The Aquisition of Memories, Part 2: 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:

 

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A Note to My Critics

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The blog entry I posted yesterday, The Odd Things Citadel Parents Learn is now the most viewed entry this year and the top post since starting this blog in 2011 after my son graduated. Apparently it struck a chord with parents and alumni, but for different reasons.

The current parents tell me they can relate to everything I’ve written. The few alumni I’ve heard from directly say they can relate as well. They understand, because they know me, that I was poking fun at the strange things parents of cadets learn.

I can understand why the alumni wonder why parents know about shoes, T-pins, sheets etc. Unless they have a cadet who has attended since the barracks have air conditioning and all cadets are required to have a computer and encouraged to have a cell phone, they just won’t understand what it is like for current families.

Prior to the early 2000’s electronic communications had not been a big part of our lives. Now to stay competitive in the job market a cadet must know how to use a computer and other devices. Prior to 2000 college life was different for everyone. Few people had laptops and we weren’t used to being electronically connected to the world.

Skype, Facetime and other means of communication weren’t around either. While an argument can be made that the knobs should have limited access to communication, the fact remains that post Virginia Tech tragedy campuses around the country had to institute communication plans with the students. The Citadel now encourages knobs to have cell phones. They can’t use them whenever they want but they do have them.

For readers new to my blog I encourage you to read through the blog posts linked below. You’ll find I repeat over and again that parents must learn to let go and allow their sons and daughters to take ownership of their successes and failures. Once Matriculation Day arrives and parents ask what they can do about this or that on campus, my usual response begins, “you don’t need to do anything, that is up to your son/daughter . . . ”

My son, a 2011 graduate, never told me anything at all about his experience. I have over the years heard stories from others. I did buy most of the items on the Success Packet List and the Nice to Have List. It was my high school graduation gift to him. I don’t know many cadets who have the money to spend, about $1,000 on shoes ($100+ a pair), boots (close to $150 a pair) athletic shoes (close to $100 a pair), and the other required items. I learned a lot about what they needed and how to save money, i.e. cheap sheets, good socks for instance. I pass that information on to others just as local parents shared with me their recommendations.

Stories of washing machines and dryers at home getting clogged by T-pins that were left in sheets at the end of the school year have led them to be referred to as “minions of satan” by a number of parents. (hat tip to my friend Mandy) Many would prefer their cadets use the straps to hold the sheets in place.

My son never told me about the sink or much else for that matter. He did, however, tell my younger son, who told me. When visiting for parents weekend my son’s knob year in 2007, my younger son said, “You didn’t touch the sink did you?!” When I said no and asked why would he ask, my younger son told what the knobs use it for. (he’s never been good at keeping a secret)

I am the chair of the Atlanta Citadel Club’s new Parent Committee. As such, I felt I needed to alert the club about what is being said by alumni about my recent blog post. I received this encouraging note in return:

At these times, I always lean towards my favorite quote about “critics” from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man (or woman!) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve heard through the alumni grapevine that many of them don’t understand why parents know about any of the things I write about. If you are an alumnus who feels I am a “Helicopter Parent” I invite you to email me to discuss your concerns. I much prefer a civil dialogue than hearing second-hand about comments made about me and my experience with my family by people I’ve never met. I encourage you to read the blog post below to get a background on why I started this blog and the  parent Facebook groups **see below

Previous blog posts about letting go:

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Transitions and Letting Go

Advantages of being the Parent of a Citadel Cadet

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

**If you want to know why I started this blog, see this entry:

The Story of My Nontraditional Calling

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photo by Stanley Leary

Updated: The Citadel: Official and Unofficial Facebook Groups and Pages

Senior cadets march into McAlister Field House as the knobs of the Class of 2018 cheer them on. Photo by Stanley Leary

Senior cadets march into McAlister Field House as the knobs of the Class of 2018 cheer them on.
Photo by Stanley Leary

Various offices and groups on the campus of The Citadel have their own Facebook pages and/or groups. These pages and groups can provide a link for parents to keep up with what is happening on campus. The following list includes official school groups and pages, but also groups and pages started by cadets, parents and alumni.

If you know of others that should be added, please let me know.

