For over 100 years, Massachusetts Maritime Academy has been preparing women and men for exciting and rewarding careers on land and sea. As the nation's finest co-ed maritime college, MMA challenges students to succeed by balancing a unique regimented lifestyle with a typical four-year college environment. As a member of the cadet corps you will live, study, sail, work and play in an atmosphere that encourages you to be your best.
Little Friends, Big Roles
BUZZARDS BAY — For decades, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands has paired “littles” with cadets at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Adm. Francis MacDonald, the academy’s president and a 1985 graduate, remembers the program from his days as a student. The program had an on-and-off relationship with the academy until 2014, when it solidified the program in Buzzards Bay, bringing in about 10 students from Bournedale Elementary to be mentored by their cadet “bigs.” Now the program is expanding, with more than a dozen students from Minot Forest Elementary School in Wareham being matched with cadets.
MacDonald said he approached Big Brothers Big Sisters after learning about the need for mentoring students off-Cape. The New Bedford chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters was absorbed by the Boston and Cape groups, leaving the two to share a large territory.″(MacDonald) really wanted us to do something with the youth of Wareham,” said JR Mell, regional director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands.
Fifty-eight percent of students in Wareham receive free or reduced-cost lunch, and for many, the idea of college wasn’t something that was introduced to them before the program, Mell said. “This has been a great connection and opportunity for our students who do not have an older sibling,” Minot Forest principal Joan Seamans said. “The students are excited when it’s their day to go and we are grateful for this partnership.” Big Brothers Big Sisters went to MMA to find mentors for about 13 students, Mell said. Bigs would be required to meet with students once a week and commit to being a mentor for two years. About 60 cadets applied to be bigs, Mell said.
On Wednesday afternoon, in the third week of this year’s mentoring program, about a dozen students and their bigs met in the academy’s cafeteria — or mess deck, as it’s called. Students both young and old were faced with a challenge — they were given a roll of tape and a few pieces of construction paper and tasked with making the longest paper chain they could. In past weeks, they’ve also made “slime” and painted pumpkins.
Minot Forest fourth-grader Christopher Carbone was sitting across from his big, Michael Stack, a 19-year-old emergency management student from Braintree. They were busy with their paper chain, and Christopher said his favorite part of the program so far was the kickball game. “I’ve never played kickball,” he said. Stack said the two were going to check out the gym and then play some basketball later. “I like doing this kind of stuff,” Christopher said, “going out and doing sports.” Across from them, Ava Butler, a third-grader from Bournedale Elementary, and Christine O’Brien, a 19-year-old cadet from North Reading, were planning their afternoon. This was O’Brien’s second year as a big. But she and Ava were new matches because O’Brien’s previous little had moved away. Ava was munching on a chocolate chip cookie and the pair already seemed fast friends. “I like how she’s really nice,” Ava said of O’Brien. “We like to do arts and crafts together,” said O’Brien, a marine safety and environmental protection major. Ava talked about the time she had to fix O’Brien’s slime, which was much too gooey, she said. Homemade slime consists of glue, shaving cream, glitter, baking soda and contact solution, but O’Brien’s slime was missing the shaving cream. But even the work of an expert slime-maker like Ava still had a flaw. “I put too much glitter in it,” she said with a giggle.
The partnership doesn’t just give the students a new friend and new environment to explore after school, it also gives the cadets a chance to learn how to be leaders, said Nehemiah Jordan, community service director at the academy. “The cadets are rewarded immediately by their experience with the littles with seeing them grow as individuals and the smiles on their faces,” he said. “The kids are so happy when they come to the academy.”
O’Brien echoed that sentiment and said it’s a big help to her at school. “It breaks up the week — we get to have some fun,” she said, looking at Ava, who was handling their paper chain. “For some of these elementary school students, this will be their first time stepping foot on a college campus — a crucial steppingstone toward understanding their educational potential,” McDonald said. “By having our cadets as role models, we hope to instill core qualities like honesty, integrity and work ethic that will help these youths succeed throughout their lives.”
By Ethan Genter - Cape Cod Times