets will find out their company and roommate on Matriculation Day. The athletes who report in July will all stay in the same barracks then move to their regular company assignments in August when the Corps of Cadets report. Unlike other colleges cadets will change rooms through out the year. The moves can be for a variety of reasons.

If you live out of state and don’t want to ship the items to campus, you can order times from Bed, Bath and Beyond or Wal-Mart and pick them up from the stores in Charleston. If you choose this option you will have to arrive in town before Matriculation Day. If you ship items to campus it is a good idea to arrive Friday morning to retrieve them from the warehouse on campus. Contact the warehouse directly with any questions about shipping items in advance.

I know it is a very stressful time for parents who do not have a military background or do not have a history with The Citadel. I was in your place in 2007. Much of what happens seems really strange. As my son would tell me every time I would question something, “There is a reason behind everything we do.” It is the knobs challenge to learn these reasons. A parent needs to encourage and support them in the process.

If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the group for 2020 parents on Facebook to meet fellow parents and to have a safe place to ask questions. Go to the page and request to join, then end me an email to confirm you are the parent of an incoming knob. dorie@dorielgriggs.com

Previous posts about Knob Year

Matriculation Day: Getting Ready

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that first day

Preparing for Knob Year: Parents Edition

Knob Year Notes for Parents

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

Hotels that Offer Discounts to Citadel Families

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

 

Matriculation Day morning

The long line of cars at the Holliday Alumni Center on Matriculation Day. Everyone begins their journey here the Saturday morning.

High school graduation season is upon us here in the South. For families with a student who will attend The Citadel in the Fall that means the annual scavenger hunt for items on the Success Packet “Clothing /Personal Items” list is about to begin. As of this writing the list for the Class of 2020 is not available. The list for the Class of 2019 is still on the school website. The basic items like underwear, socks, flat white sheets have not changed in years. For tips on these items you can see my previous post here. The Freshman Assessments and Placements link is updated for the Class of 2020.

Preparing for knob year to begin is different than other college freshman,  for both the student and the parents. Since I’ve never been a cadet, but I am the parent of a graduate,  I can best speak to what it’s like for parents.

The transition from high school to college is a big step for any family. Sending a child to a military college feels more like a HUGE leap, especially if you are not familiar with the military. I learned early in the process that The Citadel is a Leadership College. That means the students are expected to take responsibility for their actions/in action.

For parents it means learning to let go and let them take control of their life. With the advent of electronic media, cell phones, Skype, Facetime, texting families are more connected than ever. When I went off to college in the summer of 1977 I was 7 hours from home and shared a land line with my roommates. I spoke to my parents once a week on average. I’ve heard stories from graduates of The Citadel from that same time period who talked of waiting in long lines to make a call home on a pay phone then only have a few minutes to talk. While cadets can now have cell phones and have computers in their rooms, the first year knobs cannot use their phones and computers at will. This is a major adjustment for many families.

For parents of incoming knobs if you are used to constant communication with your student begin cutting back on the daily communication now. If you don’t already, allow your son or daughter to take control of the decisions that impact them directly. When Matriculation Day arrives you will not hear from your knob for at least a week. Keep in mind that parents who send their child off to enlist in the Army don’t hear from their son or daughter for weeks.

A couple of things you can do now to ease your anxiety over this transition is to join a couple of parent Facebook groups. I administer a group for Parents of the Class of 2020. Go to the page and request to join, then send me an email to let me know you are the parent of a cadet. Only new parents are approved to the group. No cadets, extended family, or parents of upperclass cadets are admitted in. It is a safe place to meet other new parents and ask questions. I’ve invited some trusted friends who are parents of graduates to help answer questions. Once you are in the group for 2020 parents, join the Citadel Family Association (CFA) page. They will post helpful information throughout the year. The Citadel and Citadel Photography are good pages for you and extended family members to follow for photos and campus news.

The tendency for most parents is to obsess over the list of required items and the “Nice to Have List” in the months leading up to Matriculation Day. When I asked the Parents of the Class of 2019 to pass along their advice to new parents many of then said, do not let yourself get stressed. While I agree with that advice, I have observed over the past eight years since my son was a knob that parents seem to NEED to obsess over the lists. It is far less stressful than focusing on sending your child off to a scary new adventure. So if it helps you to have that list and focus on getting everything (you do not need to get everything on the Nice to have list) go for it. I do encourage you to involve your student in getting the items. If you have a question of whether they want something, ask your student. They are the ones who will have to live through the 4th Class System when you drop them off. Examples of optional items are coffee makers and printers. If you ask five cadets at The Citadel about them you’ll get five different answers. Some like to have a coffee maker or hot pot. Others do not want them. Begin letting go now by asking your son or daughter what they want to do.