Art at The Citadel

The Citadel Admissions

The Citadel Alumni Association

The Citadel Army ROTC

The Citadel Bookstore

The Citadel Brigadier Foundation, Inc.

The Citadel – Department of Cadet Activities

The Citadel 

The Citadel Football

The Citadel Foundation

The Citadel Graduate College

The Citadel Intramurals

The Citadel Lacrosse Program

The Citadel Republican Society

The Citadel School of Business Administration

The Citadel School of Engineering

The Citadel Sports

The Citadel Sports Network

The Citadel Student Government Association

The Citadel Young Alumni

Citadel Ice Hockey

Citadel Sailing

Citadel SHSS – School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Citadel Sports/Charleston Post and Courier

Citadel Strength & Conditioning

Naval ROTC Unit The Citadel

The Summerall Guard Foundation

Battalion Groups for Citadel Parents (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Citadel 1st Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 2nd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 3rd Battalion Parents Group

Citadel 4th Battalion Families (Open Group)

Citadel 4th Battalion Parents Group (Closed Group)

Citadel 5th Battalion Families

Area Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

California Citadel Parents Group

Georgia Citadel Parents Group

MD VA DC Citadel Parents Group

NC Citadel Family Group

Citadel Fayetteville NC Group

South Carolina Citadel Parents

Texas Citadel Parents Group

NYNE PA NJ Citadel Families (NY, New England, PA, NJ)

Florida Citadel Parents Group

Company  Parent Groups (unofficial NOT administered by the CFA)

Alpha Co

Band Co

Bravo Co

Kilo Co

Lima Co (Parents and Cadets)

Other Parent Groups

The Citadel Family Association (CFA) official group

Citadel Alumni Grad Dad Advice

Citadel Moms

Military Parents of The Citadel (for parents with cadets or graduates in the military)

The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2016

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019

Matriculation Information for The Citadel, Class of 2019

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.

Knobs line up in 3rd battalion to get their PT clothes. On matriculation Day.

The Matriculation Headquarters page of the citadel.edu website is updated for the class of 2019, with more updates to come throughout the summer. For the soon-to-be knobs and their parents it is a time of mixed emotions. If you are both feeling a mixture anxious and excited you are in good company.

It is very important for the entering knob to read through everything posted. There are some deadlines that you will have to keep up with throughout the summer. The first deadline is June 10. Your registration information must be in on that date. The other assignments are due at various times as posted. Keep visiting the Matriculation Headquarters page and the Commandant’s Matriculation Information page for updates throughout the summer.

Take some time to read through the Success Packet. The list of required, and optional items, is in this document on pages 6 – 7. The packet includes details about other rules. Take time to absorb all the information. Also visit the Citadel Family Association page for the “Nice to Have List

Last year I wrote a post about transitions. Parents you may want to review that entry. The toughest part of knob year for many parents is the transition you must make. The Citadel is a leadership school. Your student will need to navigate the 4th class system on their own. Parents move to a support role. Moving out of the decision-making role is tough for many parents.

The next two months the rising knob should be working out daily. If they arrive able to meet or exceed the physical training (PT) requirements it will help with their transition. The PT requirements are very important. Each year some knobs report in poor physical shape. That just makes the transition for them harder.

Breaking in the black leather Oxfords is another thing that should be started as soon as possible. Wear the shoes often throughout the summer. Blistered feet is a major cause of problems for knobs in the first month.

Parents of the Class of 2019 are invited to join the Facebook page for parents (please email me to verify you are a parent of a knob. See the “About Dorie” section here for my email). The entering knobs should keep a low profile on social media. It is a good idea for everyone, but especially for knobs, to set the security settings on Facebook and other social media to Friends only. To keep a low profile do not use hashtags related to The Citadel on posts to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other medium. The goal is to blend in and not call attention to yourself. If your profile lists that you are a cadet when you . haven’t even started knob year, you are inviting unwanted attention from cadets and alumni.

Many alumni chapters host cadet send off events. The Atlanta Citadel Club has a very nice dinner planned for June 18. If you are not sure if your area has an event, contact the admissions office at The Citadel. They can let you know if an event is planned for your area. The Georgia Citadel Parents Group has an orientation for parents scheduled June 14 at the Dekalb Library in Decatur. Margaret Landry is the chair this year. If you’d like her contact information just let me know.

