The dress code for C.W. McGraw Elementary in Yuma, Ariz., is simple: red or blue polo shirts with khakis. However, itâ€™s common to see a Marine Corps uniform among the students every Wednesday.
Thatâ€™s because Marine Attack Squadron 214 has sent out Marines once a week since October 2010 to the school in an effort to reach out to the community and provide the younger Yumans role models.
â€œWe get a joy out of seeing a smile on their faces,â€ said Sgt. Ramon Guerrero, a VMA-214 avionics technician and a native of Woodburn, Ore. â€œAs weâ€™re walking back to the office, we hear, â€˜Marines, Marines, youâ€™re coolâ€™.â€
May 23 marked the last visit to McGraw before the kids began their summer vacation May 30.
During these weekly excursions Marines help the kids with their school work or play with them during recess. If they have questions about the Marine Corps, theyâ€™re answered in informing, amusing ways.
According to Sgt. Maj. Leonard Maldonado, VMA-214â€™s sergeant major, the idea of adopting a school came to the squadron in August 2010. With the help of MCAS Yumaâ€™s school liaison, Elena McShane, the squadron officially adopted McGraw in October the same year.
â€œMarines enjoy helping others, it’s in our blood,â€ said Maldonado. â€œMore importantly, our Marines take pride in the relationship we have grown over the last year and a half.Â When the students at McGraw Elementary succeed, we all succeed.â€
The relationship acts as a modified mentor program for the kids.
â€œI know how it felt like to not have an older brother,â€ said Guerrero. â€œWhat I get out of this? I get to watch the development of different age groups.â€
â€œItâ€™s being able to see all the problems I used to have as a kid,â€ added Lance Cpl. Moises Estradaocana, a VMA-214 seat shop mechanic and a native of Fairfield, Calif. â€œBeing able to help a kid overcome their troubles feels good.â€
The Marinesâ€™ efforts resonate, especially among the teachers, who, like Maldonado, consider the relationship symbiotic.
â€œIt helps the students with seeing there are more career possibilities than going to college,â€ said Christy White, a teacher at McGraw. â€œIt helps the Marines see they can do more than be a Marine. They can do community outreach and help inside the classroom.â€
The Marines will return to McGraw once school resumes.
So far, VMA-214 is the only squadron to have officially adopted a school. For more information regarding similar possibilities for community outreach, contact McShane at (928) 269-5373.