While I cannot advise on getting through knob year from personal experience, I have listened to enough send off speeches by alumni to give you a few pointers to pass to your son or daughter. These are basically the same things I’ve written about in previous blog posts. I’ll include a list of links to knob year related blog posts below too.

Break in your shoes. That includes the plain toe black Oxfords, the boots and athletic shoes. The largest single cause of knobs going to the infirmary at the beginning of the year are complications from blisters. Get the shoes now and wear them every day.

Physical Training In addition to breaking in shoes an incoming knob should report being able to meet or exceed the physical training standards. The Physical Fitness web page has very helpful information including the standards the cadets are expected to meet or exceed for weight and physical training. A knob should be able to meet or exceed the number of push ups, sit ups, and run 2 miles in the times listed for their gender and age. Males / Females

Since we have a few months before Matriculation Day this is enough advice for now. In the weeks and months ahead I will share other tips. If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the Facebook group for Parents of the Class of 2020. We answer questions daily there. The links below include helpful information for this first year. Read at your own pace. Please remember to always refer to the school web site for the most up to date information.

 

Class of 2019

Once the knobs report in to their company they will change into their new “knobbie” clothes and line up to go to lunch.

Matriculation Day: Getting Ready

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that first day

Knob Year Notes for Parents

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

Hotels that Offer Discounts to Citadel Families

 

Comforting Memories

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Chelle Leary wears the costume her grandmother made for me in 1976.

Every once in a while our children will do something and we are brought back in time to when we were their age. This week that happened to me.

My youngest, Chelle, is in a literature class in high school. They are reading The Great Gatsby. This week for extra credit they could dress as a character from the book. Chelle wanted to dress as a flapper. I told her where two of my dresses were hanging in storage that she could try on. One of the two dresses was made by my mother for me when I was her age.

I took dance classes growing up and by high school I had put together a “Charleston” routine and performed it at the end of summer variety show at our swim club. My mother took an old slip of hers, and added fringe to make a flapper style dress. I wore that dress again in the Sparta High School senior variety show in the Spring of 1977.

Two nights ago Chelle put on the dress my mother made for me in 1976. My husband took a photo. As I was telling her about the dress I remembered I was in the local Sussex County newspaper wearing the same dress. I found the clipping in an old scrap book. That is when the memories really started flooding in.

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In the newspaper photo above, to my right is my good friend Michelle “Chelle” Chaudoin. My friend Chelle was in an in air place collision of two small planes while she was a student at Arizona State University. She died May 4, 1980 just three years after the photo was taken. I was with her parents and grandparents the night they received word that, in fact, it was Chelle in the plane that went down into a lake that day. I’ve written about Chelle Chaudoin and a neat reunion at The Citadel a few years ago.

I sent both photos to my friend Chelle’s mom, Jodie, who is a widow now and in her 90’s. We had a wonderful exchange of memories and both agreed that my daughter, Chelle, is far more sophisticated than either my friend or I was at her age.

My mother died just over 27 years ago and never met any of my children. Moments like the one this week, seeing my daughter in a costume my mother made for me, reminds me that through our memories our loved ones are never far from us.

NOTE: We pronounce Chelle = Shelley

 

 

The Citadel: End of the Year Tips for Parents

2015 ready to say good bye

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Each year about this time I receive an interesting mix of questions. Families of seniors write with graduation questions. Sophomore and junior parents have fewer questions but the ones they do have revolve around either the BVA process for junior year or early questions about Ring Weekend for rising seniors. The knob families are gearing up for Recognition Day, and the parents of high school seniors have matriculation Day questions.

Senior families:

The graduation schedule is posted on the school web site and should answer most of your questions. You only get 8 tickets per family. some large families set up a computer/TV combination in a rental home so the people who are not at graduation can see the live stream.

The school posts a link to the Balfour graduation announcements. They did not have the site updated early enough for many families so many have used a different company that offer better prices and plenty of options: Signature Announcements

I refer parents to the link to Emily Post Graduation Etiquette for an explanation about the difference between announcements and an invitation. Since the tickets are limited it is customary to send announcements a day to 2 weeks after the graduation to let friends and family know of the milestone reached by your graduate.

On graduation day be sure to ask your graduate where they want to meet you when the ceremony is over. The place is packed and if you have a designated place to meet it can cut down on the time it takes to find your grad is a sea of people.

For more tips and photos just enter Graduation in the search window of this blog page. Here is the post I wrote after graduation last year: Graduation for the Class of 2015

Dismissed

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Junior families:

The biggest question that I’m asked is about the ring payment.The Citadel Alumni Association will send a bill in late August once the registrar lets them know who is qualified to receive their rings in October. Hopefully you or your cadet have been saving up. The cost of the ring has been in the $1,000 range the past several years. The payment is due before Ring Weekend.

