Know When to Fold Them

Accepting the Award

“Know when to fold them…”

In his classic song, The Gambler, Kenny Rogers sang “You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” It is a great song and applicable to many situations… including the one I am writing about today.

As longtime readers of my blog will know, I never intended to be connected to the life of cadets of The Citadel after my son graduated in 2011. I passed along the leadership roles I held as the Georgia Citadel Parent Rep, and the Area Rep Coordinator for the Citadel Family Association before he graduated. What I did not anticipate were the many new parents who found my previous blog posts for the military blog site, Off the Base, who would then send emails and even call me to ask for advice. I certainly never expected to be connected to the school seven years after “my” graduation day.

I tell people I am basically lazy. After getting a few emails and calls post-graduation, I decided that since most of the early questions from parents are the same, it would be easier and less time consuming to just post the tips and information to my own blog. It then became apparent that a more interactive platform was needed for parents to ask questions and get answers, so I started that with the parents of the Class of 2016.

While my son was a cadet, I was a company rep volunteer and then area rep for the Citadel Family Association. During that time, Facebook groups were developed. In the early years those groups were helpful, but, unfortunately, also a source for rumors, bullying, and misinformation perpetrated by individuals who sadly harbored personal agendas.

Keeping in mind the harmful and insensitive interactions I saw happening in the groups that included parents of cadets of all classes, and knowing some basics in counseling and pastoral care, I developed the first parent group by class in 2012. The idea was simple, start a group for parents of students in the class of 2016 only and add a few of my trusted friends who were parents of recent graduates to offer guidance, support and advice.

The first year the group grew to over 350 members. It was a learning process. Not everyone was on board with the concept of straight information. Drama and/or rumors became a need for many. As the years progressed, rules and guidelines developed. Advice was tweaked and I built relationships with key staff on campus to ensure the information shared was accurate and current. Each year when the new packing list was published in the “Success Packet” I’d review it to make sure the new parents stayed with the school sanctioned list and not be conflicted by random advice given by parents of previous cadets. Today there are parent groups for the classes of 2016 to the current knob Class of 2022.

In 2014 my alma mater, Columbia Theological Seminary, gave me the “Pioneer in Ministry Award” for my ongoing work with cadet parents. I wrote about what I considered my unique call to serve in a blog post you can read HERE. From June 2014-2015 I was a chaplain resident at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. It was a rewarding and educational year. While I was extremely busy with my work there I was still maintaining the support groups for new parents. I also tried to let staff at The Citadel know there was a real need for the school to be more involved with proactive communication with parents. The Citadel Family Association is only for parents of current cadets and there was no place in the CFA for parents of graduates. I met with staff in The Citadel Foundation Office, then later met with the new provost at the time, Dr. Connie Book. A couple of years ago, Dr. Book brought Navy Capt. Taylor Skardon over to the Provost office where he became the parent liaison among other duties.

Each year in the parent groups leading up to matriculation day I offered a dinner invitation for first year parents who might want to get together in a casual environment after a stressful drop off matriculation morning.. We usually had a group of 40-50 meet at Tommy Condon’s restaurant. The summer the Class of 2020 was matriculating the numbers outgrew Condon’s. With the help of The Citadel Club of Charleston and The Citadel Foundation, we held a BBQ dinner at the Holliday Alumni Center. It was successful, over 230 people attended. After I planned this first dinner at the HAC, Capt. Skardon assumed the matriculation night dinner planning for the next two years.

I wrote Capt Skardon in the fall of 2016. I had authored a white paper on how and why the parent groups by class were formed. I explained why the groups have the rules they do and why only parents of graduates are in the group as advisors. Since Capt. Skardon was the new parent liaison, I offered to pass the groups along to him. He called a meeting with the staff liaison to the CFA and the CFA leadership. I attended the meeting fully expecting I would relinquish my leadership role of the groups. I was surprised when Capt. Skardon asked me to continue my volunteer work because the current staff did not have the required time. After that meeting, we developed a system of communication between the communication chair of the CFA, Capt. Skardon and me to disseminate accurate information to parents.

Here we are almost two years after that meeting. The groups have grown in size each year. There are over 980 members in the group for 2022 parents. There are more than 3,250 members in the four groups for current parents. The work is rewarding. Many wonderful connections and friendships have been made. The groups are so active that they caught the eye of the corporate office of Facebook in California. I was invited to attend the first ever 2017 Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago as one of 100 group admins who created successful Facebook groups and are building communities.

