The Path to Transforming Veterans and Dallas Public Schools

April 6, 2017

Finding That Connection

“I felt for the first time like we were on the same page while volunteering for the service project,” said Nissa Salas, a Mission Continues volunteer in Dallas.

Nissa met her husband Mark Salas after he had separated from the U.S. Marine Corps. Nissa noticed Mark had a hard time relating to her and to other civilians. “He had only one or two friends, and did not trust anyone. His habits were very much military-style and he was shut down from any social activity,” she said.

At the recommendation of their counselor, Nissa and Mark tried volunteer service with The Mission Continues.

Nissa describes their first project. “Our first assignment was painting a computer lab at the Interfaith Housing building, when my husband had just experienced knee surgery. We participated while he was on crutches, and my husband had a smile on his face the entire time.” Continue reading “The Path to Transforming Veterans and Dallas Public Schools”

A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community

February 27, 2018
By Derrick Clark, Platoon Leadership Team Member


As a child growing up in the inner city of Pittsburgh, I was always made aware of the importance of Black History Month. So when February came around, we students knew there was going to be some cool classroom projects, autobiographies, and pictures surrounding the classroom that month for us to learn more about African American culture and Black History.

We learned about Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and a host of other well-known African American leaders. Some of us would even get to dress up and reenact their life stories in plays, skits and musicals.

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Although it is not blatantly obvious, the undertones of segregation and racial discrimination are prevalent throughout Pittsburgh. To get a glimpse of how separated Pittsburgh can be, one would only have to step one foot into my childhood community, Homewood.

Homewood is a predominately African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh. When I was a young boy in Homewood, the neighborhood was fun and recreational – there were plenty of activities for children to do around the neighborhood – a skating rink, sports programs, and the like. But the effects of poverty, low-income housing, underemployment, and the drug crisis of the 90’s have since crippled the community.

Pittsburgh has invested millions of dollars into infrastructure and community development, but Homewood was left out of the redeveloping plan. The community still provides programs for youth, but they are not well supported anymore — they have less funding, less manpower, and fewer resources.

Crime is still prevalent in the area and many children and residents have little to no one to look up to. A lot of its residents share the sentiment that no one outside Homewood cares about them.

The struggles of the community and its children resonate with me on a personal level. Like many children in the community today, I grew up with no father in the home. I had a single mother who was addicted to drugs, and it seemed at times that no one cared about the harsh realities of poverty-stricken families in less affluent, drug polluted, communities.

All we had was each other, and with the community being almost completely African American, it seemed as if the outside world simply did not want to deal with the issues in Homewood.

And yet, in the face of this adversity Homewood has always been a proud community. Continue reading “A 40 Year Journey for Unity in My Childhood Community”

“When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself”

November 30, 2017
Majken Geiman, Former Platoon Leader

For a long time I let the fear of disappointment hold me back. Life in Chicago’s south side as the eldest child of a single mother was what you’d imagine. I attended a large public high school, spent hours every day commuting on the bus and subway, failed multiple classes, pawned 35 cents off my friends daily so that I could buy reduced-price lunches, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma.

Even if I made it as far as college, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.

All of that changed when I stumbled upon the United States Army’s website. Free college and a commission as an officer? I was sold. By some incredible stroke of luck, I made the cut. That unusual success changed my entire attitude toward life.

I suddenly had people telling me I could be a leader—that I had the ability to inspire others. Being afraid to try was replaced by a belief that I could lead and change the world.

After transitioning from active duty into the National Guard I didn’t have the same type of discipline or feeling of empowerment in my life. But then a Marine friend invited me to attend a service project with The Mission Continues in Pittsburgh.

It was incredible–for the first time I found myself surrounded by people who knew what I was going through and who I could talk and joke with veterans as if I’d known them for years. Finally that sense of purpose and leadership came back.

When I decided to move to Los Angeles I didn’t know anyone, but I did know how to look up the local platoon. I ended up joining the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon, which focuses on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low income neighborhood in East LA.

