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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!

 

 

Letting Go: A Hard Task for Parents

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

***2/10/2019 Please note: I am no longer updating the blog posts for Citadel parents. See the official school website for the most up to date information***
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:

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.

 

2017 Facebook Communities Summit

Welcome to the Facebook Communities ummit

Almost a month ago I attended the first ever Facebook Communities Summit. It was a surreal opportunity that quite literally fell in to my lap via a private message on Facebook.

In February of this year I received a private message from a person named Kyle who asked if I would be open to talking to him about my experience with Facebook groups. He found me through his search for groups in South Carolina.

Between moderating Facebook groups for parents with Cadets at The Citadel and also having written about being an Army mom I get some strange unsolicited private messages. I was not sure this Kyle person was legit, so I did what I do when I’m not sure about someone and Googled Kyle. I soon found out that yes, Kyle was in fact with Facebook. We arranged to talk by phone the first week of March. I gave him my feedback on groups and how they have really helped new parents learn about being a supportive, but not meddling, parent of a cadet. The conversation lasted less than 30 minutes. That was it, or so I thought.

A month later in April I received another message from Kyle asking for my email address. This time he wanted to send an invitation to apply for the 2017 Facebook Communities Summit. I was told it would be held in Chicago. The people who are selected to attend would have to get to the host hotel but then everything would be taken care of by Facebook, the hotel room, and meals from Wednesday June 21 to Friday afternoon June 23. I filled out the application and didn’t really think about it again. After all there are millions of groups, some far bigger and with broader outreach than my groups for parents with students at a small military college with less than 2500 members of the entire Corps of Cadets.

May 2 I received an email letting me know I had been selected to attend the Summit!! It was only at this point that I researched what this Summit was about. To my surprise I discovered Mark Zuckerberg issued what was being called by the press a Manifesto about Building Global Communities. Several articles were written about the Summit, none of which I read or even heard about before my new friend Kyle got in touch with me. After reading up on the opportunity I had been given I really became excited.

The invitation stated I could invite two other admins from my groups. I did ask the two parents who have been helping answer questions in my groups, but they weren’t able to attend. I made my plane reservations and began getting really excited about attending this historic event. I had no idea just how neat this Summit would be.

I arrived in Chicago the early afternoon of June 21. We were told ahead of time that we would be staying at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Ave. The Facebook staff sent us a general itinerary, but we were not told exactly where our meeting venues would be. It made for some pretty funny conversations. “I’m going to Chicago for a meeting. A guy I don’t know invited me. He’s paying for my hotel. We’ll be going to an undisclosed location for a couple of days.”

From the time I arrived at the hotel it was obvious this would be a first class event. The hotel was amazing. The Facebook staff lined the way to the registration area. Registration was efficient and the tone was upbeat. My room was beautiful. I went to lunch at Lou Malnati’s for a taste of Chicago and later met my cousin’s daughter who works in Chicago. When I returned to my room a welcome bag was sitting on my bed, complete with a welcome letter and a card with stats from one of my groups.

Our opening reception was held at a neat venue that was an upscale food court. We could go from station to station to try all types of delicious food while we met our fellow attendees. One of the highlights of my visit to Chicago was meeting a fellow attendee on the ride to the reception. His name is Phil and he works in the nonprofit arena. We quickly found we shared many common interests. He is the founding admin of the Albinism Community group on Facebook.  Throughout the night I met scores of admins from a wide variety of groups. In one area of the facility they had a banner set up. The group admins were encouraged to write the name of our group on a piece of paper and leave it for the artists who would draw their rendering of what the group is about onto the banner over the course of the Summit. I enjoyed visiting their progress.

Thursday morning began with a great breakfast buffet at the hotel. There was a long line to be seated but I saw my new friend Phil at a table by himself and decided to invite myself to join him. It was a great start to the day to hear about his work with children.

 

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With Phil on the shuttle ride to our “undislosed meeting location.”

