Aviation Boatswain's Mate Handler 3rd Class Ma Fuerte reads a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to students  
130122-N-NJ927-006 SAN DIEGO (Jan. 22, 2013) - Aviation Boatswain's Mate Handler 3rd Class Ma Fuerte, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), reads a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to students at Oaks Park Elementary School during a community outreach program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Princess L. Brown/Released)
Makin Island Sailors Join Local Students to Honor the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
SAN DIEGO - A group of seven Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) joined students at the Oak Park Elementary School and Music Conservatory for a special assembly to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 22.

In addition to being guests for the musical program, Makin Island Sailors participated by reading King's biography and talking about his many accomplishments in the area of civil rights.

Following the program, the group of Sailors visited classrooms and met with students for short mentorship sessions.

"It was very refreshing having the Makin Island Sailors here today," said Julia Hutcheson, an administration assistant at the school. "I'm happy that they came. Now our students can see positive role models and learn about options for their future."

Sailors who attended the program were very excited about the opportunity to hear the music and songs, visit classrooms and talk with the students as a tribute to King's life and work.

"It was nice to see the children playing the instruments and their small choir," said Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Julian, who works in Makin Island's religious ministries department and helps coordinate community relations projects for the ship. "I enjoyed having the chance to talk to the children and being able to let them see a little bit about who and what we are as people and Sailor's in the United States Navy."

Julian said it is important for students to meet military members rather than just see them on television because on television they have no personal connection.

"I loved interacting with the children," said Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Francine Finklea, a school volunteer assigned to Makin Island's operations department. "You could tell they were very excited to see and meet us by their energy levels. They asked many questions, but they were very courteous and welcoming. I was also amazed at the amount of discipline the students had."

Finklea said she tried to relay to the students the importance of staying focused in school, of working hard to achieve good grades, and to think about what they wanted to do in the future.

"I made sure to emphasize maintaining a positive attitude about school to the students," said Finklea. "Staying in school and getting a good education is very important. It helps to shape your future and open more doors for better opportunities."

Oak Park is one of two San Diego area schools that benefit from Makin Island's community outreach program. Makin Island volunteers also work closely with Willow Elementary School in nearby San Ysidro, Calif.

Leadership at all levels on board Makin Island works to inspire Sailors to strive for excellence and continuous improvement. The ship's commitment to schools in the local area, as well as other initiatives that seek to improve people's lives, is a key component of the command philosophy.

Makin Island recently returned from a seven-month deployment and was the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved over $15 million in fuel costs, and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment proved the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.

This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.

The ship is currently undergoing a planned maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this seven month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.

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