Character development is one of the Five Cornerstones around which a VFMAC education is based. Unlike academic excellence or physical development, it is a harder one to measure. There isn’t necessarily a test – rather character development is a process of many activities over time.
Among those activities are two initiatives intended to help Cadets see beyond themselves to the needs of a greater community.
A regional food pantry creates meals shipped around the world. When reconstituted, the individual meals provide nutrition to those in need of it. VFMA Cadets measured, weighed and packed rice and assorted products which are then packaged, shipped in bulk and rehydrated at the point of consumption. During the course of the visit, the Cadets packed 7,000 meals.
“Young men at this age typically have little experience about the greater community around them,” said LtCol Tracey Hartley (Ret), registrar, VFMAC. “By engaging them early and demonstrating through experience the impact they can have, they are able to develop a lifelong appreciation of how their sometimes-small efforts can make a very big difference in the lives of others.”
On another occasion, cadets visited a retirement community. While there, they provided general clean up services to the facility, sorted clothing, and tended to the garden to prepare it for spring. Covid protocols prevented any interaction with residents there.
“Coupled with character development are the citizen leadership skills the Cadets develop through these activities,” said LtCol Hartley. “ They work together to form self-directed teams to best and efficiently accomplish their tasks, all the while learning they have a larger role and responsibility in the global community – something intrinsic to an education at VFMA. ”In VFMA’s Cadet-led model, these Cadets set an example to the rest of the Corps of cadets on what community service looks like.