We rode to the meeting venue which was in an area of town that I was told is the meat-packing district that has turned into an arts community area. Phil and I decided to head right to the room where the opening Keynote would take place to try to get a good seat to hear Mark Zuckerberg speak. Even though we got there early it was hard to find a seat with a good view. Phil had requested accommodations for his low vision. We ended up with aisle seats right near the front of the meeting room!

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Our seats near the front of the room

 

If you haven’t heard it already, you can see and hear the talk given by Mark Zuckerberg here on this link. I was thrilled to see my photo that is used on as the cover of one of my groups was shown right behind Mark! (lower right in the photo below) He was very impressive in his presentation and message. He set the tone for the rest of the Summit.

 

We were told we were brought together to not only learn about new tools for Facebook group admins, but to also give the Facebook staff feedback. I must say here that everyone I met that works for Facebook was very personable, bright and compared to me, very young. They are truly an impressive group. I left feeling a bit envious of their work environment.

We were divided into four separate groups and rotated through four different meeting rooms throughout the day both Thursday and Friday. I was in the “Circle” group.

I need to take a break now for some meeting planner geeky observations. The entire meeting facility was outfitted in custom-made backdrops for this meeting. The theme was carried throughout all the printed materials, room set up and design. The break area called the “Together” room had a large interactive display with the word Together spelled out. On either side of the long spelled out word were tables with fresh flowers. Attendees were encouraged to place the flowers into the letters of the word TOGETHER. Several long banquet tables were set up and that is where our lunch and snacks were displayed. The food was amazing.

For dinner we were whisked away in our motor coaches to the Adler Planetarium for dinner. It was the perfect facility to host a diverse group of Facebook staff, group administrators and speakers who were breaking new ground in building community where the sky is the limit. From the opening reception time with a photo booth and open bar, to the beautifully appointed tables in a room overlooking Lake Michigan, ending with a reception and dance afterward it was the perfect ending to a jam-packed day.

Friday was a much like Thursday where each group rotated in and out of breakout meetings. Phil and I had first row seats for the opening session. He told me his freinds at home like to take him to concerts since they always get great seats. I was thrilled to see the cover photo for The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021 used as part of the back drop during the opening session with Naomi Gleit,  VP of Social Good at Facebook.

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Naomi Gleit, VP of Social Good at Facebook opens the Friday morning session. Note the photo to the lower left from the group I admin, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2021.

I continued to meet fascinating people, including one young man who is scheduled to do a space jump in August. He showed me a few articles about his planned jump. I decided right then to follow his progress and told him he would be in my prayers.

The most fun I had that day was in a session with the comedian Brian Babylon. We were broken up into smaller groups to discuss the unusual things we experience as admins in Facebook groups. Once the group decided on a few fun scenarios the sheets were shared with Brian Babylon of, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, who acted like he was the host of a talk show and the selected members of our group were called up one by one to be “interviewed” about our experience as admins. In the Circle group we had members discuss pooping in the woods stories from a hiking group to fishing stories from a Texas-based fishing group then I was called up to be interviewed. I discussed the fact that every year in the groups for new Citadel parents I have to discuss the differences in men’s underwear. We had fun discussing “tighty whites”, boxer briefs, compression shorts and regular boxers then moved on to  how odd it is for a chaplain to be in these types on conversations. It was a fun light-hearted session.

The speakers, the venue, the food were all amazing. The Summit ended with a toast at the very end. It truly was a surreal few days. I am still processing the expereince weeks after it ended. The attendees are connected in a group set up for Aumni of the Summit. I don’t post must to the group but I do read the group wall often and continue to learn how to be a better admin.

A big THANK YOU to the staff of Facebook for an incredible expereince.

Some photos from the Summit follow.

Our lunch and break area:

The customized banner:

A few new freinds:

Brian Babylon and a few of his guests from the Circle group:

 

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.

