As cadets return to campus for classes, the Regiment, athletics, extracurricular activities, and time with old and new friends, they have another opportunity awaiting them—the chance to serve their community. Service is required of every cadet at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, but many students embrace the opportunity to give back well beyond their service requirements.
All cadets are expected to participate in community service regardless of year, rank or seniority. Simply put, if you are not willing to serve, you are not willing to lead. Students can acquire service hours through programs on campus such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, by participating in events in the community like the Town of Bourne trash cleanup, or by volunteering in their hometowns.
“Service is an important part of our culture,” Rear Admiral Francis X. McDonald, the academy’s president, said. “We believe in experiential learning, and volunteering in the community provides a wonderful way for our cadets to learn about the world around them and how they can make a difference. It’s also a great way to develop leadership and teamwork skills and acquire empathy.”
MMA’s culture of service is so strong that every year a Regimental Community Service Operations Officer is appointed to lead the service efforts for the academy. This year’s officer is 1/C Alec Goldenberg, a senior from Douglas who is studying energy systems engineering with a minor in facilities engineering. In addition to his community service role, he is involved in the Energy Systems program where he will be aiding the department where his major will lead, captain of MMA’s track and field team, and vice president of the academy’s Student Athletic Advisory Council.
“I’ve always been inspired to make a difference in the world, and I’ve been able to experience elements of that at MMA,” Cadet Goldenberg said.
Starting as a freshman, he participated in events in his hometown and helped coach the Douglas High School track team. When COVID-19 hit, he spent time running and noticed immense amounts of trash on his small street in Douglas, so he set out to clean it up. “For a week straight, I spent hours collecting trash on my little road. It seemed that I hardly made a dent, but I was hooked,” he said.
When Cadet Goldenberg returned to campus last year, he got involved in all the events he could and worked as a volunteer coordinating assistant. “I got to experience organizing events, and it felt great to have an impact,” he said.
The 2021-2022 academic year is off to a strong start under Cadet Goldenberg’s leadership. Cadets will participate in six service events in September alone, with more being added as the semester is kicking off. On September 4 and 5, cadets participated in the Plymouth Maritime 400 Salute, which honored the rich maritime history of the country. Cadets assisted with event setup, onboarding visitors onto ships for tours, traffic control, event breakdown and other activities.
Heroes Run (tomorrow): The academy will be holding its first 9/11 Heroes Run to honor the nation’s heroes. The 5k ruck, run or walk will be held on campus and will benefit the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit focused on mentoring youth, aiding communities and honoring veterans. Currently, 129 individuals are registered for the event with more expected to participate.
ALS Cliff Walk (Sunday): Cadets will assist at this event that supports amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease through setup, breakdown and other activities. The event is held at Buzzards Bay Park starting at 10 AM.
American Lung Association Annual Bike Ride (September 25 and 26): Cadets will be assisting in the setup and running of the event. The annual event is held in Sandwich.
StriperFest (September 25): The biggest fishing party in the Northeast, held at Marine Park in Falmouth. Cadets will help fishermen of all experiences learn about boater safety, awareness of overfishing hazards, rules of the road and other crucial knowledge for fishermen.
Pumpkin Patch at Bourne Methodist Church (September 26): Cadets will be assisting with the unloading of pumpkins at this annual event that helps the community with the sale of its pumpkins.
“Many of the organizations we’re partnering with have longstanding relationships with the academy, but we’re always looking for new organizations so we provide a variety of opportunities that will appeal to all the cadets,” Cadet Goldenberg said. Some people love to be out picking up garbage while others prefer to serve food to the homeless, mentor younger students or coach an athletic team. According to Cadet Goldenberg, “What’s important is that everyone has the opportunity to get out in the world and contribute their time and talents.”
And the organizations are pleased with the support. “I can say that all the organizations we’ve worked with have been happy that the cadets were there to assist,” Cadet Goldenberg said. “These service opportunities enrich so many lives, whether you view it from the aspect of aiding the community or from how the cadets’ lives are impacted through service. Civic engagement is critical in all of our lives; to make this world a better place we all play our part.”