During a vacation in the Ozarks of June 2017, my husband and I heard a revelry bugle sound from a nearby summer camp. We quickly thought an overnight camp would be a great opportunity for Michael to do that summer since he had never been at a camp away from home. We began researching camps in the surrounding area but couldn't find one that suited our wants and Michael's needs. We wanted Michael to gain some life skills that were going to be beneficial to him. During our search, MMA's website kept popping up, so I began looking at the different camps they provided. The camp that stuck out to me was the leadership and confidence two-week camp at MMA's campus. I was very impressed about the life skills, teamwork, and leadership skills the camp taught during those two weeks.
We told our son about the camp and quickly called to get more information. We decided to go to the MMA open house to see the campus and learn more about Leadership Camp. While we were there, the faculty spoke about the camp and the boarding school. We had no idea about the school but were very intrigued. We finally enrolled him in the Leadership Camp and were very excited to have found exactly what we were looking for and had the means available to give our son this opportunity.
While he was at camp, we started looking at MMA's school and discussing whether or not to send him there. The decision depended on how well Michael did at camp and adjusted to being away from home. We knew Michael needed a change but weren't sure what it was. Michael was a good student and didn't have to try hard for good grades but we knew he could do better. He didn't push himself and did well enough in school to satisfy us but was in the 80% group of kids that get pushed through public school and not challenged. He was also bullied by kids in the neighborhood because he was more hyper than others and didn't recognize social cues very well. Because of that, he started to become isolated and would only play electronic games with other players online and Facetime with his girlfriend. He would not go outside a meet new kids, and he didn't want his friends to come over and play. He even had high anxiety when asked to try something new. We tried teaching him how to deal with conflict, understand social cues, and what to do - we even sat outside and watched him play so the kids would not bully him. This became a huge concern for us and was not working.
Once Michael returned home from camp, we noticed a difference in how he carried himself. He was more confident, and we quickly learned how scared he was at first with doing things he had never done before. Then we realized how much more confidence he had after getting through those types of challenges and realizing he was OK, he could do it and he was calmer. We had various types of conversations regarding would a private school be better or home schooling but kept concluding that those schools would solve the academic needs but not the social needs. As the weeks went by, Michael started to return back to his old habits and forgot what MMA taught him during camp.
Michael needed an atmosphere where he couldn't withdraw when there was an issue and needed to learn how to deal with conflict in a constructive and positive way. He needed to be challenged physically and academically constantly. I knew in order for us to achieve that at home, Michael would end up hating us. Besides, we realized sometimes kids can hear the message better and understand it when it comes from someone else.
That August, Michael was enrolled at MMA for his seventh grade year. Within four short months, Michael's demeanor has changed tremendously. He cares about doing well and receiving the rewards. He is calmer and tries new things on his own like learning the piano. He asks for advice on how to be a good leader. He is confident and when he starts to get nervous about something he says. "I'll be OK, I'm fine." He would have never said that before. Michael has recognized how much MMA will benefit his future and how the daily structure and exercise has helped with his anxiety.
Michael's academic achievements have been terrific. Since he is in much smaller class sizes then the public school, he is learning much more quickly and showing his true potential. The teachers, faculty, and advisers have noticed how well his grades are and have given him the opportunity to be in more challenging level classes. With his very high GPA, Michael achieved Delta Phi which is an honor society that fosters high ideals of character, encourages scholarship, promotes the best interest of the corps of cadets, and cherishes and preserves the traditions of MMA, Michael also scored very high in math on the nationally recognized Stanford 10 achievement test and was selected to participate in the Duke University Talent Identification Program. This program makes him eligible to take the ACT and depending on the scores could allow him to enroll in Duke University Summer Studies program for gifted students. These are the types of opportunities Michael would not have otherwise had at the public school.
Furthermore, Michael's leadership achievements have been outstanding. Michael was asked to be an interim ambassador during an open house while the current ambassador was unavailable. He led a tour of the school for new, interested parents and potentially new cadets. He was able to answer their questions about cadet life and explained how he personally felt about going to MMA. Michael was soon contacted by one of MMA's staff members, given accolades for a job well done and asked to become a full time ambassador for the school. Michael also is a squad leader for Bravo Company. He is learning that to be a good leader he can't expect a cadet to do something he is not willing to do. Therefore, Michael always makes sure his shoes and belt are shined, room cleaned, and is ready to go for the day before he starts inspecting other cadets.
With regards to what the future holds, we (as Michael's parents) want him to continue to go to MMA until he graduates high school. We have known what potential he has and now he is seeing for himself. We have seen such a difference in him and know the sky is the limit as long as he continues. MMA has been the best decision for Michael we have ever made.
Bob and Jennifer Wever