The Citadel Foundation Launches the 2017 Senior Campaign

This past week The Citadel Foundation (TCF) launched a campaign for seniors to give back $20.17. The goal is to raise $2,017 with 100% participation. Parents can also donate in honor of their cadet as well! In addition, the TCF will be adding a gift match by a generous donor in the near future but that won’t happen until next week.
 
It would be amazing to announce that this is the first time in history The Citadel Foundation has had a current cadet class at 100% participation! The link to the page is:
The members of the Cadet Philanthropy Council choose their priorities which are The Citadel Fund, Academic Endowment, Cadet Activities, and the Cadet Relief Fund.

Playing Catch Up and Parents Weekend at The Citadel

2014 Bravo Promotion Ceremony

Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014

Catching up

It’s been over a month since my last entry. After the very emotional experience as a juror for a murder trial, the sad news of a cancer diagnosis for one of the Top Nine Cadets at The Citadel was released. After corresponding with his family a YouCaring fundraising site was launch for Jesse Ray Nardone. The original goal of $10,000 was reached within days. you can read about the needs the family has to cover and updates on Jesse Ray’s health on the YouCaring site.

A week or so after the fundraising site was posted, I had a scheduled cardiac catheter ablation. It is taking me a little longer than I had anticipated to bounce back after the procedure. Fortunately I feel pretty well, but I just don’t have the stamina to do too much yet.

Parents Weekend at The Citadel

For my readers who are Citadel parents this is an exciting week. By now I hope you have seen the very helpful information posted to the parent page on the citadel.edu web site. In years past I’ve written a run down of the vents each day of Parents Weekend. Thanks to Capt. Taylor Skardon in the office of the provost that was not necessary this year. There is an overall post and individual pages for each day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Citadel Family Association (CFA) has also revamped their website with helpful information. Be sure to read the pages and click on all the links.

The weather is looking iffy thanks to hurricane Matthew. Be sure to watch the weather channels to know how to pack. Also check the school web site for any announcements should the storm end up tracking toward the SC coast. It is still early to know what will happen weather wise. The school administrators keep a close eye on weather conditions and will post updates as they can so watch The Citadel website, the school’s Facebook page and the Bulldog Alert page. To read the school’s protocol for hurricanes see this link.

I won’t be making the trip to Charleston for Parents Weekend this year. Our daughter is a high school senior and it is her last Homecoming celebration. I look forward to seeing everyone’s photos and hearing your stories. Best wishes to the Class of 2017 on receiving your rings on Friday.

Ring Presentation 2014

Bravo Company knobs receive their company letter. October 2014

For the families of 2020 cadet recruits enjoy every minute of your time together it goes by in a blink of an eye.

Previous posts about Parents Weekend (see these links for photos):

Parents Weekend 2015

Parents Weekend 2014 and 2014 Tips

Parents Weekend 2012

Parents Weekend Tips 2011

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I bid on and won the opportunity to shoot the cannon at halftime of the football game Oct 2014. My daughter was there for moral support 😉  photo by Michael Givens

 

 

Justice and Grace

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The view from the new jury room at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta

The past week I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on these two words, Justice and Grace. I served on a jury for a murder trial. This blog site is mainly for my posts to parents of cadets at The Citadel, but today I must reflect on the events of the past week, in large part to help me move forward.

If you follow this blog for Citadel related information, you will want to skip reading this entry.

Jury Selection

On August 29 I reported for jury duty. I’m one of those strange people that don’t mind being called and I was looking forward to the day. In the past ten years I’ve reported for jury duty several times but have never served on a jury. So, with a book in hand I reported to the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta to spend what I thought would be a day of sitting in the jury holding room.

The morning started out well. I met a lady in the security line form my town who also has a student at the same high school as my daughter. We took our seats near a podium by a window over looking the state capitol, quite an improvement over the old jury room.

My first clue that this would not be an ordinary day came when the Judge entered the room to welcome the potential jurors. I looked up and a few feet to my right stood Judge Jane Barwick. I first met Jane when she served on the board of directors of Simpsonwood a retreat center for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was the director of marketing and development and Jane was on my committee of the board. After my daughter was born I ran into Jane again. This time she was a recently enrolled student at Columbia Theological Seminary. So seeing my long time friend that morning seemed like a fun way to start the day.