It is an exciting time. Do yourself a favor and study up!

Visit the following sites for tips on getting ready and for reporting on Matriculation Day:

Matriculation Day: Getting Ready

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

Knob Year Notes for Parents

Social Media, Parents, and Cadet Life

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel photo by Stanley Leary

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel
photo by Stanley Leary

2015 marks the 4th year that I have posted and will moderate a group for new parents of incoming knobs at The Citadel. The group for parents of the Class of 2019 has over 30 members already.

The original intent of these groups still stands, to offer parent to parent advice to incoming parents of knobs. Attending a senior military college is a strange process for parents with no military background like me. The Facebook groups are an easy way to get general information out to fellow parents.

The Facebook groups for the individual classes of parents were started by me, and are supported by a few select friends who each bring a unique perspective as a parent of a graduate. I started with the 2016 class. There are now groups for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. I am no longer the administrator for the 2016 and 2017 groups. members of the class are moderating those groups now. By this summer I’ll pass on the reigns to the 2018 group to a couple of parent members. I also administer the Military Parents of The Citadel group.

The Citadel is a military school and a leadership school. That means that the cadets are expected to learn to advocate for themselves. In this environment more so than nonmilitary schools, the students are expected to take ownership in their process. Social media can be a blessing and a curse for the parents and the cadets.

With the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others, we’ve become accustomed to instant information. Skype, Facetime, and smart phones are wonderful tools to stay in touch. In years past when the knobs had a bad day, or hour, they had days before they could vent to family and friends. By the time they did get to phone the problem had worked itself out. The rules have changed over the years and knobs are expected to carry cell phones with them now. This change happened out of an interest in increasing security. All across the country after the Virginia Tech tragedy campuses changed how they handled security.

2007 was the last year knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester. That is the year my son was a knob. The knobs did have access to email and Skype. The difference I’ve seen in the knobs and parents now versus eight years ago is that with instant communications the parents worry more, not less. The knobs can now text their frustrations to parents in real-time. The big problem is they rarely let their parents know when a problem has been resolved leaving the parent to worry. With the increase in connectivity some parents get overly involved with their cadet’s experience at the school.

I am not advocating no communication. I am telling new parents that it is important for them to remember not to join the knobs on their emotional roller coaster. They will need a loving ear to vent to once in a while, but will also need their parents to serve as a rock to help them stay the course when it gets tough.

Each knob is different, and will process the experiences differently. Each year during the first “challenge week” formally known as “hell week” knobs leave, but far more stay than go. It is a tough time for the knobs and their parents. I do remind parents that knobs are at a college, not going to war. It is a very tough system. The knobs are yelled at throughout the year. They are not given encouragement and must find the strength internally to deal with the 4th class system. There is no universal experience there, but everyone who has gone through four years at The Citadel will tell you it was tough.

The school offers several resources for cadets and parents if they have questions or encounter problems on campus. While I encourage parents to let their knob or cadet handle their problems with minimal intervention, I also tell them that they know their child and if they have a concern to address it with the appropriate person on campus. The Ombudsperson’s office is a good place to start if you are not sure to which person or office to direct your question.

A big mistake parents of all classes of cadets make each year is posting too much information to the parent Facebook groups. While each group encourages members to keep the information shared to the group private, the fact is, some groups have hundreds of members. There is no way to keep members from sharing information with their cadet, a spouse, and others.

The best rule of thumb is not to share specific information about your cadet to any group. It is also not a good idea to air grievances to any group. You never know who will see your post. There is the very real potential that what you post to a group will reflect poorly on your cadet on campus. It should not happen, but every year it does. I post a warning to the groups I administer each year not to post specific information about your cadet, even a prayer request about your cadet because they are sick. Each year someone over shares and there is negative repercussions for the parent and/or their cadet.

If you have a grievance with the school send a note to the appropriate department on campus. If you need to vent about a situation send a private message to a friend or a group of trusted friends.

To find help on campus, you can see this link.

