Prep school students honor sponsors' dedication
By Ann Patton , Academy Spirit staff
/ Published May 19, 2009
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Preparatory School cadet candidates and Prep School staff said, once again, "thanks for a job well done" to cadet candidate sponsors during the annual sponsor appreciation reception May 2 at the Milazzo Club.
"We know your commitment draws away from your time, and we thank you," said Prep School commander Col. Zachary Todd.
Sponsor coordinator Cleo Griffith also expressed her appreciation.
"This year you opened your homes and hearts to the cadet candidates, some of whom were often strangers," she said. "You lend a lot of support."
While the Prep School numbers are smaller this year, and there is more of a family atmosphere, Colonel Zachary stressed opportunities for cadet candidates to get away from school for a while is still vital.
"It's a home away from home," he said and added students need friends in a home-like atmosphere.
"You can't do this 24 hours a day and night and get through it," he said.
Mrs. Griffith said cadet candidates and sponsors are matched based on hobbies, interests and activities.
"The sponsor's role is to provide them a place to relax and reconnect with family life and offer non-academic mentorship," she said.
Sponsors do not necessarily need to meet with their cadet candidates every weekend.
"You can flex it however you want," she said. "It's supposed to be nice and easy."
The busiest time for sponsors is at the end of the first semester and the beginning of the second.
Drizzly, foggy weather prevented a parade planned before the reception, but it didn't quell the smiles, camaraderie and heavily-laden food table inside the club.
Sponsor Jo Hite visited with her cadet candidate Jared Erikson during the reception.
"We love Jared. He's a great kid," she said and recalled the fun times over the last year making cookies, playing with the family dog and "really killer domino games."
Mrs. Hite and her husband Michael, a Prep School grad, have been sponsoring for about 10 years. They became acquainted with Cadet Candidate Erikson through the Community Chapel.
Ron and Debbie Shelton knew Cadet Candidate Mik Legaspi from Germany where he was a family friend of the Sheltons.
"It's great to let them relax and get out of the house and away from school," Mr. Shelton said.
Cadet Candidate Legaspi appreciates those opportunities.
"Any time we can get away it's good," he said.
Cadet Candidate Andrew Steuckermann also appreciates the opportunities the sponsor program gives him to get together with family.
"It's nice to just chill and awesome to just talk to them," he said.
Army Col. Tom Bergfeld and his wife Kari also served as sponsors this year.
What is at the top of the list the cadet candidates like to do with the family?
"They eat," Colonel Bergfeld joked.
Cadet Candidate Raphael Magana enjoyed his time with the family.
"We have fun, and it's good food," he said. "We're always being watched at the school, but we can be ourselves there."
Mrs. Griffith stressed the sponsor program on the Hill frequently overshadows that of the Prep School, and the school always goes wanting for sponsors in order to make it a one-on-one relationship.
Prep School sponsors often sponsor two, three or more cadet candidates at a time.
Sponsors may also follow their preppie to the Hill as a sponsor, thus allowing for a five-year relationship to grow.
"Our sponsors are just as valuable," she said. "They also really need a support system here. I never have enough."
Mrs. Griffith has a special designation for her sponsors who give of their time and caring.
"You are my stars."
Recruiting for Prep School sponsors begins in June. For more information, or to volunteer, call Mrs. Griffith at 333-2583.