Olivia Bean, rising senior at Athens High School, attended the Semper Fi Battles Won Academy in Washington D.C. this July, where she participated in a variety of physical, mental, and team-building exercises designed to strengthen leadership skills through the spirit of the Marine Corps. About 100 students, selected from 6,000 applicants nationwide, participated along with an adult mentor from their school or community. Olivia represented a region comprising most of Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia. She chose West Elementary sixth-grade teacher Jennifer Hinkle as her mentor.
The Academy, which took place from July 12-17 in Washington, D.C., was modeled on Marine Corps values and history. This was the second year of the academy, designed to inspire a young generation of leaders, nurture their physical and mental abilities, and show them a variety of pathways to success. A major theme of Battles Won was overcoming adversity and setbacks, reiterated daily through 19 motivational speakers, physical challenges, and educational experiences.
“Going into Battles Won, I had no idea what I was getting into, as it was a whole new experience and the academy itself was new as well,” Olivia said. “After, I realized it was one of those experiences I’ll never forget. It showed me so much and I was really privileged to be a part of it.”
During the Academy, Battles Won participants completed all activities in squadrons of five or six peers and mentors, guided by a Marine Corp serviceman or woman. Olivia’s squadron, Chosin Reservoir, was named for a battle the Marine Corps fought in the bitter cold in Korea in the winter of 1950, which taught the Marines the value of preparing for unexpectedly harsh climates.
Olivia said that working within a squadron gave her the opportunity to meet people from all over the country who are excelling at school, athletics, and community involvement.
The first full day of Battles Won exposed participants to the Marine Corp lived experience, starting with a 5:30 a.m. departure to Marine Corp Base Quantico, where they underwent a short “boot camp” followed by a tactical challenge, weapons education, and Marine Corp history. Completing the experience, lunch was Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s). Free time was given to meander the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, before heading back to the J.W. Marriott in downtown Washington for dinner and speakers. The second day featured a Crossfit Challenge, a service learning project, and an evening reception at the National Archives. Most of the third day was spent in a competitive scavenger hunt at the National Mall, where squadrons raced among memorials, completing questionnaires and taking photos to fulfill challenges. Although Chosin Reservoir performed well, they did not place among the top three finishers.
At a formal banquet on the Academy’s last evening, the squadrons retired their flags and heard speeches from ESPN Anchor Sage Steele, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, and top Marine Corp Commander, Gen. Neller.
"After returning home from the academy, I feel more prepared to talk about my future, to set plans and start the next chapter of my life.. I would say having this opportunity is with my mentor, Jennifer, has given us the strength to face life's challenges."
Photos are submitted from the Battles Won Academy.
Article is submitted by Jennifer Hinkle
Olivia's parents are local teachers, Anne L'Heureux and Todd Bean