The goal of the groups has always been to provide a safe place for anxious parents to get accurate information. The groups are most active knob year. The activity picks up again second semester junior year leading up to senior year and ring weekend and graduation. To help with the volume of information that is shared, parents from within each group were added to help administer and moderate the groups. A private group was formed for the moderators. I continued to stay in close contact with Capt. Skardon to help provide accurate timely information to parents. I did tell Capt. Skardon that management of the groups had outdistanced my volunteer capacity and I’d either have to receive small monetary compensation or I’d have to move on.

Subsequently, a decision has been made for the school, through the Citadel Family Association volunteers, to begin moderating groups for the incoming parents of the class of 2023. I am the creator of the current groups and have promised that no staff would be added to them. I will continue to be a member in the groups I created, and the parent volunteers will take over the day-to-day administration of them. A staff person or two will be added to the private group for administrators so information can be shared from staff to the admin group then shared with parents in the 2019 – 2022 parent groups. Beginning with the class of 2023, the parent group will be maintained by the Citadel Family Association and their volunteers.

I like to think the groups have served the original purpose, to provide a safe space for new parents to find support and information. I look forward to following the cadet careers of the young men and women I’ve had the honor getting to know, some of whom have become my “adopted” sons and daughters. I’ll still be in the groups I started but as a silent member there to support the parent administrators and facilitate introductions between admins and staff.

So as the song goes, I’ll be walking away (but watching from a distance).

Go Bulldogs!

 

 

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Letting Go: A Hard Task for Parents

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Reporting in at the desk in the sallyport (entry way to the barracks)

Each year about this time I post this advice. The most important thing for parents to do before August is outlined below.
 
Sending a child to a military college adds an extra layer of anxiety for some parents. If your student has selected this road less traveled, they need to be the ones to carry to responsibility of getting prepared. That includes keeping up with assessments and assignments, physical training, etc.
 
Most families do need to be involved with purchasing the items they will need since the student doesn’t usually have the finances without parental support. Even with purchases, it should be the student to decide what brand/style to buy.
The 2022 parent Facebook group is to help answer general questions, and to refer you to the proper office or contact on campus. Your primary resource for questions about things on campus should be the school website and staff. Use the search window to find answers to your questions. The admissions office and commandant’s office are both great resources. Once your student reports there is a parent liaison on campus to help answer your general questions/concerns and ombudspersons are confidential resources.
 
The most important task for parents is to step back and let your student take the lead in preparations. This is such a consistent issue with new parents, it is addressed in several blog posts here, just put “letting go” in the blog search window to read previous posts. I’ve posted a link to some of them below.
 
If you are used to being in touch via text, computer, or phone throughout the day, start now to cut back on your communication. If you don’t it will be extra hard for you when they are without their cell phones and computers the first 7+ days after they report.
Your student will be the one to have to deal with the consequences of their decisions. The entire system at The Citadel is based on taking personal responsibility for your actions or inaction, and learning how to pull together with your classmates. There are rewards and consequences that are enforced. To read about the 4th Class System and leadership training visit the page of the Office of Assistant Commandant for Leadership Programs
A parent is not doing their student a favor by doing all their prep work for them. In fact you are doing them a disservice. If you are the parent who helped your student keep up with their assignments through high school, they may not have learned time management, or good study habits. Begin letting go now before they report. Start with letting your student keep up with the assessments and list of items to pack, once it is published. If they get to campus and don’t have an item the cadet store has all the essentials plus extras.
Many, many students and their parents are well prepared for the 4th class system. Those families will have other challenges this next year. Like other aspects of life, each student is on their own path.
Parents: Step away from the new parent Facebook group and the school website and just check in once a week. There is a tendency for nervous parents to check in every day, throughout the day. That is not healthy. Let your student be the one to keep up with the preparations like their physical fitness and checking their email and the school website for updates.
Parents, your biggest task the next several weeks is to enjoy time with your student and family before they report
Previous posts about Letting go:

For Parents of accepted students in The Citadel the Class of 2022

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Lining up to meet the 1st SGT on Matriculation Day

Welcome!

To keep up with the latest information for parents of future knobs at The Citadel, join the Facebook group for 2022 parents. Once you get to the group page, select the button to request to join, then complete the 3 screening questions. (Your approval will be delayed if you do not answer the three screening questions.)

