“It was a lot of hard work to get to this point, but it definitely paid off and it was a phenomenal day,” said Alexis Sanchez, Honor Guard Staff Sergeant at Porterville Military Academy on Saturday, May 18, where over 100 cadets received certificates at the pass in review and were acknowledged by Principal Doug Ihmels and Cadet Commandant Dave Archer.
Porterville Mayor Martha Flores, PUSD Superintendent Nate Nelson, PUSD Board President Lillian Durbin and other Board members were present, and former mayor and Chairman of the Porterville Advisory Board Ron Irish, along with more than 400 parents, grandparents and school staff were also in attendance.
Pass in reviews, where cadets or soldiers march or move in formation for a person of authority or importance in order to be inpected, are a military tradition that date back to the earliest armies of the world. They are an opportunity for leaders and the public to view the discipline, proficiency, morale and esprit de corps of the assembled troops.
In 1778, General George Washington invited Prussian officer, Baron Von Steuben, to help the American Army learn the discipline of the European armies. Von Steuben wrote the first American drill manual, The Blue Book, that is still the basis for marching maneuvers today. Reviews specifically date back to the Middle Ages when rulers held them to show military force. Reviews adapted over time to include awards, inspections, remarks, honors to the nation, and honors to dignitaries.
On Saturday the PMA cadets looked sharp and disciplined after their first year at the new school. As only grades 7-9 were enrolled at PMA this year there was no graduating class, so the pass in review was a welcome event to close out the school year and give the community a chance to see how well the cadets progressed in their first year.
“This is a great day,” said Mark Martinez, parent of PMA cadet Starlyn Martinez, 12. “Sanchez is one of our Military Staff and a cadet class teachers. The first entry class will be graduating next year in 2020.”
Starlyn said, “I’m serious about this, and I’ve grabbed this and will stay until I’m a senior. I like the style of the military academy and how different it is from the regular public school. At the Iris Festival we were doing community service and people were asking about the school, because we (cadets) were wearing our uniforms. The main question people were asking was what our school is about. It’s mainly about creating leaders in the 21st century and helping out our community. The kids are taught to persevere and keep their composure in difficult situations.”
Another cadet, Alexander Shirbish, 14, said, “I think it’s a great school. It’s not a boot camp or a boarding school. It’s a regular educational school plus basic military knowledge. I’ve been in the cadet corps for two years and this is my first year at PMA.
“One of my favorite things at PMA is that cadets back you up. If one cadet makes a mistake, the others will help you, and say, ‘Hey, I think you can do better, or we’ll work together to solve problems.’ It’s a really good community here.”
In the past two years the entire school has improved the cadet corps in Porterville in Shirbish’s opinion.
Helene Foster, Shirbish’s mother said, “I like how they’ve taught Alexander leadership skills as well as challenging him academically. The things that stand out to me the most is that everyone is like a close knit family. The staff is very accomodating. The opportunities that are available for the children are numerous: leadership camp, drill competition, as well as individual major awards competition, confidence, and character building.”
Tristin Galvan, U.S. Naval Sea cadet for five years, was on the USS Hornet for summer camp. It is a museum ship and he taught drill ceremony to sea cadets, like orientation and how to drill.
“I was here at PMA a week before the school opened and it allows the individual cadet to grow and progress in a way that no other school in PUSD can offer,” said Galvan. “This school is very unique. At this school, we are not called children. We are called young adults, and we are given the responsibilities of young adults. This school makes kids feel confident and prepared.”
The cadets are given responsibilities on campus everyday. They are either in charge of a company, doing drill and formation in the morning, help monitor the hallways, or set up for different events.
“It’s been an amazing year,” said Principal Doug Ihmels. “We’ve been building the campus, but also the growth in the students. The environment is more challenging, and we require the cadets to wear their uniforms and use the courtesies of the military. Academically, it’s A-G curriculum. When they graduate they will be able to apply to a U.C., CSU campus, which is A-G aligned.”
Commandant of Cadets Dave Archer said PMA is different from other schools, and the eighth graders who were acknowledged did great. It was like a graduation.
“I always want to see the kids with smiles on their faces – that’s my barometer if what we are doing is right,” said Archer. “Self-discipline doesn’t mean no fun. The support from the community, parents, and the district is the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been in education. I have so much faith in the district that I moved my daughter here from Coarse Gold. She is currently in the eighth grade here at PMA. Her name is America Archer, and she loves it here.”