West Point Cadets work with The Fortune Society

West Point Cadets “Give Back” To Fortune

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The relationship between Company A1 of the United States Military Academy at West Point and The Fortune Society was initially forged in the early months of 2014.

At that time, the future Company TAC Officer for A1 was working on a consultation team through Teachers College of Columbia University. As a part of that project, the consultation team was able to build a lasting relationship with many of The Fortune Society’s senior leaders, including JoAnne Page, Nancy Lopez, and Simon Jaffe, to name just a few. At the completion of the consultation project, a promise was made to find a way to work together again in the near future.

As a part of the United States Military Academy’s New York City Engagement Initiative, all 36 cadet lead companies of West Point were highly encouraged to conduct outreach projects in the New York City area. The overall purpose of that initiative is to build relationships between the Military Academy and the large civilian population of the greater New York City area. This initiative further allows cadets an opportunity to embrace the “Army Value of Selfless Service” by creating an opportunity to give back to the surrounding community and help make the city a better place.

West Point cadet and Castle resident, working together

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In order to accomplish this project, each company assigned one of the senior cadets (also known as a First Class Cadet or “Firstie”) the additional duty of Public Affairs Officer. In Company A1, that honor was bestowed upon me, Cadet Victor Porsenna.

While planning the project, many ideas came to mind. I did research on lots of organizations — from soup kitchens to outdoor cleanup activities. However, those ideas seemed like clichés and I wanted to do something a bit more original — something “outside the box.”

A friend outside the Academy proposed working with recovering drug addicts and that inspired me to not only think outside the box, but also to go outside the box by taking the project somewhere outside mainstream Manhattan, which is what most people think of when one mentions New York City. The last piece of the puzzle was put in place when discussing the project with my company TAC Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer. They suggested The Fortune Society because of the previously forged relationship.

West Point cadets help clean The Castle

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And so I contacted Benjamin Solotaire, Fortune’s manager of volunteer services and community engagement, who was very friendly, helpful, and willing to accept what small help we could offer him and his team. He then connected us with Xizmenna Moore, Fortune’s property manager, who was very excited to be receiving our help.

On April 4, the cadets of Company A1 arrived in the morning to clean The Castle and to set up the rooftop garden prior to the beginning of Spring. The work wasn’t easy, especially with Ms. Moore in charge; however, all the cadets were happy to help and engage with the community. Working from 0900 to 1400 — or what most would refer to as 9 AM to 2 PM — the cadets successfully accomplished our mission and headed back up to West Point after a long day’s work.

While the work was difficult, the reward was extraordinary knowing we did something to make somebody’s life better. Not only did we appreciate that feeling, but also the warm welcoming we received from the tenants and the community as a whole. Everyone was happy to see and engage with us despite the fact that they don’t see soldiers in uniform very often. That appreciation makes us that much more motivated to continue to serve the public now and in the future.

Fortunately, this project was a win-win for the cadets and for The Fortune Society, and we can’t wait to further our relationship in the near future.

Written by Cadet Victor L. Porsenna, Class of 2015, Company A, First Regiment, United States Corp of Cadets, United States Military Academy, West Point

Categories: Community, Events

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