The Citadel: Corps Day Weekend, 2014

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

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

We just returned from a whirlwind weekend in Charleston. Since my son was a cadet I have attended Corps Day Weekend each year. At first it was just fun to get away at the end of winter in Atlanta. Then my son’s junior year he became a member of the 2011 Summerall Guards. Each year since 2010 I’ve attended the ceremony Saturday morning to see the new class take over as the new Summerall Guards. I always get a photo of the person who now holds the same rifle my son once carried.

After the rifle exchange I was able to get this photo of Cadet Daniel Smith and Cadet Jason Wells. The rifle Jason is holding was once carried by my son. Daniel's father is also in the photo.

After the rifle exchange I was able to get this photo of Cadet Daniel Smith and Cadet Jacob Wells. The rifle Jacob is holding was once carried by my son. Daniel’s father is also in the photo.

Dorie visits with Professor Tiffany Silverman by the Monuments Men display in Capers Hall.

Dorie visits with Professor Tiffany Silverman by the Monuments Men display in Capers Hall.

In addition to the Saturday ceremony I always look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. This year was no different. When we arrived on campus the first stop is usually Mark Clark Hall. After a quick visit with our friends in The Citadel Bookstore, we stopped by several battalions to drop off some goodies to a few cadets I keep in touch with each year. Once the cookies were delivered it was off to Capers Hall to meet with Professor Tiffany Silverman. She is doing an outstanding job of heading up Art at The Citadel. The cadets take classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, ceramics, glass, and woodworking. The program offers opportunities to volunteer and to gain internships. On April 3rd Art at The Citadel will host a lecture by Robert Edsel, author of the book Monuments Men. The event is free and open to the public. VIP tickets for a special reception and book signing are also available. I’ve been serving on the steering committee for the event. Friday was the first time I had the chance to meet Tiffany in person. What a treat!

Jason, Dorie and Paul visit during the parade Friday. Jason is reaching behind Dorie in this photo to tickle Paul. Too funny!

Jason, Dorie and Paul visit during the parade Friday. Jason is reaching behind Dorie in this photo to tickle Paul. Too funny!

At the parade Friday afternoon I met up with two alumni friends, Jason Perakis and Paul Tamburrino. Jason was in Bravo Company when he was a cadet. His son is now a sophomore. Paul and Jason were classmates. Together they are quite the comedy team. Paul and I first were introduced when his son was a knob and mine was a sophomore. We were both volunteers with the Citadel Family Association. Once my son graduated I thought my time as a volunteer was over. What I didn’t count on was the number of emails and phones calls I would get after people read my blog. Starting a Facebook group for new parents was the easiest way to post answers to the most commonly asked questions by parents. Paul joined me in the first 2016 parent group and continues to be the alumni voice in the 2017 & 2018 parent groups. After the parade Friday we gathered behind the stands by 2nd Battalion and met quite a few of the 2017 parents that until then we only knew from their Facebook profile pictures.

Friday evening we joined more friends for a fun dinner at Charleston Crab House on James Island. It is a great place to go if you don’t want to fight the in town traffic. The food was good,but the company and conversation was even better.

This year we stayed at the newly renovated Red Roof Inn Plus in Mt. Pleasant. Since I spend very little time in the hotel room during these visits I don’t like to spend a lot of money on a room. I called the hotel directly and they extended the military rate, $80.99, to me as the mom of a Citadel graduate. The rooms are clean and comfortable. It is an outside entrance motel set up. It was just right for our needs this trip.

Saturday morning we were up and on campus by 8:15 am. Several merchants had tables set up in Mark Clark Hall. A new addition this year was Stonewall Designs. Started by the wife and mom of a graduate they offer handmade pillows, winebags and coasters many feature designs inspired by The Citadel. You can visit the shop online at this link. It appears she is still building the web site and Facebook page. A friend asked me to pick up her son’s company composite and class photo for her.

The 2014 Summerall Guards wait for the 2015 Bond Volunteers to enter the field.

The 2014 Summerall Guards wait for the 2015 Bond Volunteers to enter the field.