The parent groups I moderate are for parents only, extended family members will not be approved to join. Family members can follow the public pages posted by The Citadel.

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2022

I have started a second blog on a platform that will allow a broader range of services to followers. Please sign up to follow Cadetparentadvice.com to get the most up to date blog entries.

Matriculation Tips for the Parents of the Class of 2021

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The schedule as found on the Matriculation Headquarters page: http://www.citadel.edu/root/matriculationhq

 

Updated 7/31/2017

See this link for official information about Matriculation Day: http://www.citadel.edu/root/freshmen-matriculation-day

The Citadel,  Class of 2021 reports the morning of August 12. (For Athletes see this link) By now the soon-to-be knobs, and their parents, should be checking the Matriculation Headquarters page each week for updates. Read EVERY link on the page and print out the schedule and traffic diagram in addition to the forms that must be turned in that morning. Summer assessments should be completed, some by August 1.

A few tips to prepare for weekend:

  • Be sure you have made hotel reservations.
  • Put your knob’s name in the People Search window to find their mailing address.  Send letters to arrive the first week. Wait to send boxes until after the first week.  See this link for how to address mail to a cadet. DO NOT use nicknames.
  • Do attend “The Gathering” in the chapel Friday at 5:00 to hear about the various religious and fellowship groups on campus.
  • The knob should bring their wallet with state issued ID, like a driver’s license. It helps to have a little money, $20 or so with them in case they have an opportunity to buy snacks. Some years they have the chance to buy pizza as a fundraiser at the end of Challenge week.
  • The knob should wear a plain shirt, shorts, a belt if the shorts have belt loops, white ankle socks, and their athletic shoes. If they already have the white ankle socks and athletic shoes on they won’t have to search for them as soon as they have to change.
  • Drive to campus from your hotel the day before so you will know how to get to the Holliday Alumni Center. (See Traffic Diagram here and print it out for easy reference later) Getting lost Saturday morning can really add to the stress of the knob. (Ask me how I know)
  • Be sure you have a full tank of gas. You wait in your car in a long line Saturday morning. You won’t want to be the family that ran out of gas before you report.
  • Say your real goodbye’s before you leave the hotel or your home. Once you arrive on campus things move quickly and the knob’s time will not be their own.
  • The knobs turn in their cell phones when they go into the barracks. They should be sure to have them fully charged and turn them off before they walk in. They won’t get them back for at least a week. Many knobs end up having to charge their phones before they can make their first call home.
  • Arrive on the early side. The line starts around 6:30am. Check-in begins at 7:00 am. It will be hot. Arriving early means it will be a chilly 85-90 versus 90-100.
  • Once you get to the barracks the Citadel Family Association volunteers will be there to help unload your car and let you know where to move your car. They have blue shirts on and all of them have been in your shoes.
  • Parents and family can go into the barracks, but you do not unpack your student.
  • Do take a photo behind closed doors, you’ll be glad you have that first day of knob year photo later. Do not make a fuss over your knob at all on campus that day.
  • Once the boxes are unloaded the knob reports in on their own. (With their FERPA form if they have not already sent it in and the OCM form printed and filled out) Parents must wait with the boxes.
  • Once the knob comes out you’ll do what he or she tells you to do. How things happen from here can vary by company and each year the process is fine tuned based on the current cadet leadership.
  • All families must be out of the barracks by 10am. Many families leave earlier because their son or daughter is ready to start their process .
  • There is an information fair in the McAlister fieldhouse. It is a great time to get your questions answered and meet people from various departments. The fieldhouse is air-conditioned and there are restrooms, and water fountains.
  • The President, Commandant and the Citadel Family Association rep address parents after the information fair. It is a great place to visit to get information and cool off.