Shortly after the welcome by Jane they called the first group of names to report to a courtroom. Since I was in a stand by group I really didn’t think I would be called. Surprise! I was juror #52 out of 60 called in that first group.

Once we filed into the courtroom we were instructed to hold the laminated number that corresponded with the one we were given when our names were called. The judge introduced us to the prosecution and the defense lawyers and explained how the selection process would begin. We were told it is a murder trial and mentioned it was in the news a couple of years prior. The attorneys began with their questions. Since the deceased was a three year old who died in daycare many of the questions had to do with caring for children. As the mom of three who has worked both as a volunteer and an employee of a church I had quite a few opportunities to work with children so my number was raised quite a bit. At this point I hoped that would mean I wouldn’t be called. I just wasn’t sure how I would react being on a jury that dealt with the death of a small child.

There was a lot of waiting around on Monday. Once the questions were asked in the large group of 60, the judge began calling us in in groups of 6 to be questioned one at a time. To help speed up the process he called about 20 of us to stay and released the others to return Tuesday morning. The ones who stayed, including me, all had potential conflicts if the trial ran long. I have a heart ablation scheduled for September 13 and decided I better say something in case it ran long.

The judge called me into the courtroom shortly before 5:00. It was a relief to get up from the hard wooden benches outside the courtroom and sit in a comfortable chair. The judge and attorneys get a list with our names and occupations so when I came into the courtroom the judge addressed me as Reverend. I told him I preferred Ms. When he asked what my potential conflict is I told him of the September 13 procedure. He said the trial would be over by then, but hoped my procedure would be successful. That was my first glimpse at the judges compassion.

The prosecution then began with their questions followed by the defense. Right from the start the styles of each set of attorneys was evident. The prosecution was polished and professional in their approach, the defense was congenial and struck me like they stepped out of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird. All that was missing from the defense was seersucker suits and bow ties. The questioning ended and I was told to return at 11:00 am Tuesday morning.

The interviews were still going on when I arrived at 11:00. We were released for lunch by 11:30. Once we were called back into the courtroom it was apparent quite a few jurors had been dismissed and the jury would be called from the group that remained. The ladies on either side of me appeared nervous. The one to my right was visibly shaking. She was the mother of young children and dreaded the thought of sitting on a jury for the death of a small boy. I offered her a hug and a mint which she accepted graciously.

The names of the jurors were called. One at a time the new jury took their seat in the jury box. I counted as they were called hoping they would get to 13 before my name was called, no such luck. “Number 52,” was called out and up I went to take a seat in the jury box. The judge gave us our instructions and dismissed us to the jury room where began to get to know the people we would spend our days with all last week.

After writing our first names down on a make shift name card we eventually went around the table giving our name and a little about ourselves. We were a diverse but friendly group. We all had a feeling this would not be an easy task ahead.

The Trial

The trial began with opening statements. Our initial impressions of the prosecution were confirmed as Pete Johnson began his statements. He was organized spoke without notes and used a PowerPoint for the statements he wanted to emphasize. John Garland for the defense spoke using a three ring binder with yellow sticky notes for his opening statement. Since I majored in public speaking and went to seminary which included classes on sermon preparation and delivery I tend to notice these things.

The first witness was the Alpharetta police officer who responded to the 911 call. In looking at my notes I didn’t write much down while he spoke. That changed the next day, Wednesday. The first witness on Wednesday was Heidi Stephens, mother of Max, the deceased three year old little boy. When the jury was called into the courtroom I saw who was in the witness stand and began to take some deep breathes in preparation for a tough day. I’ve had to handle tough situations as a chaplain resident at the VA. Preparing to hear the testimony of the young mother of this precious little boy was similar to preparing myself to console grieving family members after a death. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breathes and prayed for discernment, compassion, and a clear mind.

