Never underestimate the power of inspiration ... whether it comes from a teacher, a coach, a parent, a brother, a top military boarding school or the promise of an elite university.
Missouri Military Academy (MMA) cadet battalion commander Marco Afane, a high school senior from El Salvador, credits all of these for helping him achieve his goals, which were – and continue to be – ambitious. His ultimate goal: acceptance into Notre Dame.
“My grandpa went to Riverside Military Academy and my brother wanted to do a year in military boarding school. My parents did their research and found MMA and fell in love with the school," Marco Afane said. Not only did his brother Fernando find the educational opportunities he sought, Afane has become a leader at Missouri Military Academy, attaining the highest cadet leadership position available — battalion commander.
Afane arrived from his hometown San Salvador as a sophomore legacy cadet when Fernando was a senior, and as is often the case for new arrivals, it wasn’t always easy to deal with the expectations. But Afane considers having his brother precede him as an advantage.
“Being a legacy is kind of nice – my brother did well here, and he was a really good leader and great at academics. You’re representing your last name but you both have to do a good job. I had his reputation to live up to, and sometimes it feels like I’m expected to do better. It motivated me.”
In addition to his brother, Afane credits the mentoring he receives from MMA coaches and instructors for encouraging him. But the determination to excel is entirely his own.
“At the beginning, I didn’t know what I wanted to achieve,” he said. “After the first semester, I came back knowing I wanted to be a leader.” Afane started as a squad leader but soon set his sights on a higher position – cadet battalion commander.
“It was hard — there were people who wanted the battalion commander position and they’d been here longer (I was a sophomore), so I made a plan,” Afane says. “I felt I needed to be the best at class and outside class. MMA helped me think ahead and think strategically.”
Afane says that he has always planned ahead, but MMA gave him the tools to achieve more, inside and outside of the classroom. His achievements include serving as Delta Phi (academic honor society) president, in National Honor Society, competing at state Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and qualifying for nationals with a first-place finish at state, being named all district in soccer, and qualifying for nationals on the Colonels rifle team.
“Marco is one of the most motivated cadets I have taught at MMA!” said MMA instructor and FBLA advisor Peggy Reynard. “He represents our school objective of the 360˙ Education for the cadet experience at MMA. I am sure we will see Marco as a very successful, influential leader in the future.”
During the spring 2023 semester, he has qualified for FBLA state competition in supply chain management and is serving as FBLA vice president. He recently finished eighth out of 104 Army sporter shooters at the 2023 Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) 3PAR (3 Position Air Rifle) Sectionals Championship in Camp Perry, Ohio.
“MMA gave me the tools and set me up for success,” he says.
The planning, determination and discipline paid off. Afane achieved his goal of becoming the battalion commander of the 134th corps of cadets for his senior year at MMA. He works closely with MMA commandant staff to learn and lead. His responsibilities include employing staff and commanders to plan, develop and execute key corps events, such as room inspections, physical training, company competitions, activities calendar, and more; enforcing cadet standards of conduct, including appearance, barracks cleanliness and traditions; and ensuring all cadets strictly follow the cadet chain of command.
The battalion commander also ensures all members of the corps have an opportunity to develop leadership experience corresponding with their individual abilities and recommends cadets promotions, demotions and awards. It’s a huge job, and one that Afane takes very seriously.
“Being the battalion commander at MMA, you carry with you a big responsibility, and I like people to know that. I care a lot about everyone – every single cadet in the corps,” he said. “Sometimes I have to make decisions that are unpopular and that people don’t like – sometimes people make mistakes and there are consequences. I have to take actions on that. But I care about them, and I want them to get better. It’s not easy, but I want them to know that it comes from caring about their future. The 134th corps of cadets – I wish them the best.”
If none of this sounds like a typical high school student, it’s probably because Afane is far from typical. When asked about his hobbies, his tone is both amused and a bit wistful.
“I barely get any free time. If I had free time, I don’t know what I’d spend it on. I’m a huge soccer fan – I’d be watching more soccer,” said Afane. “And I’d spend more time talking to my family. It is really hard to be this far away.”
Despite missing his parents and two younger sisters, Afane will soon be reunited with his brother when he starts college at Notre Dame. He credits MMA for making that long-held dream come true.
“I have really good coaches and teachers that mentor me at MMA. Everything I did, every year, almost every day, I learned something new. I developed a lot of patience. MMA taught me to be very comprehensive and gave me a lot of confidence. I’ll be taking those to Notre Dame and it will help me succeed there.”
His plan is to prepare for a career in supply chain management by pursuing a double major of business analytics and management consulting. “I see myself either working for a big company in supply chain management or having my own firm giving that service to other companies,” he said.
Going forward, he expects his time at Missouri Military Academy will continue to influence his efforts. “I’m more mature than my friends back home, and I think about my actions before I do something,” he said. “I think that will continue to influence me in the future at Notre Dame and at home. And another thing I’ll take is I’m very organized. My room back home is spotless. I can’t tolerate clutter or chaos. Everything has to be in order.”
Missouri Military Academy’s vision is to develop young men who are:
- of sound moral character and self-disciplined to strive for and achieve their goals
- academically prepared to attend and graduate from college
- better prepared for life as a result of the Academy’s mentoring and focus on academic, physical, character and social development
When it comes to Cadet Afane, mission accomplished.
“I am very thankful for being in the position I am, and I am never going to forget about MMA. I wish my MMA brothers the best after I leave,” he said.