FAQ

  • Your knob will find out their company the morning of Matriculation.
  • Legacy and Band Company knobs still must go through the check in process at the Holliday Alumni Center. It is how they keep track of who has reported.
  • Extended family members can come with you, but you should be aware there is a lot of standing and waiting around. Ask your son or daughter who they want to drop them off. One good option is to have everyone stay at the hotel and only a few go to campus that morning. No knob wants to call extra attention to themselves that day.
  • If you have young children, bring quiet toys, snacks and water.
  • If you have older family members or family with disabilities that make standing difficult, bring a folding chair.
  • The presentation in the Fieldhouse should be over by 11:45 the administration will be available to answer questions afterward.
  • You can attend Sunday worship but you will not interact with your son or daughter. They are divided into groups for worship, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, and Ethics seminar.
  • The oath ceremony takes place Monday evening on Summerall Field. The school has live streamed it in the past. It is a short, less than 15 minute, ceremony. (See last years video here) Watch the school webpage and Facebook page for details. If you are in town you can attend. You will not interact with your son or daughter and may not be able to tell which knob is yours since they will be dressed alike and have no hair, or little hair in the case of the women knobs.
  • If you need to reach your knob’s company or battalion TAC officer after you leave the campus see this directory. 
  • The Ombudsperson’s are a confidential resource for cadets, faculty staff and parents too.
  • The Parents resource page is very helpful throughout the year. Email parents@citadel.edu with your questions.

NOTE: Parents of the Class of 2021, if you haven’t already, join the Facebook group, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021. Go to the page request to join, then answer the screening questions to let me know you are the parent of a knob. Email me with any questions. PLEASE note the group is for parents of knobs only. Please let your extended family members know they will not be approved to join the group.

Other links for first year parents:

Freshman parent page (read all links) especially the Matriculation Day page

2017-2018 Parade Schedule 

Commandant’s Calendar for 2017 – 2018  (note Open and Closed weekends don’t really apply to knobs . They designate when Upperclass cadets can have overnights. Knobs do not have overnight privileges first semester.  Qualified Knobs (with no punishments) can go off campus for General Leave most weekends, but must be back by 12 midnight)

For blog posts about knob year for parents see the entry below and the entries linked at the bottom of the Knob Year Notes for parents entry.

Knob Year Notes for Parents

In 2015 I had the opportunity to take a knob from CA to campus for Matriculation Day. This video includes photos from that day and the days afterward.

 

The Acquisition of Memories, Part 1

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories.” 

Carson, the butler on Downtown Abbey

If Carson is right and the business of life is the acquisition of memories, I’ve had a very busy business week. If you consider the fact that I do not work full-time right now the fact that I’ve been busy at all is remarkable.

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Soon-to-be-members of The Citadel, Class of 2021 with Atlanta Citadel Club president, Gregory Horton and Vice President, Michael Escoe at the end of the Atlanta Citadel Club’s Annual Send off Dinner.

I’ve just lived through one of the most incredible weeks. It began on June 16 with the annual Knob Send off Dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club (ACC). I was honored by being placed at the head table with the the president and vice president of the ACC. I was also asked to say the blessing for the meal and later address the new families. This year marks ten years since I was the parent of an incoming knob at The Citadel. I was nervous and anxious, but the mom of a current cadet I sat net to at the time was so helpful and welcoming my nerves were calmed a bit. The turn out for the dinner was great. If you are the parent of a student who will be in The Citadel Class of 2017, please join the Facebook group for parents.

June 17 I went on my first “ride along” with the Roswell Fire department. As a member of the inaugural Community Emergency Response Team class, and now the Chaplain for the Roswell Fire Department, it was very exciting opportunity. The Fire fighters at Station 1 made me feel right at home. As they handled their morning routine I asked a gazillion questions and they answered each of them with patience. I am glad I asked many of the questions because later that afternoon we went out on a call along with several stations including some from neighboring towns. I rode int eh the big truck with two fire fighters from station 1. It was quite a bumpy ride as we sped through town with the sirens and lights flashing. Riding facing the back gave me an interesting perspective of how drivers react when an emergency response vehicle needs to get through traffic.

As the fire fighters went to work I was struck at how quickly the team came together. I’ve studied emergency response through the online classes FEMA offers. I was a Disaster Assistance Volunteer (DAT) with the Red Cross fro a few years too. This call brought all that studying to life. While the team came together I spoke to the EMT’s who were with the family.

I spent some time with the family as they sat and watched the smoke billowing out of their home. After about 20 minutes the neighbors began to show up offering help. Once the fire was under control the fire inspector came in. I was able to observe the process of finding the cause of the fire.

Through the whole experience I was struck by the professionalism and caring of our first responders. We left the scene several hours later. I have some amazing memories from that day.

