Parent: Jennifer Kjolhede
Cadet: Landon Kjolhede
Hometown: West Point, NE
Every boy is different, and each have their own academic, social and emotional needs. Where some may perform best with flexibility and variation, others need structure and discipline.
This was exactly the case for Jennifer Kjolhede, mother of two boys. While her younger son, Gavin, was succeeding at their local Catholic school, her elder son, Landon, was struggling to make the most of his education. Realizing this, they began researching other options for Landon to finish middle school and start high school.
Their solution? Missouri Military Academy.
The MMA Test Drive
Attending MMA was a decision both Jennifer and Landon were invested in, but that doesn’t mean neither had any reservations. To “test the waters,” Jennifer enrolled then-13 year old Landon in MMA’s Leadership Camp so he could see the campus and get a feel for the environment and culture.
According to Jennifer, even this step was nerve-racking.
“At that point, [Landon] had only been to one other summer camp before,” she said. “We were a little nervous.”
But her worries were put to rest when she picked him up. Landon had really enjoyed Leadership Camp – especially the obstacle course challenges – and was sure he wanted to enroll at MMA.
“For us as a family, a military, college preparatory school is exactly what Landon needed. As a family, we decided this was the best option for him,” Jennifer said. “I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ And he said ‘yes.’ So far so good.”
Landon enrolled in MMA as an 8th grader in fall 2019.
In only one year at MMA, Jennifer noticed major changes in Landon – academically and personally. He wasn’t just maturing at MMA – he was coming out of his shell.
“His grades were night and day improvement. He said he felt like it was easier to make friends (at MMA). His self-confidence has improved, and he is a happier child,” she said. “Landon takes initiative in his own life. We have a conversation about a potentially bad grade and he just takes it upon himself to get a teacher, figure out tutoring and do what he needs to do to get that grade up.”
Jennifer credits MMA’s combination of structure and positive reinforcement for Landon’s transformation, saying it creates the perfect environment for Landon to take command of his life and future.
“Landon likes the smaller class sizes. Knowing that if he needs one-on-one attention with teachers, that is attainable. He likes knowing he is held accountable … and knowing there is structure to help him stay in line has been beneficial to him,” she said.
“He also loves immediate gratification. When he works hard, he gets patches and ribbons and awards,” she added, commenting on the MMA’s cadet leadership reward structure.
Trusting the Process
Landon is currently in his second year at MMA, and Jennifer says all her initial worries have been put to rest. She says she trusts and supports MMA’s proven system and hopes her support and partnership will help Landon get even more out of his MMA experience.
“I love knowing that wholeheartedly that I can trust that the faculty, administration, mentors and leaders want to see our boys be the best that they can be. Knowing that they will do whatever is in their power to keep these boys on the road to success,” Jennifer says. “I 100% trust their decision making and their discipline tactics.”
The proof, she says, is in their 130-plus years of experience and in her son.
“We noticed the biggest changes the first summer. It was literally the best summer,” she said, commenting the difference they saw in Landon after one year at MMA. “He was so much more self-motivated and respectful. He interacted in the house in such a kinder way. He was more helpful around the home.”
Today, Landon takes as many business classes as he can. Jennifer says Landon hopes to run his own business in the future and talks about his desire to make enough money to take care of his family one day.
“It’s his way of giving back to us for giving him this incredible opportunity. It’s very sweet.”
COVID Won’t Last Forever
Jennifer enrolled Landon in the fall of 2019 and admits it was difficult being away from him in the beginning. But the combination of frequent visits, phone calls and Academy celebrations made the transition easier, and the momentum of his success has helped them through the isolation of COVID.
“Our first year at MMA was pre-COVID. We saw him once a month and that was helpful to look forward to – whether it was going to campus or coming home for break,” she said.
While the 2020-21 academic year has been different, with less visits due to COVID risk mitigation, Jennifer says that Landon’s success at MMA has made it easier for their family.
“Landon is in such a good place. He is motivated, and he treats it like a job. He is so forward-thinking and has his own goals in mind. I truly feel like if he stayed here (in Nebraska) he would have flown under the radar and stayed average,” she said. “At MMA, he has the drive to be good and to do great. For us, that is the bang for our buck.”
To new families who haven’t been able to visit campus and have less experience with MMA’s military educational model, Jennifer advises they stay the course and trust in the process.
“I feel bad for new families who are dealing with COVID (their first year). I would tell them to hold tight because next year will be a different year. They will see an entirely different way of life. They get to see the pride first-hand,” she said. “I think with support from parents, these cadets will soar. When the boys know their parents trust the school, they can trust the school. If more people supported the processes, the cadets would be stronger.”