By MIRANDA ENZOR
ON-FIELD EXCELLENCE: Missouri Military Academy offers many of the same extracurricular activities as a regular high school, including popular sports like football and basketball. MMA will begin mid-semester enrollment at the beginning of January.
Courtesy Missouri Military Academy
Look like a soldier. Act like a gentleman. Study like a scholar. That is the mission of Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo., one of the nation’s most prestigious military schools. Located just north of St. Louis, MMA enrolls young men, grades 6-12, several of whom are from the Tulsa area. At the beginning of January, MMA will begin accepting applications for the spring semester.
“We’re not the typical military school you’d think of,” says MMA Director of Marketing Lt. Andy Craig. “What we look for in cadets and candidates are boys of good moral character capable of above-average academic work. They may not be living up to that potential right now, but we’re looking for kids willing to put in that effort because we’ll give them all the tools they need to be as successful as they can.”
The enrollment process involves five elements: an application, certificate of eligibility, grades, principal recommendation and two teacher recommendations, one from an English teacher and one from a math or science teacher. Once a student has applied, Lt. Craig estimates the process takes about two weeks before they are notified of admittance.
“We look at grades for potential. We look at the recommendations to make sure the student isn’t a bully with a history of violence at school. Later on, we ask for a general character reference from a non-family member who has known the young man for a while to get another perspective on the individual. We also ask for a parent assessment later on that’s two questions long: what does your son need and how can MMA help? It’s just those two questions on a page and I have yet to see one come in that’s not completely filled.”
MMA enrolls students for the first eight weeks of each semester. When considering MMA, the best thing a parent can do is visit the sprawling 288-acre campus.
“A lot of people have the stereotype of a junior boot camp or disciplinary facility,” says Lt. Craig. “When you walk onto our campus, it has much more of a college feel to it. There are 100-year-old brick buildings, lots of trees and green grass. Our campus sits on 288 acres. The front campus is 70 of those acres. We have 218 acres right now that the boys use for camp-outs, going on hikes and horseback riding. They have a lot of ground to roam around on.”
The top two questions Lt. Craig is asked when visiting with perspective cadets and their families are about hazing and academics.
“Our school does not promote or condone hazing in any sense of the term and has never subscribed to the use of hazing to break a boy down before building them back up. We instruct student leaders to bring a new boy up to speed as quick as they can so he is earning points in the company’s favor.”
This dedication to positive reinforcement is reflected in the school’s leadership structure. MMA is set up much like a military battalion. High school students are broken into three companies with battalion commanders and staff; a fourth company consists of the middle school students. Belonging to a company gives each student a sense of family at school and encourages cadets to work together to earn points.
When it comes to academics, MMA has a highly regarded honors program offering AP and dual credit courses in preparation for college. The structured environment of MMA gives students access to monitored study hall periods, tutoring opportunities in the learning center and small class sizes, offering personalized attention from instructors.
“When parents are looking for a school like ours, they’re looking for structure and academic improvement in their student,” says Lt. Craig. “The boys earn the grade they earn. We have a monthly grading system where the boys can see from month to month how they’re doing. Those reports are sent home to the parents with comments from the teachers, like ‘Cadet so-and-so is doing a really good job’ or ‘He needs to improve in this area.’ There’s a lot of communication going on between the faculty and the parents.”
Outside of academics, MMA is just like any other school with extracurricular activities ranging from chorus and band to football and golf teams.
“We have a very accomplished, award-winning band. We have a precision and exhibition drill team that has, as recently as 2004, placed second in the nation in competitions. They are top-of-the-line. We have a cadet chorus that is very well traveled who goes out and sings with the band at different ceremonies. If the governor is having an event dealing with veterans or veteran’s affairs, there’s a good chance that they’ll ask us to come down and perform.
“We have a full athletics program with all the major sports – football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, golf, cross-country, swimming and riflery. We’ve got very competitive teams that have so much room for potential. We have students who have never played football, but we’re putting them onto a varsity team, which brings out their competitive edge and camaraderie.”
With students from 28 states and 15 countries, MMA strives to graduate young men with strong study habits and a good moral compass. The school boasts a nearly 100 percent acceptance rate for students applying to college, many of whom go on to West Point or Annapolis.
“We had a young man who graduated last May. I was touring a family from his hometown and invited him to come over and have lunch with the perspective cadet and family. He told them if he’d stayed in their small town in Illinois, he wouldn’t be going to college this year. Without coming to our school, he wouldn’t have had the drive or grades to get himself into college. He wasn’t the best cadet or the best student, but he did a lot of growing up in those two and a half years that he was at MMA.”
For more information about MMA, visit www.mma-cadet.org.