It didn’t take long for the time to head for Summerall Field for the Summerall Guard rifle exchange ceremony to take place. My daughter saved a place for me by the rope and I went to 2nd battalion to snap a few photos of the 2014 Summerall Guards as they lined up. Then it was out to the space between 3rd and 2nd battalion for photos of the 2015 Bond Volunteers who in less than an hour became the 2015 Summerall Guards. When my son was a cadet I would never have gone to take these photos. He would have been too embarrassed. Now that he is a graduate and most of the guys do not know me, I find they are very happy to have their photos taken on this big day. I finished up the photos right as the 2014 Summerall Guards were walking onto the field. It was a good day to take photos. The overcast skies meant the photos turned out well with few shadows. After catching up with several friends and their new Summerall Guards, including the 2014 and 2015 cadets in the same position my son was in, we headed to 1st Battalion for the last few minutes of open barracks. Click here for the link to the Facebook album.

Chelle poses by the Bravo Company Letter in 1st Battalion.

Chelle poses by the Bravo Company Letter in 1st Battalion.

This was the first visit back to campus since 2011 for my daughter. She really wanted to have a photo taken of her next to the Bravo B. Several of the Bravo cadets we had me the day before were there. They told us the upperclassmen still evoke the name of my son to intimidate the knobs. We all had a good laugh. it was back to the parade field for the band concert before the parade. Two years ago at this concert I ended up in tears as cadets dressed in current military attire stepped forward as a patriotic song was played. A few months later my son was off for his first deployment. It was far more fun being there this year when I could just enjoy the music without the worry hanging over my head.

Regimental Commander Cadet Collin Hicks and his mother, Laura Hicks before the Saturday parade.

Regimental Commander Cadet Collin Hicks and his mother, Laura Hicks before the Saturday parade.

The Regimental Commander, Cadet Collins Hicks, arranged for us to sit with his parents during the awards parade. It was a treat to sit so close to the field for the parade and awards ceremony. Cadet Hicks is from Georgia. I’ve known the Hicks family since his knob year. The time has flown by so quickly. In a few short months the class of 2014 will become part of the long gray line and the Class of 2018 and their parents will begin preparing for Matriculation Day.

We successfully bid on the opportunity to fire the cannon during the football game parents Weekend!

We successfully bid on the opportunity to fire the cannon during the football game parents Weekend!

After another great lunch at the Marina Variety Store it was off to the Market for a little shopping followed by a fun evening at the Blue and White Bash to benefit the Brigadier Foundation. The dinner and auction were held in McAlister Fieldhouse. We enjoyed seeing a few friends and meeting new ones. After a couple of our bids on silent auction items were out bid far out of our price range we decided to bid on a chance to shoot the cannon during a football game on Parents Weekend. A friend did this last season and it sounded like a lot of fun. We placed our bid then hovered around the table until the bidding was closed. I know what I will be doing Parents Weekend, 2014!

We packed so much into a 48 hour period. I find myself looking through the photos I took to remember everything we did! I’m including a few of my favorites here. You can see the rest through the links below.

Friday Photos

2014 & 2015 Summerall Guards

Saturday Parade, Open Barracks, Blue and White Bash.

Sunday photos

At the parade Friday afternoon. Chelle told me Mr. Perakis was funny.

At the parade Friday afternoon. Chelle told me Mr. Perakis was funny.

During the parade Friday we visited with a few Bravo cadets and alumni.

During the parade Friday we visited with a few Bravo cadets and alumni.

Parents who met on Facebook meet in person after the Friday Parade.

Parents who met on Facebook meet in person after the Friday Parade.

The 2014 Summerall Guards assemble in 2nd Battalion before their final appearance.

The 2014 Summerall Guards assemble in 2nd Battalion before their final appearance.

The 2015 Bond Volunteers assemble between 3rd and 2nd Battalions.

The 2015 Bond Volunteers assemble between 3rd and 2nd Battalions.

the 2015 Bond Volunteers prepare to take their rifles and become the 2015 Summerall Guards.

the 2015 Bond Volunteers prepare to take their rifles and become the 2015 Summerall Guards.

The 2015 Summerall Guards during their first performance of The Citadel Series.

The 2015 Summerall Guards during their first performance of The Citadel Series.

The 2014 Summerall Guards look on as the 2015 Summerall Guards perform for the first time.

The 2014 Summerall Guards look on as the 2015 Summerall Guards perform for the first time.

