CORONADO, Calif. – Vice Adm. D. C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, spoke to 47 teenagers about opportunities available to them in the Navy during their visit to Breaker’s Beach on Naval Base Coronado July 11 as part of a week-long trip designed to inspire the young men and women to take charge of their academics in preparation to lead America’s future.
“You’re preparing now to get good study habits, to ask the questions, to do your homework, and to take some extra courses,” said Curtis to the teens who hailed from Washington, D.C.; Surry, Va.; and Queens, N.Y. “And the harder you work now, the easier it becomes later. That’s the same thing that my wife and I tell our kids.”
A non-profit organization called Reach for Tomorrow (RFT) planned the San Diego summer trip for the teenagers ranging in age from 13-15. The group is devoted to helping teenagers who are underperforming in school to reach their potential by revealing exciting opportunities that exist after high school through their summer program and working with them in tutoring programs throughout the academic year. Through this interaction, RFT encourages them to improve their grades and establish the foundation they will need to get into college and compete for the jobs they want.
Peter K. Underwood, who founded RFT in 1993, said, “We want to improve upon the three A’s of education – attitude, attendance and achievement – in rising high school youths in order to increase the size of the qualified applicant pool for colleges and jobs. The program exposes kids to opportunities that are available to them and encourages them to set high goals for themselves.”
According to Underwood, the program has achieved significant results in its 15 years in operation. By using funds available through the No Child Left Behind Act, RFT hires local teachers to work with students in an after-school program that implements e-Learning concepts. Through these methods, RFT has helped students achieve a one to three grade level improvement in writing, reading and math.
Curtis, who grew up in the inner city of Chicago, related to the young men and women and their experience to reach a dream.
“I applaud you being here and using all your talents that you have to improve,” Curtis said. “I went to vocational school to prepare for a job afterwards. So, what I had to do was take some extra biology and extra chemistry courses.”
Curtis was accompanied on the visit by his wife, Towanda, and his flag writer, Senior Chief Yeoman (SW/AW) Raymond D. Walker, who also spoke about their unique experiences in achieving success.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do when I came in the Navy,” Walker said. “But I knew that I had a destiny to work hard, and whatever I was going to do I was going to work hard at it.”
Following the opportunity to speak with the Curtises and Walker, the RFT participants went on to end their day with a visit to the Office of Homeland Security in San Diego. Other activities the students participated in during their trip included visits to Birch Aquarium, the University of California, San Diego, the Pruess School, the Scandinavian Aviation Academy, and the National Air College.
“For one solid week all these students hear about is opportunity and education,” Underwood said. “I think this has been effective. We start with seventh and eighth graders, and we’ve seen these young people go to college and lead successful lives. Many of our participants have gone on to serve in the military.”