In line with the namesakes of Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School, Principal Yolanda Garza said she hopes to implement a character education program recently introduced at the campus.
Retired teacher and principal Charlotte Clifton gave students, teachers and administrators a glimpse of the program called Medal of Honor Character Development Program. Clifton has been volunteering with the program for the last two years.
The name of the school was changed about three years ago from Hood Junior High School and its mascot was changed to the Rangers. It is now named for Alfred “Mac” Wilson and Marvin “Rex” Young. They graduated within two years of each other from Odessa High School and Permian High School, respectively.
After graduating, both went to Vietnam and both men died within seven months of each other sacrificing themselves to save their fellow soldiers.
To help struggling veterans, “A Night of Courage” banquet was held April 20. Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients James McCloughan and Paul Bucha attended.
Clifton said the Medal of Honor Character Development Program is amazing.
“I think it could help any school anywhere to help their students have good direction. A lot of times in school, we spend time telling kids don’t do this and don’t do that,” Clifton said.
“This program helps them really have a good foundation of appropriate things that they should do. The belief is that every person has it within themselves to make good decisions, to step up and do what’s right rather than look the other way or get involved in other things that they shouldn’t. It just really empowers the students and I think that it’s been very successful,” she said.
Written by teachers, Clifton said the curriculum is free and available to any school. Teachers can be trained for free and Clifton said she is trained for elementary and secondary levels.
She said she has visited different schools to talk to staff and offer to teach some lessons. She said the program has started in Frenship ISD and pilot programs have begun in Ira ISD.
“Today (April 19), I’m teaching all the eighth graders. I thought it was a perfect fit because this is a Medal of Honor school, so everyone here has been very welcoming and they’re very interested in implementing this program here,” Clifton said.
Clifton said she is very passionate about the program, which has corporate sponsors.
“I feel like with all the issues that we have in our country right now, especially with violence and bullying in our schools this is one piece of the puzzle of a solution. It’s not going to solve all the problems, but it’s in my opinion a big piece of the puzzle of empowering students to make good choices,” she said.
Hernandez said she is hoping to incorporate the character education program into history classes during Ranger Time, which is like homeroom.
“This is what we’re all about at this school. I wanted the kids to be proud that they are Rangers. We want to stress to our kids that Wilson and Young were heroes and we’re honored to be Rangers to represent them. …,” Hernandez said.
She acknowledged that a program like this is needed at the middle school level, but she’s proud of her students.
“If you notice at the front (of the school), we have the red zone. When they go by the red zone, they’re supposed to show respect for Wilson and Young and for others. We’re trying to teach them to respect themselves, as well as others, but more important for these two young men that died for our freedom,” she said.
Mackenzie Campos and Angela Aguirre, both 14-year-old eighth graders, watched a video about Medal of Honor winners to learn more about those who have earned them.
“I feel like the change in the school has made the atmosphere a little bit more serious. Everyone here can really get a feel for what they’re trying to do. It’s an important thing to have a representation of what you’re trying to accomplish here by having something that’s important,” Campos said.
Campos said she definitely thinks about Wilson and Young and other veterans more after watching the video. She said some people don’t think about putting themselves in harm’s way for others and some never grow up because they were killed in action.
Since sixth grade, Aguirre said she feels like the older students have grown and know what it means to be a Ranger.
Campos said she thinks the sixth graders should watch the Medal of Honor video so they understand what it really means.
Hernandez said Wilson and Young challenge coins were given at the banquet.
Matthew Olgin, an eighth grade U.S. history teacher and midshipman in the U.S. Navy, said challenge coins are a tradition in the military. Each military unit, or in his case, ship, gets one that distinguishes them as being part of that unit.
“It’s something you carry around to identify yourself as part of a brotherhood. Everybody that goes through similar situations, it’s a bond you can’t understand it unless you go through it together. A lot of service members will carry it with them so when they see another veteran or fellow servicemen out in public, they will flash it to each other as part of a brotherhood,” Olgin said.