Respect for self, country and service to the community.
That's what the staff of Military Magnet Academy are hoping to instill in the school's newest recruits who left Sunday for "basic training" at Camp McCrady in Columbia. Around 150 students gathered at the school in North Charleston where they received a crash course in military etiquette and formations ahead of their week-long training, which is a requirement of the school. The academy serves grades 6-12 and is open to all students in Charleston County.
"If they have discipline, we'll enhance it. If they have none, we'll make it," Isaiah Whaley, the commandant of the academy, told parents Sunday before the students' departure.
During the week-long camp, Whaley said, students will participate in physical fitness training and leadership courses as well as learn the customs and courtesies of the military including the rank structure and how to fold an American flag. The bulk of the new cadets were students joining the school as sixth-graders although there were some high school students who had also just enrolled.
Principal Anderson Townsend said the military structure is a successful one for the school's roughly 550 students, around 90 percent of whom live in poverty. Despite students often coming from low-income homes, Townsend said his school has consistently had a graduation rate of around 90 percent.
To help new middle school recruits who might not be able to afford uniforms, Townsend said the Military Magnet Academy Foundation raises money to help cover the $500 cost of a uniform for some students. This year about $2,000 in Foundation funding went toward uniforms for students.
Some students on Sunday were resistant to the military structure. Some were unsure and overwhelmed while others were excited.
Jadakis McCoy found the morning's training ahead of the trip a little overwhelming and worried about the camp being strict.
"I just came in and I didn't know what they were doing," he said.
Joshua Brooks was more optimistic.
"I think it's going to be fun," he said.
Melissa Brooks, Joshua's mother , said she likes the academy's structure and focus on discipline, which has also benefited her daughter who is a rising eighth-grader at the school. She's hoping the basic training camp will help jump start her son's time at the school.
"I think it's a good experience for him," she said.