The judge was very compassionate. After Mrs. Stephens testimony the judge dismissed us to the jury room. Judge Newkirk did this each time we listened to difficult testimony from witnesses. I will forever be grateful to him for his compassion and grace. While the jury could not discuss what we heard until after the final arguments we could acknowledge it was hard to listen to the witnesses.

Wednesday was a very long day. In addition to Mrs. Stephens we heard from the first detective from Alpharetta reviewed the timeline of events and listened to tapes of his interviews with the defendant. Then Tahisha Smith from Bright From the Start was called as a witness followed by a second detective from Alpharetta. By the end of the day I felt we were very clear on the timeline of events and just how awful it was to find a small child strangled on a slide. I believe the entire jury was ready to start asking each other questions, but we had to wait until after the closing arguments. For me it was clear by Wednesday afternoon that the defendant did not check on the children on the play-set before she went inside. The defense’s arguments underscored that for me. The toughest day for me was to come.

Thursday the second detective was back on the stand. The timeline from July 8 was gone through with a fine tooth comb at this point. The interviews with the defendant showed that it was not clear when she went inside the house leaving the children outside, but to me it was very clear she never checked on the two children who were on the play-set either while she was outside or when she went inside. The defendant stated over and over that she has watched children for 30 years without incident and that she felt this is the work God called her to do. She seemed like a sweet lady, but to me on July 8 of 2014 she was not attentive to the children in her charge.

The hardest most emotional part of the week for me was when the 911 tape was played in full. Listening to the desperation in the voice of the day care provider and envisioning that sweet little boy laying on the ground after being released from the twine that hung him proved too much for me. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes but didn’t want to cry while in the jury box. I had to wipe a few tears away while we were still sitting there, but fortunately the judge dismissed us to our room right after the tape ended. It was there that my emotions just poured out. As I stood by my chair opening crying, my fellow jurors brought me tissues, and a cup of water. I stepped to an area away from the table to compose myself and another juror came up to comfort me. Just thinking about that tape will still bring a lump to my throat.

The next witness was the forensic pathologist, Dr. Stauffenberg. She was calm cool and collected as she described the injuries to little Max. I couldn’t help but think she looked like she was straight out of central casting to play her professional role. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so. In his closing arguments Pete Johnson for the prosecution said something like, “There is a reason some doctors work with the living and some work with the dead,” when he talked about the doctor.

The photos of little Max in the morgue were tough to look at, and we had to look at several views of his neck and face area. I couldn’t help but think of how awful it was for the Stephens family to have to review all of this evidence two years after their precious son’s death, but they were in the court room each day with people who appeared to be the grandparents of Max.

The final witness was Juan Medina, the landscaper who put down the mulch and pine straw. His young son was in the courtroom listening. From his testimony it was evident that the defendant bent the truth in some of her statements to the police, but his testimony really didn’t change any of the evidence we were charged to weigh for a verdict.

I went home Thursday just emotionally drained.

The closing arguments were Friday morning and by lunchtime the jury was dismissed to the deliberation room. Our first task was to select a foreman. I had offered early in the week before we knew each other. I had said that if no one else wanted to serve as foreman I would volunteer. The group voted and I was elected foreman. Our deliberations began right away with a short break for the group to order pizza and salad in. The judge brought the pizza, salad and change in himself but made it clear he could not and would not talk to us.

From the start we wrestled with the wording of the four charges. Charges #2 and #4 clearly dealt with whether the defendant knew the rope, or twine was in the back yard. All twelve jurors voted that we did not believe she knew the twine was there. Charges #1 and #3 were not as clear. It read that we would have to find her guilty of being willful, wanton and reckless leading to the death of Max, but it did not mention the rope. We sent the judge three notes for clarification. The third note read something like, “Is knowledge of the rope by the defendant required to find the defendant guilty on count #1 then I wrote a Yes/No and asked him to circle the answer, I wrote the same thing for charges #2-4. The judge answered by circling yes for all 4 counts. In the end the answer to our questions was that to find the defendant guilty of the charges we had to believe she had knowledge of the rope in the backyard.