BV and Summerall Guards with Jason

A few 2014 Summerall Guards, 2015 Bond Volunteers pose with ’89 grad, Jason Perakis, before their run Friday of Corps Day Weekend.

It is customary for the cadet to escort their mother through the giant replica of the ring the Friday evening of Ring Weekend. The schedule of when each company goes through the ring is posted early in the new school year by the cadet activities office.

For photos of dresses and other activities of the weekend, see this post: Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel, 2015

Sophomore families:

There isn’t much parents need to know before junior year. If your son has plans to become a Bond Volunteer Aspirant, you can expect them to spend a good part of their summer physically preparing. I’ve posted several entries about the process you might find helpful.

Knob families:

It won’t be long until your son or daughter will cease being a knob and become a regular 4th Class cadet. Recognition Day is coming up. If you attend, remember it is not a day to interact with your cadet. If you go, watch from the sidelines, take photos and be in awe of how they have grown as a class in one short academic year. This year I am looking forward to being on campus and joining some 2019 families for lunch that day.

Tire Flip

Cadets work together to flip a tire during the “Gauntlet.” photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

A heads up about sophomore year: It is a different type of tough.They aren’t knobs but if they have rank they are the lowest ranking officers. Many refer to it as knobmore year because it doesn’t seem a whole lot different than the year before. Parents like to call it knob-no-more, but I’m told by many cadets and grads that knobmore is a better description.

A few words of caution. . . It is a year when they do get a little bit a power. It can be a time when they will run into the discipline system a bit more. Grades can slip sophomore year because they don’t have anyone telling them what to do like they did the year before.

Families of high school seniors:

Congratulations! You are about to embark on quite a rollercoaster ride called Knob Year. Please join the Facebook group called, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020. Please send me an email to let me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for parents of knobs, not extended family. You’ll meet other parents who will become your friends. A few parents of grads are in the group to help answer questions. We have a variety of different backgrounds.The Citadel Family Association also has a Facebook group you can join. The Area Reps are parents throughout the country who volunteer to be a support to knew parents. Once you know your son or daughters company (on Matriculation Day) you will have a CFA parent volunteer you can also contact for help and support.

Knobs and Mark Clark statue

Knobs line up after getting their heads shaved Monday of Challenge Week, 2015

He Wore the Ring

 

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Tami Mendez, Pat Conroy, and Dorie at a book signing at The Marcus Jewish Comminity Book Festival.

He wore the ring and captivated the imagination of his readers. The Lords of Discipline inspired young men and women to seek out the unique challenge of attending The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. He turned a phrase like no one else. He packed the house each time he appeared at book festivals.

Pat Conroy died last night after a short confrontation with pancreatic cancer. The news spread across The Citadel social networks like wild fire last night.

I have to admit I did not know much about Pat Conroy before my son set his sights on attending The Citadel. Like many high school boys my son had read The Lords of Discipline and was drawn into the mystic of the military school. While after the publication of the book Pat endured ridicule and on campus and around Charleston, from my observations his book was the reason young people wanted to attend the school. Sure it was tough and the tales of the rituals He described were harsh. For the student meant to attend a military school his story spoke to their need to challenge themself in a way only a military leadership school could.

During my sons knob year an educator friend suggested I read The Water is Wide as my introduction to his writing. I was hooked. I read everything Pat Conroy wrote my son’s knob year at The Citadel. His books helped me understand why my son and so many of his friends were attracted to The Citadel and it’s culture. When I got to his book, My Losing Season, I found I had more in common with Pat than I realized. While he played college basketball for alosing team, I was a manager for a men’s college basketball team. He even wrote about people I knew from the University of Richmond, my alma mater and the nemesis of The Citadel in his book. After reading My Losing Season I was moved to write to Pat Conroy. I doubt he ever read my letter. I felt compelled to write to him. I had never written to another author, but his books and his complete vulnerability in sharing his very personal stories touched me deeply.

My first Parents Weekend in 2007 I was visiting with my son’s host family at a tailgate party. I shared with his host parents and their good friends how much I enjoyed Pat’s books. As it turned out they were friends with Pat for years. They told stories of Pat visiting them while they were serving overseas. They also told stories of his generosity and caring for the Corps of Cadets. I didn’t realize it until much later in the afternoon, but the tailgate we were attending was hosted by Mary and Greg Smith. Pat wrote about their friendship in his books.

Since 2007 I have had the opportunity to hear Pat speak at book festivals. He has signed books for me and thousands of others. I am very glad now that during an open mic Q&A at the Marcus Jewish Community Center Book Festival I gathered my courage to go to the mic in front of 2,000 people to thank Pat Conroy. At the time my son was a cadet and I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group, a group that started years ago through the Atlanta Citadel Club. When I started at the mic I said, “I am the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents group.” Pat interrupted me and to great laughter in the crowd said, “Oh Boy, here it comes.” I went on, “My son and many of his friends are now at The Citadel, many because they read your book. I just want to thank you.” To my surprise the crowd gathered began to applaud loudly.

