CLEVELAND – Thousands of people have headed to Cleveland for Marine Week, but area youth are getting one-on-one training with the corps.
Nearly 150 at-risk youth are participating in the Marine Week Cleveland Leadership Academy, where they get to interact with the Corps.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to come back and touch some of these young lives and tell them a little bit of the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Riccoh Player.
Player, who grew up in Cleveland, said he doesn’t visit home often, but having the chance to return – and to shape young minds – is a true honor.
To add to this week’s lessons, students got a surprise visit from the United State Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James F. Amos.
Amos spoke to children during Thursday’s program at Playhouse Square’s Idea Center.
“He’s funny,” said 12-year-old Matthew Zana of Cleveland. “I thought he was going to be real mean and stuff like that, but he was real cool. So cool. Like, I think he has a really important role for the military. He buys all the vehicles and stuff like that and they couldn’t do nothing without him.”
Amos said he’s proud of how programs like the leadership academy has touched young lives.
“They’re the future of our country. So, for us to be able to influence the character of their own lives, and that’s what this week has been about for them,” Amos said. “ It’s been about the 14 traits of discipline: integrity, courage, honor, decisiveness. To be able to impart some of that to the youngsters, the youth of America.”
As Marine Week comes to an end, Amos encourages the community to visit its many sites. Events officially end on Sunday.
“I like having the equipment down here, showing off all the things that the Marine Corps does for the city, and the city’s been very, very warm and welcoming to the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “We picked the perfect place to come.”