Most, not all, of the jurors really felt she should be found guilty of reckless behavior since she did not check on the children on the play-set. It was extremely hard to say the defendant was not guilty when we felt that she held the responsibility for not being attentive enough to very small children.

The defense mentioned writing on the back of the official statement how we felt. On the front I wrote not guilty for all four counts. On the back of the judgement I wrote on behalf of the whole jury (we each had a part in composing the note):

“We the jury are disappointed and frustrated with the charges brought by the State. While we found the defendant negligent i leaving young children unattended, we cannot find her guilty of criminal negligence as required by the charges.”

The jury entered the courtroom. I couldn’t look at the family as I walked in. I was wrestling with the verdict and the feeling that the family would be so disappointed. I was relieved that the judge read the verdict after I handed in the paper. To his credit the judge read our note to the courtroom too. You can see this moment on this clip.

After the trial

The jury was dismissed to our room and we were asked if we would stay to meet with the attorneys from both sides. It was there that we learned the defendant had her license revoked and the family had received a financial settlement from early litigation. Not that money will ever replace a child but at least we knew the defendant would not be able to watch children again. Since she felt called to her work as a child care provider I know this had to be the worse punishment after seeing Max dead that she could receive.

One of my fellow jurors parked in the deck where I parked and offered to walk with me out of the building. I had a lump in my throat and appreciated his kindness and his company. He guided me out as I was asked for a comment by Valerie Hoff of 11Alive the Atlanta NBC affiliate. I just couldn’t talk right then. I knew I’d be too emotional. My friend gently guided me past the cameras.

Once I reached my car I took a few minutes to let the tears flow. I spoke briefly to the lady in the parking garage who takes your money at the end of the day. I had teased her all week that she was a popular lady because people lined up to see her each day. That is when I saw something I will always remember.

Ed Garland one of the defense attorneys was talking to a man who appeared to be homeless in a wheel chair. Mr. Garland placed his two satchels against the planters outside the courthouse and pushed the gentleman in the wheel chair across the street. The man I thought earlier in the week would look natural in seersucker and a bow tie showed he is a true Southern gentleman and showed his true compassion that evening.

I did end up talking to Valerie Hoff on Tuesday after the trial ended Friday. I felt it was important for people to know how tough it was for all of us. It helped me to process a few days later, just as writing this out is helpful.

Valerie asked me if I thought justice was served. That questions stays with me. I know we carried out our task and followed the guidelines we were given. But when a small child is dead and you think it was due in large part to the negligence of another person, is justice really served?

Then Wednesday the most grace filled message I have ever received appeared in my Facebook messenger inbox. I saw it was from Jeff Stephens, Max’s Dad and I took a deep breath. This man who lost his young son showed such strength, caring, and grace I will always remember him.

“Dorie, thank you for taking the time to speak to the media regarding the verdict. I know that must have been difficult for you. Thank you for your service.
 
Jeff Stephens – Max’s Dad”
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The judge sent a thank you note the week after the trial.

Citadel Parents: Let it Go!

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Family and friends outside the barracks. Matriculation Day 2015

Parents, you won’t want to hear this, but you’ll never get it all right. No knob ever does anything right. As parents you can only do your best to get what is on the lists and then as the song goes, “Let it Go!”

I have not been a knob. I have however watched each year as parents sweat over the Success Packet list and the Nice to Have List. I get it. I really do. You want to do what you can to make sure your son or daughter has what they need to succeed. The secret is, if you’ve done your job as a parent, regardless of whether they have the right plastic bins and other items, your son or daughter has the strength and confidence to handle what will come their way.

The Citadel is a leadership school. The students attend this school because they expect to be challenged. They know, or should know, they are expected to own their successes and learn from their failures. You’ve given them a firm foundation to launch into their adult years. It is your time to step back and let them take control of their life.

