NEWPORT — With 250 young midshipmen, up to 25% of them women, entering the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Naval Station Newport later this month, the school is looking for sponsor families who would be able to host the students during weekends of the upcoming academic year.
“NAPS sponsors essentially provide a home away from home for our students,” said Marine Capt. Jacqueline Barnum, the Sponsor Program Director. “Our students have weekend liberty and having someone’s house to escape to in order to relax and eat really helps them unwind, refresh, and prepare for the next week of rigorous training and academic challenges.”
Most of the students are just out of high school, but some have been enlisted servicemen before entering the academy. They range in ages from 17 to 21 and all have been fully vaccinated, Barnum said.
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The 10-month course of instruction at NAPS, lasting from August through May, emphasizes preparation in English composition, mathematics, chemistry, physics and information technology. After the courses, the students enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
The Sponsor Program ceased during the pandemic, but now Barnum has been given the command to restart the dormant program.
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“Unfortunately because of COVID and because the program wasn’t active last year at all, I only have 13 volunteer families right now,” she said. “I’m desperate to get people in the community to help us out. At the end of the day, some of these students just need a ride or dinner sometimes. Any help we can get is wonderful.”
Barnum knows she will not be able to match up each individual student with an individual family, although that would be the best outcome. Sometimes families are willing to host more than one of the students, she said.
“The more we can get the better,” she said. “A lot of families are wonderful and they will take three or four students, but ideally we’d like a family per student.
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“If we could even get 100 families this year, it would be amazing,” she said.
In order for a family to become a sponsor, the family must email email@example.com and fill out the online sponsor application. The Sponsor Program staff will process the application and match sponsors with the best possible midshipman or cadet candidate based on similar interests.
“I’m like a matchmaker and I’ll pair the families with the students,” Barnum, said. “It could be anyone, with kids, little kids, without kids, with pets, without pets — anyone who is willing.”
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Those interested may apply at any time, although it is preferred the applications be submitted by Aug. 1, in order to allow each student to be paired with a sponsor before the completion of the Indoctrination period over the summer and prior to the academic year commencing.
A family member will have to complete a one-hour orientation briefing/training once every three years in order to become an official sponsor and to be assigned a NAPS student. More information will be sent out to individuals who apply.
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After rigorous training and learning during the week, Mondays through Fridays, the students welcome a place to go to get away from it all, Barnum said. Usually, they go to the home during the day on Saturday or on Sunday and return to their dorm in the evening.
“Sometimes they could stay over, depending on the leave our commanding officer gives them,” Barnum said. “I remember when I was a student, I went to my sponsors and just slept on the couch because I was so tired from the week. We’re the Naval Academy prep school, so it’s a long week that they have. Just having a place to go that’s off base on the weekend helps them mentally and physically recover from the week.
“They probably wouldn’t be able to sleep over honestly, except in certain circumstances, so it’s just during the day on the weekends really that we’re talking about,” she said.
Barnum is the commanding officer of one of the three companies of NAPS and she has an office near Ripley Hall, the students’ dormitory.
“I know if I was living in there, I’d want a break,” she said.
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