There are 2,500 miles between Fillmore, California, and North Charleston, South Carolina. But for Cadet Matthew Hammond, who grew up in California and moved across the country to pursue a computer science degree and a military career, community knows no distance.
In high school, Hammond volunteered with the local sheriff’s department for four years, doing everything from organizing toy drives to responding to domestic abuse calls. Fillmore Fire Chief and Assistant City Manager Rigo Landeros, who served as Hammond’s mentor, fostered his enthusiasm for service. During Hammond’s senior year of high school, Landeros unexpectedly passed away.
“Chief Landeros’s death had a profound impact on me. And when I was awarded a scholarship in his name for service above self, it was something that stuck with me and motivated me to keep going.”
Hammond was also driven by his goal to become an Army officer, and in The Citadel, he found a college where he could continue the fire chief’s legacy of service by pursuing a four-year Army ROTC contract.
As a freshman, Hammond joined his Kilo Company classmates working with Metanoia, a nonprofit organization that focuses on holistic community development. Three years after becoming involved with the Metanoia project, Hammond is one of the co-leaders of the Kilo Company service project. Along with Kilo Company classmate Cadet Michael Lima, Hammond develops lesson plans, coordinates cadet schedules and actively volunteers.
For the 15 Kilo Company cadets who volunteer at St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church, Monday afternoons find them working with a group of school children from one of the poorest neighborhoods in South Carolina.
From finger painting to playing the piano, the children Hammond encounters at St. Matthews are eager to explore all the experiences the cadets have to offer—art, music, educational activities and dance.
Work at St. Matthews is not without its challenges. A fourth grader who was having trouble learning a song reminded Hammond what it was like to be young and frustrated. With calm and encouraging words, Hammond helped to break the song down into something more manageable. Learning the notes one at a time, the fourth grader finally mastered the song.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”The look on the child’s face cemented Hammond’s purpose in life. Even though small, that one smile reminds him why he serves. #ourmightycitadel” quote=”The look on the child’s face cemented Hammond’s purpose in life. Even though small, that one smile reminds him why he serves.”]
Although Mondays tend to be Hammond’s busiest day of the week, knowing that he gets to spend the afternoons with the children at St. Matthews re-energizes him, reminding him what really is important in life.
“It’s humbling to realize the effect we have on these children, and I am gratified to have had the opportunity to play a part in their lives.”
To view more student and cadet stories, visit mighty.citadel.edu.