Victoria Schmidt knows how much it means to a child when an older kid takes an interest in them. As a young cadet in her local Civil Air Patrol, CAP, squadron, she received mentorship from the older members in her program that made a lasting impact on her life. Now, as the founder of the Military Mentorship GOAL Program, Schmidt hopes to pay it forward to a new generation of cadets.
Schmidt grew up watching her older brother go through CAP, the youth auxiliary of the United States Air Force. Schmidt joined at age 12, which was the soonest she could. As a senior at Hillsdale College, she’s now majoring in biology and plans to pursue military medicine after graduation, with the hope of becoming an Air Force doctor.
“CAP is what made me who I am,” Schmidt said. “That’s what I spent most of my time in middle school and high school doing. It gave me a chance to develop my leadership skills. I met a lot of great people; I made some of my best friends through the program. I was kind of sad when I came to Hillsdale because I was like, ‘Oh, I guess that’s the end of Civil Air Patrol.’”
Or so she thought.
It was during her sophomore year that Jeffery “Chief” Rogers, Hillsdale College’s Assistant Dean of Men, told her about the local CAP squadron meeting at the Hillsdale County Airport. Schmidt decided to drop by and before she knew it, she was volunteering with the group, providing help with drills and uniforms.
“Then one day, Chief yelled at me from across the dining hall and was like, ‘Hey, you need to set up a meeting with me,’” Schmidt said. “And I was like, ‘Um, ok.’”
From that meeting, the idea of the Military Mentorship Program was born.
“I met with him and he says, ‘So I have this idea,’” she recalled. “‘We have a lot of kids in the community who need strong mentors in their life. Can we do something to partner between Hillsdale College and the CAP program so Hillsdale students can work with these cadets?’”
Schmidt said it took her about a month to work out logistics and draw up a game plan before she finally sent a program proposal to Chief. By the end of April of this year, the program had been officially approved.
“She did all the work,” Rogers said of Schmidt. “She drew up the Standard Operating Procedures. I was just the bridge.”
Both Rogers and Schmidt emphasized that the purpose of the CAP program isn’t necessarily to get students into the military, nor must student volunteers be military-oriented. There’s a place for everyone who wants to be involved, Schmidt said, adding that she’s received a good response from students and has already filled all six leadership positions.
“You don’t have to have experience in the military to be involved,” she said. “You just need to have a specialty you’re willing to teach — military history, physical therapy, physics, aerodynamics. There’s room for all kinds. I want these cadets to have a wide range of skills and be good citizens no matter where they decide to go.”
Heather Tritchka, the Hillsdale CAP squadron commander and mom of a cadet, said their program is “thrilled” about Schmidt’s efforts to build a bridge between CAP and campus.
“What I’m most excited to see come out of the partnership is the mentorship of the cadets from the college students,” Tritchka said in an email. “Hillsdale College attracts outstanding students who strive for excellence. I can’t wait to see these amazing college students, like Victoria, come into the program and start directing the cadets.”
Schmidt said the program will be a “win-win for everyone,” offering college students the chance to build their resumes through hands-on, tangible experience in their future career field while giving cadets the mentorship they crave.
“If you’re looking to give these kids a strong role model when they might not have one at home, or an example of strong academics when they might not have friends like that,” she said, “this is a great opportunity to influence someone for the rest of their lives.”