PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Center for Information Dominance Unit (CIDU) Corry Station hosted a graduation ceremony for the 60th Saturday Scholars class March 7 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation on board Naval Air Station Pensacola.
With two sessions held per year, this graduation of 55 students marks the 30th consecutive year that Corry Station — the Navy's Learning Center that leads, manages and delivers joint force training in information operations, information technology and cryptology — has hosted the mentoring program.
According to Escambia County School District's Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas, CID's Saturday Scholars program is the longest, continuously-running educational mentorship program in the Navy, and has touched the hearts and minds of more than 3,000 students.
"Many of the mentors here today weren't even born when the Saturday Scholars program began in Pensacola," said Thomas. "Thirty years is an amazing commitment from the military and the school district. Superintendents and principals have come and gone, but Saturday Scholars has been steadfast and I can't thank the military, school and district staff enough for keeping the program going."
For Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Pleiss, an IT "C" School student, this is his second time volunteering as a Saturday Scholars mentor.
"I think I've learned as much from my students as they have from me," said Pleiss. "What they have to do on a daily basis — the challenges they face — is so much different than what I experienced growing up; being a mentor is a very humbling experience."
During this latest program, 55 students or "mentees" from Pensacola's Ensley Elementary School were teamed-up with Navy and Marine Corps "A" and "C" school students during the five weeks of morning mentoring sessions. Activities included reading, science, computers and physical activities for the students and mentors.
Brandon Johnson, a 4th grader at Ensley Elementary, was able to take much of what he learned during Saturday Scholars back to the classroom.
"It has really helped me a lot," said Johnson. "On regular school days, sometimes I only half-way get stuff. But my teacher said that after Saturday Scholars, I was one of the only ones to pass my reading test. My mentor Mister Carillo and I have a motto — 'you'll never know unless we try.'"
Cryptologic Technician (Networks) Seaman Apprentice Marcos Carillo, Johnson's mentor, sees a lot of himself in the young man.
"I've been in Brandon's shoes, and I know that if I would have had someone helping to guide me along, it would have made a big difference when I was growing up," said Carillo. "I want to help the kids by giving them positive motivation and a vision for success. It also helps me develop some teaching skills; it's definitely a win-win."
Jayne Cecil, principal of Ensley Elementary, says she has been fortunate enough to have the Saturday Scholars program at her school for two five-week sessions and hopes to continue in the future.
"The kids get a chance to build a relationship with another adult, one with a career that they may never have heard about before," said Cecil. "The teachers love it because it allows their students to build an academic vocabulary that they are learning from the military during the program; many of the mentors are in technical fields and have a set of knowledge that we would not be sharing in school."
CID Commanding Officer Capt. Maureen Fox was guest speaker for the graduation ceremony and received a plaque from Thomas in appreciation and acknowledgment for 30 years of Saturday Scholars service from Corry Station.
"It is so important to be involved in the community; it allows us to give back for all that we have been given," said Fox. "I'm extremely proud of our Saturday Scholars mentors and the long tradition of Corry Station and CID's partnership with our local schools."
Commands that would like participate or start their own Saturday Scholars program should contact the Escambia Schools Community Involvement Office at 850-469-5676.
For more information on the Center for Information Dominance and the Naval Education and Training Command, visit their Web pages: https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/ceninfodom/ or https://www.netc.navy.mil/, and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/NavalEducationAndTrainingCommand and http://www.twitter.com/NETCPAO.
For more news from Naval Education and Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnet/.