In the summer of 2006 I visited The Citadel for the first time with my son, Matt and his father. He was in town for the weekend events. Like my son, Matt is now a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

In the summer of 2006 I visited The Citadel for the first time with my son, Matt and his father. He was in town for the weekend events. Like my son, Matt is now a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Each company decorates a bulletin board honoring the graduates who have deployed and the cadets on military contracts. This board in Bravo companies includes my son's name on the upper left side.

Each company decorates a bulletin board honoring the graduates who have deployed and the cadets on military contracts. This board in Bravo companies includes my son’s name on the upper left side.

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Matriculation Day check inWe are approaching the annual rite of passage at The Citadel known as Matriculation Day, the day the first year cadets, or knobs as they are called, report for their Challenge Week, formerly called Hell Week.

To help families prepare for this day the alumni groups in several area host send off events. In Georgia there is a parent orientation meeting. I started a group for new parents only on Facebook called The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017 to help parents prepare their knob to report while also helping them learn to let go of the day-to-day aspects of their child’s experiences.

The hardest part of the experience for parents is letting go. The knobs have a tough time, but they are busy learning the system and going to classes. It is tough and they manage it well. The parents, on the other hand, tend to have a very tough time the first few months. They worry about their child, mainly because the system is so foreign to them and therefore, it is scary.

The Facebook group for new parents is there to assure parents that they, and their child, will get through this. Each year over 700 knobs report to the school. 2,000+ members of the Corps of Cadets are on campus each year. The parents of graduates in the Facebook group act as coaches for the new parents. We try to give them the tools they will need to support their cadet’s process instead of intervening.

The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.

The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.

Parents, you are sending your child to a military COLLEGE, not to war. I know the difference now since my son just returned from Afghanistan. My early worries seem silly now. Allowing your knob to take control of their experience and work out their problems is the best gift you can give them.

I do understand the anxiety though. I was in your shoes in 2007. At that time there were no Facebook groups. The Atlanta Citadel Club does have a send off event and the parent orientation was very helpful. I resourced with a local mom of a cadet and also the Citadel Family Association chair couple at the time. In 2007 knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester, so we didn’t get a call at the end of the first week. If we were lucky we received a quick email.

In 2011 I was asked to contribute to a blog called Off the Base , my son’s senior year. The blog is the project of Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF in Tampa, Florida. She thought my voice as the mom of an Army ROTC cadet soon to be officer would be helpful to her readers. I hesitated to write about The Citadel because I really couldn’t speak to the cadet experience. My son was the one who attended, not me. In the end I agreed. The entries trace my experience from a mom who couldn’t understand why in the world my son would want this type of experience, to a mom who knows it is not the experience I could have gone through, but The Citadel was exactly where my son needed to be.

Because of my blog contributions to Off the Base, and my own blog, some parents get the impression I never had doubts about the process. To these parents I suggest reading the first few entries from Off the Base. I assure you I was extremely anxious about the whole experience. The first entry, The Making of a Military Mom and the second, Mom Readies for Son’s Military College trace my early journey. The following entries, The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents and Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, describe in part the transformation I went through as I saw the changes in my son from a young high school student to a responsible adult.

The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.

The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.

The best gift a parent can give their knob is helping them prepare for Matriculation Day, then let go. Let your knob be the one to reach out to you. They have no control over their time so if you call and they don’t answer the phone, know that is completely normal. Send them encouraging cards and messages. When they do call, be supportive. Remind them of the strength they have within them to tackle their challenges. If they have a problem with a classmate don’t try to fix it for them, but remind them there is a chain of command and a protocol to go through to address concerns.

You can use the time to learn more about the school and the 4th Class system when your knob cannot call or email you. The Citadel external affairs office does a great job of posting photos and updates to the web site and also to their Facebook page for new parents to try to get a glimpse of their knob. Read through the Office of the Commandant page and all the links to learn about the school and the process your cadet is going through. This knowledge is not to intervene, but to see how they are trained.

As a parent it is tough to resist the urge to fix things for our children. Come April and Recognition Day, the knobs, and their parents, will see they have made it through to be full members of the Corps of Cadets and you will each feel a sense of accomplishment and pride of what you have come through.

The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.

The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.

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