For many people, high school brings back happy memories whether it was finally finishing exams, hanging out with friends or cheering at games. The impact was immense, especially when teachers, coaches, instructors took the time to mentor students to ensure their success.
As a part of the XVIII Airborne Corps’ directive, the 16th Military Police Brigade is partnering with E.E. Smith High School in a school sponsorship program. The unit will provide anything from mentoring and sponsoring to assisting in other areas that the school may need in hopes of fostering a positive change in young people’s lives.
“I think we have an opportunity to do some great work with the school,” said Col. Alexander Conyers, commander of the 16th MP Bde. “It also happens to be the school that’s zoned with high school students on Fort Bragg.”
Conyers met with some of the student leaders to ask for their opinions on how the 16th MP Bde. could assist and mentor them. He said their response was simple — provide support and believe in what they do.
“In many ways, those students remind me of myself,” said Conyers. “I know there is potential for many successes of that school.”
Melody Chalmers, E.E. Smith High School principal and an E.E. Smith graduate herself, said she is very proud of her school and looking forward to watching this sponsorship program with the 16th MP Bde. grow and develop. She believes the program will help enlighten the military to what E.E. Smith is all about, providing quality education to students.
“This partnership will be beneficial because it will help students see the connection with Fort Bragg,” said Chalmers. “Students will see how the Fort Bragg community provides support to these students to be successful academically and as future leaders in today’s society.”
E.E. Smith High School provides its students with diverse opportunities, such as their culinary arts program. In the main office, the school proudly displayed the students’ gingerbread house which won Fayetteville’s Peoples’ Choice Award. It was a replica of the Virginia state capital and took the students more than two weeks to complete.
Another interesting program is the fire fighter’s course. E.E. Smith is the only high school in the county that offers a fire fighters’ course. Upon completion, students graduate fully certified to be a fire fighter.
The school has already begun a partnership with the Fort Bragg Fire Department for training and educational purposes to assist the students with their certification.
Since the partnership began, the school has invited members of the 16th MP Bde. to meetings and special events, such as their annual Military Appreciation Night, where Conyers had the honor of tossing the coin to start their football game.
The brigade command team was also invited to the school’s annual Veteran’s Day Memorial where the E.E. Smith JROTC, the largest JROTC in the Eastern region, performed a series of ceremonial displays to honor faculty and staff members who had served the nation.
Soldiers of the 16th MP Bde. have stepped forward to volunteer and proclaimed themselves to be representatives of the unit.
Master Sgt. Travis Johnson, motor sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, had two children graduate from E.E. Smith High School. In the past, he volunteered much of his spare time at the school to support the students.
“The school community makes me feel like Family; it’s like home and at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids,” said Johnson.
Second Lt. Ashlie LaFalce, assistant adjutant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, is new to the Fort Bragg area and wanted to volunteer to help her get more connected with the community.
“When I was in high school, I looked forward to hanging out with my friends outside an academic realm, so I’m hoping for the same thing with these students,” said LaFalce when asked why she wanted to mentor students at E.E. Smith.
The Soldiers of the 16th MP Bde. look forward to the collaboration with the students, faculty and staff at E.E. Smith and hope for a strong relationship that will continue to grow as the partnership develops.