How do we shape the character of the next generation?
Ashley Marlow, an Operation Legacy project leader and a San Diego middle school counselor asks herself this question every day. Her goal is not only to help her students build a foundation for academic success, but to inspire them to be community leaders; driven by service, integrity, and kindness. She says, "I’m always looking for ways to encourage my students to be thoughtful and to do the right thing."
Character development in her middle schoolers starts with the "If Not Me, Then Who..." mantra. Ashley explains how the extraordinary strength and courage in service members serve as a positive example to inspire the difference that young people can make in their community. She says, "Every service member has a story for why they are in the military, usually because they believe in something greater than themselves." That's why she invited TMF Ambassador & Marine Veteran Vishal Amin to deliver a "Character Does Matter" presentation to the middle schoolers at La Jolla Country Day School. Vishal shared stories about service, leadership, and integrity; but most of all, Ashley says, "He encouraged them to think about what they can do to make the world a better place."
Inspired and equipped with the "If Not Me, Then Who..." bracelets that Vishal distributed at the end of his presentation, the children volunteered to participate in a service project organized by Ashley as part of TMF's Operation Legacy: A National Week of Service. "Volunteering is a wonderful way to gain a sense of purpose and perspective; it also helps to build compassion and connections within a community." Ashley says, "An added benefit is that when we help others, it helps us to feel good as well." The kids participated in making gifts of candy and appreciation cards to pass out to former service members at the VA Hospital in honor of Veteran's Day on November 11th of last year.
Through Operation Legacy, these kids are making a difference and leading a movement of service that will undoubtedly shape generations to come. "If we all act with integrity, recognize the impact of our choices, and come together to serve others, we can build stronger, more united communities."