If you wonder if they should bring something, ask your student if they want it. If they don’t leave it at home. While the school does issue lists and some things are permitted like coffee maker, computer printer, some basic snacks, some knobs do not want to have them. It should be their decision, not your as to whether they bring them or not. Families with friends that are current cadets, you’ll get advice from those friends but remember they will speak from their experience. While uniformity is more of the norm the cadets do develop their own preferences of what to bring and how to do their tasks. For instance if you ask five people whether they should bring a printer you’ll get five different answers.

The 4th Class system will teach the knobs to pull together as a team. They will make their own decisions. They will face the consequences of their actions or inaction. You cannot do this for them and you should not try.

You can be their sounding board. Listen to them vent, but don’t get caught up in the ups and downs of knob life. Remind them of their strengths. Remind them that they are prepared to meet the challenge. You can remind them to think through the processes to solve their own problems. It is a tough year, but they, and you, will have plenty of support.

If you are the parent of a knob, join the Facebook group for 2020 parents and the Citadel Family Association Facebook group. Follow the school Facebook page and the Citadel Photography page.

Five Days and a Wake up until Matriculation Day. You’ve got this. Let Go and enjoy the ride.

If you haven’t already, see these links about Matriculation Day:

What to Expect on Matriculation Day

An interview with Capt. Geno Paluso

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

The Citadel: A Visual of the First Few Days

 

 

The Citadel: Small Changes

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Members of the Class of 2019 “meet” the cadre on Matriculation Day 2015. The crew length socks that have been the mark of a knob for a few years are no longer approved for unit PT.

When my son decided to attend a military college, I never imagined that years after he graduated I would be answering questions about socks, underwear, and shoes.

Many alumni don’t understand the changes that have taken place over the years. Communications have changed over the years for everyone. For instance at The Citadel the paperwork cadets used to fill out is all done online now.

The families helping their soon-to-be knob prepare for the new year use online searches to find the required items to matriculate. They also resource with other parents. Instead of running out to K-Mart, Target, and Wal-Mart for items, more and more people are purchasing the required items online. Families are connected online via Facebook. Not to hover, but to share tips on saving money. Shoes are at least $100 a pair the boots  are more expensive. With out of state tuition over $40,000 a year any way to save some money on required items is welcomed. Don’t even get me started on the elusive plastic bins. The school posts the sizes of two clear plastic bins they are allowed to have. Unfortunately the sizes are listed as “no larger than” and you can’t easily find boxes that are close to the dimensions.

This year a small change that is causing a BIG stir is the change from crew socks to ankle socks for all cadets for unit PT. For years, I don’t know exactly how long, knobs were required to wear white crew length socks. This year in the official Success Packet it is specified:

“Twelve [12] pairs of plain white cotton athletic ankle socks (Socks must be void of visible logos or color, and must cover the protruding ankle bone. Low cut quarter socks are permitted.)”

Since knobs have worn crew length socks for years I contacted the commandant’s office for clarification. I was told that this year ALL cadets will be required to wear ankle length white socks for unit physical training.

The other change that was made a year or so ago was the labeling of clothes. For years that task was completed the first week. Now the school suggests knobs label their clothes before they arrive as a time saving measure. Since time is a precious commodity to knobs anything they can do before they report to save some time once they are on campus, should be done. The labeling instructions are on the Success Packet list:

Labeling clothes:
As a time saving measure, though not mandatory, it would be helpful to write your last name and first two initials in your clothing using a permanent marker. The location of the name should be inconspicuous when the garment is worn (e.g., bottom of each sock, rear waistband of underwear, and the front shirt tail of t-shirts).

Household linens such as towels, sheets, and pillow cases should not be labeled. The Cadet Laundry will affix a permanent label to these items.

Bottomline in less than two weeks the Class of 2020 will report for Matriculation Day. Talk of socks, shoes and plastic bins will give way to questions about General Leave, Parents Weekend, and why is the food so bad and the laundry service so slow.

Ahh the signs of Fall at The Citadel.

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