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Washington, D.C., 'Reach for Tomorrow' at-risk kids aim for success at K-Bay

By | | July 18, 2003

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Students and adult volunteers from "Reach For Tomorrow," a nonprofit youth organization based in Washington, D.C., recently got a chance to visit MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, as part of the organization's effort to impact youth as they embark on their high school careers.

But this was no ordinary tourist visit.

According to Peter K. Underwood, RFT chairman and founder, "RFT is all about hands-on activities, and not a series of lectures or standard public affairs tours where students merely drive by the action."

For the 35 students and 12 adult volunteers who participated, the visit to MCB Hawaii more than maintained RFT's reputation for hands-on action, as the visitors competed in the obstacle course, got behind the controls of a VP-47 aircraft (albeit grounded), and fired on the Provost Marshal Office Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer. 

From there, it was on to a well-deserved meal at the Anderson Hall dining facility, where RFT participants got a chance to mingle and eat chow with Marines and Sailors.

Although the experience was new for many of the students, it was old-hat for the adult mentors.

According to Under-wood, over the years "RFT has developed a unique relationship with the Department of Defense, which allows its students and adult mentors to receive hands-on experiences unlike any other organization.  After all, the DoD has the best 'toys' our nation can produce."

Indeed, the events RFT members participate in are meant to be exciting and fun, but there is a deeper meaning behind their visits to military installations.

As Underwood explained in his original letter to MCB Hawaii requesting the base's support, RFT "targets middle of the bell curve, 'C' average, students who could go either way in high school - this is the largest and most-often-forgotten group. 

"These are the students who have the ability, but have not performed consistently," he explained.

Since its founding by Underwood in 1993, RFT has been helping to mold these youngsters as they make the passage into adulthood.

"The results of the RFT program are quantifiable; the outcomes are improved attitude, attendance, achievement, and a resume," explained Underwood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

And though there are many former service members who volunteer their time and energy to RFT, including retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd and retired Navy Vice Adm. Mike Bowman, Underwood points out that RFT " is not a military recruiting program, but one that uses existing resources to expose youth to what is possible through higher education.

The goal is to remove any and all excuses for failure."
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