I am saddened today to know of his passing. I rejoice with legions of his fans that he lived and wore the ring.

 

Caring for the Messengers

This past weekend Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan, one of two young men responsible for the horrific tragedy at Columbine, was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night. Her book will be released this week. For the families of the victims of Columbine, and many other victims and survivors of mass shootings, it was a tough weekend. Every time a shooting happens of any type the people who were impacted whether they lost a loved one, were injured themselves, or were there, relive their experiences. That includes the people who tell their stories, the journalists.

The general news consuming public makes an assumption that because gathering the news is their job, traumatic events don’t affect the reporters and photographers. Just because it is their job doesn’t mean jourmalists are immune to human emotions. That would be like saying soldiers don’t deal with PTSD or emotional issues because it is their job. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Thanks to the work of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and several studies on the subject, more and more journalists are finding the support they need. Dr. Anthony Feinstein published his book in 2003, Journalists Under Fire. The book was the result of his study of war correspondents. He found a significant minority of war correspondents meet the criteria for PTSD.

Dave Cullen, a reporter and the author of the book Columbine, wrote an incredibly open, honest, sometimes painful, look at the pain and emotions he experienced during his time covering the Columbine tragedy and in researching his book. Each time there is a shooting he revisits his grief. In his article in the Daily Beast he gives us all a glimpse at the grieving the survivors of these types of mass shootings revisit each time another one happens.

I’ve written about my call to support journalists and others here before. Moving forward when people question me about why I feel called to support journalists and why journalists would need a chaplain, I’ll point to this very powerful and personal account.

My hope in writing this reflection is that the next time you read a story, watch a report, or listen to a story on the radio that discusses a horrible tragedy, you’ll think not only of the victims but the people who respond to the story. The journalists don’t just write about the stories, but are also deeply impacted by what they witness and cover.

Articles about Dorie’s ministry:

To journalists on the frontline, Atlanta chaplain offers lifeline

2014 Pioneer in Ministry Award

2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award

The 2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award proclamation.

No Fun February

2011 BVA Cuts Day

The members of the 2011 BVA’s are put through their paces by the 2010 Summerall Guard. photo from Facebook, Feb. 2010

In the past couple of days I’ve gotten quite a few private messages from parents who are hearing of a discipline situation on campus. I do not have first hand knowledge of what happened. What I can assume is some cadets were accused of breaking a rule or rules. In the course of investigating the situation a ruling was made and consequences were given.

The rules and procedures for investigations is outlined in the Blue Book section 6, if you’d like to read through them. There are separate procedures for Honor Violations. The cadets are expected to know, and follow, the rules on campus. If there is an infraction there is a procedure to write it up, a procedure to respond, and depending on the type of infraction, procedures for a review or board meeting to address the situation.

The system is built to reward good behavior/actions and consequences are outlined for breaking rules. There is also an appeal process. A PowerPoint presentation about the Discipline System can be seen on the school website.

It is never easy to hear your child broke rules, and its even harder if you don’t believe they did it or weren’t treated fairly. At a leadership school like The Citadel the system is designed for the cadets to know the rules then follow the process and procedures, including the appeal process if they do not agree with a ruling. It can be very hard on parents to take a back seat as their student navigates this process.

I am not a graduate of the school. What I can share with you are my observations of this system as an outsider. I know many cadets who have gone through what I would consider minor violations that still resulted in a battalion transfer, to major lapse in judgement that led to a two semester suspension. In all cases it was tough on the cadet and their parents. In the cases I know of the cadets handled the situation far better than their parents. The cadets took their punishments, learned a lesson and moved on. In some cases they ended up doubling their good friends because they ended up claiming affiliation with two companies.

I know it is hard to hear, or read posts, from parents of cadets who have gotten in trouble. It is tough when they are going through the situation. With time lessons are learned and life goes on.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be less judgemental and more compassionate. Unless something has happened to you or your cadet remember, you never have the full story. I’ve also learned that sometimes, even if it is your cadet involved, parents don’t always get the full story.

A side note about February. . . .the cadets and alumni have a term for it, “F’d up February.” It is a tough school all year long but in the winter it is even tougher. Early morning PT is even worse in freezing temperatures. February is often the time when cadets in the discipline system because of infractions that happened late first semester find out the results of the review or boards and begin their punishments.

Fortunately as the days get longer and the tempuratures warm the mood on campus improves. Spring break is followed by Recognition Day, then graduation. The good news is we are just about halfway through February.

If at any time you have concerns about what your cadet tells you, call the Commandant’s Office. If you want someone to talk to about your concerns the Ombudsperson’s are also a good resource.

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