Farmington High School students step up to support soldiersJust days after he graduates this summer, Farmington High School senior Andy Morris is going off to start his military career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s got no idea what his new life will bring him. He’ll be leaving his friends and his family behind.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Farmington Independent
Just days after he graduates this summer, Farmington High School senior Andy Morris is going off to start his military career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He’s got no idea what his new life will bring him. He’ll be leaving his friends and his family behind.
He’s going to be a Marine. Say no more.
Before he goes, though, Morris is getting a first-hand look at the sacrifices military men and women make, and what kind of support their families need. In fact, just about every week for nearly two months, he’s spent some time with military families in the area.
It’s something that comes along with the job. Morris is the president of the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Student Chapter, a new organization at Farmington High School. The group formed less than two months ago, and is already receiving recognition as the first Yellow Ribbon network in a Minnesota high school.
The idea for the club came up between Morris and FHS senior Ashton Defusco, who had also enlisted in the Marines. Knowing that many of their classmates have also enlisted, the two talked about forming some kind of military club for students who had enlisted to get together and talk; a kind of support network in the high school. Defusco graduated early, though, so she could enter boot camp this spring.
That didn’t deter Morris. He went to Farmington High School civics teacher Todd Karich and asked if Karich would be willing to act as an advisor. Karich agreed. Before long, a couple more students got interested. Morris talked with Farmington Yellow Ribbon coordinator Annette Kuyper, who is also the Director for Military Outreach for the state of Minnesota. One thing led to another and soon the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Student Chapter was formed.
“We wanted to do something where we could reach out to the military community and help those families,” Morris said.
A few officers emerged, particularly in junior vice president Brad Dow (a National Guard recruit) and senior Cassie Yetzer, whose role covers everything from secretary/treasurer to membership coordinator. With a few timely announcements and a membership push, the trio ballooned to a student organization with more members than any of them expected.
As the lone non-enlisted officer in the group, Yetzer’s not surprised by the interest in the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Student Chapter. Every student at FHS seems to have some kind of connection to currently enlisted men and women, or they have parents or grandparents who are veterans, or they have friends who are going to enter the military after graduation, she said. And some simply understand there are some families who need support.
“There are a lot of kids like me who don’t know military families but want to help,” she said.
The club is still very much in its early phase, and with two of the three officers graduating in June – and the fact Dow will be in basic training over the summer – they’re all a little apprehensive that the club might lose any momentum it’s gaining over the summer break. But as the incoming president next year, Dow isn’t about to let that happen.
With the help of Yetzer and Morris, and a couple recommendations from Karich, Dow has started his own recruiting process. He’s looking at the membership and trying to find leaders for next year. In looking at those leaders, Dow is hoping to find underclassmen who commit to helping out on a project, and who will be willing to take an active role in the organization.
According to Yetzer’s membership numbers, this year’s sophomore class has added the most members, which makes Dow optimistic for the club’s future.
“It’s definitely going to grow,” Dow said, “especially as we become more visible in the community and do more things for military families.”
That’s not to say they haven’t already been doing things for military families, because they have. The trio has started attending the monthly meetings of the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network, and they are helping out whenever they can. The high school program has immediately brought more than a dozen new, regular volunteers to some of the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network events, and the high school members have signed up to participate in upcoming events this spring.
“There are lots of groups starting in high schools around the state, but what Farmington has done is Farmington has built a network of support within the high school that connects to the community effort,” Kuyper said. “One of the biggest challenges in the state is identifying the military youth in the schools. This group will help us connect to those military-connected youth. These groups can help unite military families with what’s happening in the community.”