Learning to serve before they lead

South Carolina Corps of Cadets gathered on Summerall Field for the closing ceremony from The Citadel Class of 1979 Leadership Day

A look at The Citadel Class of 1979 Leadership Day 2021

The Citadel Class of 1979 Leadership Day is an annual event when every member of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets is focused on service-learning. On this day, more than 1,000 cadets go into the community to volunteer with 30 partner agencies. Others study leadership and ethics with professionals on and off campus.

All of the cadets can add the day’s experiences to the cumulative leadership portfolio they build during their four years of required leadership and ethics courses complemented by year-round activities directed by the Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics.

And this year, Sgt. Kyle White, USA, a Medal of Honor recipient from the War on Terror, visited with freshmen to share his story of leadership and sacrifice from his time serving in Aranas, Afghanistan in 2007.

“In military service, you can go from monotony and repetitive daily activities, to suddenly being in the line of fire. When that happens you know this is it. This is real. And the only things that matter are the people to your right and left,” White said while speaking to the freshmen in McAlister Fieldhouse on campus.

“You won’t understand this until you put on a uniform and put yourself in harm’s way. Spend day and night, 24/7, 365, with your platoon and they become closer than family, they become everything to you. You’ll do everything you can to make sure they come home the same as you do.”

White encouraged cadets who will go on to serve as leaders in the military to keep the mental health of their soldiers in mind and to know how to access resources for them.

Senior seminars with community business leaders

Senior cadets visiting the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston to learn from that organizations leaders on Oct. 20, 2021.

The Class of 2022 engaged with military and civilian leaders around the Lowcountry, with 25 different options based on their field of study and career goals. Five different sections of the U.S. Air Force in Charleston opened their doors to cadets.

Other soon-to-be graduates learned from the FBI, the River Dogs, the Barnwell, Whaley Patterson and Helms law firm, and the South Carolina Aquarium to name a few of the generous organizations welcoming cadets.

From left to right: Executive Director for the Gibbes Museum of Art, Angela Mack, senior cadets. and The Citadel Director of Fine Arts, Tiffany Silverman

Fine Arts is one of the more popular minors at The Citadel, and seniors in the program met with arts leaders around town.

“The discussion revolved around ethical decision-making for issues impacting the artistic community right now,” reported Cadet Samantha Walton, regimental public affairs officer for the Corps and a Fine Arts minor. “We also got to explore behind the scenes of the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Dock Street Theater.”

Additionally, Walton said the group visited the City Gallery, the Vendue Art Hotel and Robert Lange Studios, with an introduction along the way to the Mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenberg, a musician and a champion of the arts.

Home Works of America, Habitat for Humanity projects in Charleston

Working together to put a new roof on a Charleston neighbor’s house through Home Works of America was just one part of the more than 20 hands-on Leadership Day projects where cadets served others in the Lowcountry. There were 15 cadets there when The Citadel President, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, USMC (Ret.), ’79, checked in while making the rounds from project to project.

Over in Ravenel, 40 sophomores and Commandant’s Office volunteers used an array of tools to contribute to a new home being build through Sea Island Habitat for Humanity.

Freshmen work on project to help local elementary schools

Normally the entire freshman class would go to local elementary schools in teams to lead activities with the children about what it means to be hero. Instead, due to the pandemic, they spent the day moving through a number of stations to prepare curriculum packets, hero goodie bags, cards and other items that will now be provided to the teachers at those schools.

Now an endowed annual event thanks to the Class of 1979

Beginning this year, this massive service learning event will be called The Class of 1979 Leadership Day, rather than just Leadership Day, after that class generously stepped forward to provide the funds to perpetuate the endeavor through The Citadel Foundation. A group representing the class visited with cadets and watched the closing ceremony on Summerall Field.

We believe our endowment of The Class of 1979 Leadership Day will have a positive and lasting impact on every cadet, in every class, long after they graduate. It also ensures that the legacy of the Class of 1979 extends well beyond The Citadel’s gates and into the future.

Col. Leo Mercado, USMC (Ret.), former Commandant of Cadets, The Citadel Class of 1979

Watch service-learning in action

Citadel videographer Sam McAdams, ’07, captured some of day’s activities in the video below.