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Visiting with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, June 20, 2017

After Saturday there was no time to rest as I was called by my dear friend Soumaya who asked me to help her put together a dinner with the staff of Mayor Reed of the City of Atlanta. The dinner June 20 was to be the first ever Iftar Dinner hosted by a mayor of Atlanta. Soumaya is the founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that helps to build understanding of the Islamic faith through education. I’ve worked with Soumaya and her board on a few events the past few years. It was an honor to help with this historic event.

Within just a few days a dinner for 150 people at City Hall was pulled together. Unfortunately the Monday before the Tuesday dinner Soumaya learned that her father was gravely ill and died that evening. I met with Soumaya at her home to go over all the details for the dinner the next evening. It was an honor to work the event, but more so to be with my dear friend as she began the mourning process for her dear father.

Tuesday, June 20 there was a massive rain storm which did not damped the evening, although the streets were a rushing river of drain off. The food was amazing and the Mayor presented Soumaya with the highest civilian Award, The Phoenix Award.

The next day I flew to Chicago for the 2017 Facebook Communities Summit. It was such a whirlwind trip that I will write about it separately.

2017 Matriculation Headquarters Page is Posted

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Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

I just received word that the new Matriculation Headquarters page is posted. Long time readers will notice some major changes in layout and information.

The main changes to the Success packet is the addition of an iron and ironing board (either travel size or full size) and that the Nice to Have List is no longer posted. I’ve been told by the admissions office that the Commandant’s Office felt that knobs were reporting with too many things the past few years so knobs should only bring what is on the new Success Packet list.

For tips and links for items on the Success Packet List go to Cadet Parent Advice.

Notes for New Citadel Families

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A newly shaved Knob next to the statue of General Mark Clark

Challenge Week is almost over for the Class of 2020. It is a challenge for many parents who are used to regular communication with their son or daughter. This is the week when the new parents are initiated into the time honored tradition of scouring social media in the hope of finding a glimpse of their knob, or as I like to call it The Citadel version of “Where’s Waldo.”

For many families their attention is now moving to Parents Weekend and visits with their cadet recruit. This leads to questions about when knobs can go off campus and when are the best times to visit.

According to the Matriculation Day presentation by General Rosa and Captain Paluso knobs can get off campus for their first general leave August 27. It is a great time for the knobs to get off campus with their new classmates and begin to make memories together. I know each family is different so I won’t tell anyone not to visit, but I will say this, if your student was at another college would you get in your car to go spend the day with them? Let them bond and make memories together. If you do go bring another cadet or two with you for a meal. you’ll enjoy their stories.

Parents’ Weekend is October 7 – 9 this year. Once the schedule of events is posted to the school website I’ll write more about this special weekend. In the meantime you can get an idea of what it is like by reading this previous post. For travel arrangements, keep in mind the knobs can get off campus Friday afternoon around 1:00pm and on Sunday they can stay off campus until about 6:00. This is a huge weekend on campus for the knobs who are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. It is also a huge weekend for the seniors who receive their rings on Friday afternoon. If you haven’t already be sure to get your hotel arrangements settled. You can see this link for some hotel suggestions. AirBnB also has some great options in the area.

When it comes to visiting knob year it is helpful to keep a few things in mind. Knobs want to sleep and eat with they get off campus. Getting to watch TV and just relax is a big treat. Don’t expect them to want to do sight-seeing around town this first year. The major weekends are fun to visit but you don’t get much time with your cadet recruit. If you visit on the Open weekend, that means they do not have a Saturday Morning Inspection (SMI) and can spend Friday evening with you until midnight, Saturday most of the day and Sunday most of the day. The Open weekends for the fall are, Sept 2-4; Sept 16 – 18; Sept 30 – Oct 2; Oct. 21 – 23, and for knobs not on ROTC scholarships, Sept. 23 – 25; and Nov 11 – 13. The ROTC scholarship cadets have training weekends these two weekends. To see the full schedule for the entire year go to the Yearly Planning Calendar on this page. Open means that qualified upperclass cadets can put in for overnights. Closed Weekends means all cadets must be in the barracks each night at the designated time on the training schedule.

Be sure to read through the new and improved parent webpage, especially the section for Freshman parents and the Challenge Week section .

For readers who are not 2020 Parents, you can see the photos I’ve taken from Matriculation Weekend on Facebook here:

Matriculation Day, 2016

Matriculation Sunday

Matriculation Sunday Evening

Challenge Week – Monday

Oath Ceremony

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Members of the Class of 2020 prepare to take the cadet oath.

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