The opportunity to lead the platoon came in 2015. My time as a platoon leader transformed me in ways I never expected. I no longer let fear hold me back; instead I remember my strengths as a leader.

After two years of dedication, we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights, and regularly hold service projects with and for the students.

I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw their faces light up when they built a bench completely by themselves. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences. I’ve put veterans and kids together in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it!

When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might be afraid to try.

The military helped me push myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way my mentors did, I hope I can look the youth of the next generation in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”

With your support today, veterans like myself can make an impact in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights across the country. I serve and will continue to serve all of them. Please join me by giving this year.

 

Yours in Service,

Majken Geiman

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

Project Phoenix Rising: Rebuilding Orlando after Hurricane Matthew

August 17th, 2017
By Robert Withers, Platoon Member

“This community may be ‘at risk’ — but the children are not.. they’re just good kids,” said Anna Dieuveuil, Service Director at the Taft Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, while volunteers from The Mission Continues Orlando 1st Platoon listened intently. Continue reading “Project Phoenix Rising: Rebuilding Orlando after Hurricane Matthew”

Charlie Class 2017: Kicking Off A New Path of Service with Sports for Youth

July 14, 2017

Today we welcome 96 fellows and 14 platoon leaders of Charlie Class 2017 to a weekend of Orientation in Boston. We will be joining forces with the Boston 1st Platoon to help them kick off a new mission in the Dorchester area. These fellows and platoon leaders are veterans who have committed to serving their country again, this time in a different way. They have decided to use their leadership, discipline, and teamwork skills to combat homelessness, climate change, childhood poverty, and many other challenges we face here on the home front.

Our fellows will be embedding with local nonprofits in their cities for six months, while our platoon leaders will be leading groups of veterans to complete service projects to support places like nonprofits in underserved neighborhoods, national parks, urban gardens, and public schools.

The Boston 1st Service Platoon, a group of dedicated volunteers, have identified Dorchester as the best place to focus their efforts. Dorchester is Boston’s largest and most ethnically diverse neighborhood, as it is home to large Irish, Vietnamese and Cape Verdean communities. Dorchester has the second highest rate of child poverty in the Boston area, coming in at 39.2 percent, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. In addition, the Boston Police report that a few Dorchester neighborhoods are gang “hotspots.”

City Impact Manager Stephanie Grimes said that the platoon’s goal in Boston is “to expand athletic, nutrition and academic programming available to community members.” With this in mind, she found a partner in a nonprofit called All Dorchester Sports & Leadership. Continue reading “Charlie Class 2017: Kicking Off A New Path of Service with Sports for Youth”

In My Service Platoon, I Can See the Impact I Have Is Real

June 20, 2017
By Majken Geiman, Platoon Leader

When people ask me why I joined the Army, I usually talk about my desire to serve, wanting to challenge myself, and the satisfaction and pride that I feel being able to help my soldiers learn new skills and develop as leaders. I could gush for hours about happy I am that I signed on the dotted line at 17 years old.

It would all be true, but it wasn’t why I joined. I usually leave out the less glamorous reality – I would likely never have served if it hadn’t meant free college through my ROTC scholarship.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago as the eldest child of a single mother. I attended a large public high school, spent hours every day commuting on the bus and subway, failed multiple classes, pawned 35 cents off my friends daily so that I could buy reduced-price lunch, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma – if I even made it that far.

I was mostly concerned that if I applied and was accepted into a university, I would never be able to pay for it. Parental assistance wasn’t a reality, and for a long time I let the fear of disappointment prevent me from considering that route.

All of that changed when I stumbled on the Army’s website. Free college and a commission as an officer? I was sold.

By some incredible stroke of luck, I made the cut. That unusual success changed my entire attitude toward my life. I suddenly had people telling me (as wrong as I was sure they were) that I could be a leader—that I had the ability to take care of and to inspire others.

