Story Number: NNS140321-06Release Date: 3/21/2014 3:13:00 AM
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Scorza, Pre-Commissioning Unit America Public Affairs
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6) Sailors gathered with students of Central Elementary School for a partnership closing ceremony March 19.
For the past year, America Sailors participated in a partnership with the school, providing mentorship and leading events aimed at helping the students, while making a difference in the community.
During the ceremony, Sailors said their goodbyes to students they mentored and then presented the school with a framed graphic illustration of all four ships named America.
America, soon to be the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship, is now in its final stages of construction and will soon begin its maiden voyage toward commissioning in San Francisco. The ship's ultimate homeport will be San Diego.
"Something big is getting ready to happen with PCU America," said Lisa Rex, Central Elementary principal as she spoke to her young student body. "It's going to become the USS America, and that is a big deal. But, unfortunately for us, they are going to be moving on. We are here today to thank them for all of their dedication and commitment to us because it has been a great partnership."
Rex said she believes the partnership has helped many children in a variety of ways, but more than anything, has opened their mind to possibilities.
"We are tracking children all the way through high school, and of course America's Sailors won't be here, but the impact they've had I'm sure will follow the children all the way up," said Rex. "I've heard the kids say 'I'm going to be in the Navy' and 'I'm going to wear a uniform like that.' They are only 6 to 8 years old and these Sailors have given the students something to strive for."
The partnership was organized by Chief Ship's Serviceman (SW) Juan Landin. Throughout the year, Landin organized Sailor involvement in the partnership. He said the partnership was initially to assist students with math and reading, but evolved into Sailors facilitating sports field day events and participating in school assemblies. Sailors even adopted classrooms by providing assistance, mentorship and coordinating end of the year parties.
"What started off as something very simple turned into a lot more than what we ever expected because of the dedication of our Sailors. It just shows the character of the Sailors involved; so much is asked of them and they consistently offer so much more," said Landin.
"By serving as positive role models, America's Sailors provided guidance and honed mentorship skills that are vital to successful leadership," said Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., America's commanding officer. "The time and effort these Sailors put in at the school, and their dedication to America's future, says a lot about their outstanding character."
Rex said she will miss seeing Sailors around the school and is grateful for their commitment.
"I've been excited and appreciative of this program because many times adults say that they want to help, but sometimes they don't stay committed and consistent," said Rex. "Every time I looked around there were Sailors here in classrooms or talking to kids in hallways or being in the cafeteria. It's going to be sad when they are not here because they have become part of the Central Elementary community."
Hall said he believes the partnership worked both ways and both sides benefited from the program.
"The partnership with Central Elementary School was important to our Sailors as it was to the students," said Hall. "America's Sailors were able to give back to the community who has supported the Navy for so many years. When America departs Pascagoula in the upcoming months, the Sailors involved in the student mentorship program can feel proud of the positive legacy they are leaving behind."
America will be the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. The ship was christened Oct. 20, 2012 and is currently undergoing construction in Pascagoula, Miss.
For more news from Pre-Commissioning Unit America (LHA 6), visit www.navy.mil/local/lha6/.