One of the newest GOAL programs, Military Mentorship, will assist students in the Hillsdale community who are interested in pursuing a military career.
The program’s main focus is supporting the Civil Air Patrol chapter in Hillsdale.
Civil Air Patrol, founded in 1941, is a civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. It provides manpower for low-threat missions, such as search and rescue. The auxiliary also has a cadet program for 12 to 21-year-olds, to learn the customs of the military, aerospace leadership, and voluntary service, according to Colonel Victoria Schmidt, a Hillsdale College senior, and Heather Tritchka, squadron commander of the Hillsdale Civil Air Patrol chapter.
“It’s like a STEM program with the cool addition of learning to fly powered planes and gliders,” Tritchka said.
Tritchka said the Civil Air Patrol gives students a step up when they are applying for college. Cadets get to participate in five orientation flights, the completion of which will allow them the opportunity for flight scholarships through the Air Force, according to Tritchka.
“It gives them the STEM experience that the military is looking for and leadership for other programs that are non-military,” she said.
Hillsdale’s chapter began in part due to Tritchka’s daughter’s interest in a military career, she said. Tritchka said she heard from a friend that CAP is a good way to get a head start.
She got in contact with Ginger Moore, the director of the Hillsdale Airport, and started a chapter.
Tritchka first served as a deputy commander for about two years. Eventually, the chapter, which started with five students, outgrew the space at the airport and moved to the Old Snack Bar in January 2020, she said.
This is when Hillsdale College got involved with the program. Tritchka asked Associate Dean of Men Jeffery Rogers if he had any military-focused students who might be interested in helping with the program.
“My vision was to have a program that was more integrated with the college,” Tritchka said. “We could have the college military kids work on their leadership skills by mentoring the younger cadets.”
Then, Schmidt got involved.
Schmidt was a CAP cadet and made it to the top rank of Cadet Colonel. She is now a senior member of CAP.
Schmidt said she started by attending CAP squadron meetings off and on. Then, last spring semester, Schmidt said Rogers asked her about creating a GOAL program that could connect CAP cadets with students at Hillsdale College who could practice their leadership skills.
“I thought we should infuse this with some young kids who have the energy and the time to pour into it,” Rogers said. “It’s a great mentorship tool. It’s the Timothy model: Older kids reaching out to younger kids. It’s the perfect model.”
Schmidt said she accepted the offer to lead it because she thought she could offer similar leadership skills to that which she experienced in her squadron.
“I liked the idea,” Schmidt said. “Since it is just a new squadron, they don’t really have many people to look up to.”
Schmidt said she got final approval for the Military Mentorship program over the summer.
Now that they are an official GOAL program, CAP gets to use resources at Hillsdale College, like meeting at the Biermann Center, which has helped the program, Tritchka said.
Over two years, the chapter has tripled in size to about 15 dedicated cadets, Tritchka said. Now that they are established, they can recruit even more students to join.
“It’s been humbling and rewarding,” Schmidt said. “I wouldn’t be at Hillsdale if it weren’t for CAP. It’s been great to give back to these cadets.”
After accepting the idea of the GOAL program, Schmidt said she reached out to some friends she thought might want to help.
One of those friends was senior Paul Esposito, who has experience with the Navy Cadet Corp., which is the Navy’s equivalent of CAP.
Esposito said he serves as the military training officer. He is responsible for military discipline, professionalism, customs and courtesies, and drill.
“I teach them how to salute, I teach them how to march,” Esposito said. “I also teach them — a little more on the qualitative side – about how to hold themselves professionally and how to be confident and respond in the military command structure.”
Esposito said he plans to join the Michigan State Police after graduating from Hillsdale. He said he sees his work with CAP as a way of giving back for the growth he experienced as a cadet.
“When I was a cadet, it formed me into who I am. It transformed from honestly kind of a slacker into someone who could excel and be confident in himself,” Esposito said. “To give the kids here that same sort of growth and formation, I count as a proper service.”
Junior Spencer Woodford, another volunteer for the program, said he found out about CAP through the program at Hillsdale College. He currently serves as the physical training officer. He said his job is to make sure they hit their fitness requirements, such as running a mile in a certain time and completing a certain amount of push-ups and sit-ups. He says it is a great practice for leadership.
“There are so many opportunities to share with these younger kids,” Woodford said. “It’s a really cool experience. It’s a lot of fun.”
Tritchka said the help of GOAL students has led to much success in the program.
“They almost run the program,” Tritchka said. “The cadets are absolutely loving the interaction with the college students.”
One such cadet is Chief Master Sergeant Dylan Deasy, a 10th-grade homeschooler. He has been participating in CAP for about two years. He said he learned about CAP when visiting the airport when he first moved to Hillsdale.
“The assistant airport manager told us that there was going to be a CAP meeting in 30 minutes,” Deasy said. “I stuck around for that and found out it was an amazing program that I wanted to be involved with.”
Deasy said he really enjoys the aerospace part of the program. He said he hopes to join the Air Force someday, either through the Air Force Academy or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at a college.
Deasy said that he has enjoyed getting to know the GOAL students.
“Their leadership skills are incredible,” Deasy said. “They mentor us in a lot of ways, keeping us in shape and teaching us to not give up when things are hard, which a lot of our cadets need to hear.”
While the Civil Air Patrol is not having any official meetings right now due to COVID-19 restrictions, cadets are still able to get together in their smaller mentorship groups at the college.
In addition, Tritchka said they have been able to do some color guard at events. For instance, they were able to do a color guard ceremony for the Hillsdale’s Rotary International Club’s 100-year anniversary event. They were also able to encourage an active military member over the summer.
“There was a man in town that was being promoted in the Air Force and he couldn’t go to Washington because of all the shutdowns,” Tritchka said. “We did a color guard ceremony for him down at the courthouse.”
The cadets might also do a modified color guard ceremony for the graduation ceremony at Hillsdale College this year, Tritchka said.
Esposito, Schmidt, and Woodford said they encourage people to join the GOAL program for leadership experience.
“We definitely want to get a larger amount of campus involved in this,” Schmidt said.
Esposito said volunteering in this program is helpful even if they are not interested in the military.
“It is not necessary to have a military background,” Esposito said. “Honestly, they just need role models to look up to.”
Those interested in joining should contact Victoria Schmidt at email@example.com.