From my first terrible APFT, at which all of the older cadets circled back and ran an extra two laps to finish with me, to graduating with the top GPA in my ROTC Battalion and being trusted to take over my own platoon, I found myself in an echo chamber of support.

Through the military, I learned about brotherhood and the importance of building up the people around you.

I have done my best to take that lesson with me from Chicago to Pittsburgh, to Missouri, and most recently, here to Los Angeles.

The Mission Continues Los Angeles 2nd Service Platoon is a volunteer group geared toward veterans, and is focused on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low-income neighborhood in East LA. When I took over as platoon leader in 2015 we were almost brand new. We had a few dedicated volunteers, but not many. We didn’t have an operation.

Two years later I barely recognize the platoon I stepped into. Now we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights and have completed countless service projects both with and for the students. People reach out to the platoon when they need help – we rarely have to look hard for new projects or opportunities to serve the community.

When I look at the students in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might not yet have the confidence or the resources to try. I know they can get there.

I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw the way their faces lit up when they were able to build a bench completely by themselves. I’ve negotiated with parents in terrible Spanish to be able to give their kids a ride to an LA Galaxy game to thank them for helping us revitalize their school campus. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences with them. I’ve spent 12 hours getting sunburned while waiting on Home Depot deliveries. I’ve painted murals. I’ve put volunteers and kids in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it.

The military helped me push myself past the limits I had set for myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way that my mentors did, I hope that I can look these next generations in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”

I serve and will continue to serve for all of them.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

Bravo Class of 2017: Changing Our Life Story by Helping Youth Do the Same

April 5, 2017

This weekend The Mission Continues is rising to new heights by coming to the mountainous city of Denver, Colorado, for our Bravo Class of 2017 Orientation. Orientation marks the beginning of a new chapter for our new fellows and platoon leaders, as they will embark on a new mission to serve again. In doing so, they will be changing the veteran narrative, where they step up to the plate to serve their country even after they’ve come home. We are pleased to welcome this new class of platoon leaders and fellows into our Mission Continues family. Their first act of service will take place at the Tennyson Center for Children, where they will kick off our new relationship with a day of meaningful impact. Continue reading “Bravo Class of 2017: Changing Our Life Story by Helping Youth Do the Same”

Teaming Two Unlikely Pairs in Orlando

March 17, 2017
By Melissa Geiwitz, Community Partner

The Mission Continues recently asked Home Builders Institute (HBI), “How are we doing?”

Immediately, we reminisced about the unique and special relationship The Mission Continues has helped forge between our Central Florida veterans and youth. In an effort to bring positive role models into the lives of juvenile justice-involved youth, a program called Project Bridge has teamed the two unlikely pairs, and it has led to meaningful and impactful work for so many.

Since September 2015, HBI and Eckerd Kids Project Bridge have partnered with The Mission Continues Orlando 1st Service Platoon. With this innovative partnership, veterans can continue serving at home while solving specific challenges in their communities.

In Orlando, the mission of the local platoon is working with Project Bridge youth who are at risk of failing in major tasks necessary to assure a productive life. Continue reading “Teaming Two Unlikely Pairs in Orlando”

In Seattle, A New Platoon with a Mission

December 9, 2016

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The Seattle 2nd Platoon is one of The Mission Continues’ newest platoons. The Platoon and its Platoon Leader Matt Moroge, reported for its first service project in Marysville, WA at the Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School recently during our Veterans Day service campaign. The school’s student body is 95% Native American, so it was only fitting that this project tipped its hat towards the strong Native American culture that makes up the Pacific Northwest. Continue reading “In Seattle, A New Platoon with a Mission”

Inspiring Service through Art

July 27, 2016
By Doug Aldrich, Artist

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As an artist supporting The Mission Continues Service Learning Project series with Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School in Harlem, I learned as much about service from the students as much as they’ve learned from me. I volunteered and led three classes of 6th grade students to create a mural through their own visual and literary submissions.  Continue reading “Inspiring Service through Art”