Freshman Brian Flaherty of Flowood is one of many whom have already benefitted from the Holmes Community College Magnolia GOLD military science program. The "GOLD" stands for Guard Officer Leadership Development and the program was established at Holmes in the fall of 2015.
"What I learned from these Magnolia GOLD classes will help me better transition into the workforce and has already helped me to have more self-confidence," Flaherty said. "I feel like I have stronger communication skills and a better grasp on just the basic skills needed to succeed in college and in the workforce."
Flaherty, a graduate of St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison, is currently a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. A secondary education major with an emphasis in social studies, he plans to transfer to a four-year college and eventually become a high school history teacher. Currently, Flaherty would like to attend The University of Hawaii upon graduating Holmes.
The Magnolia GOLD program is led and instructed by Sgt. Eddie Washington. The courses, which are offered on the Goodman and Ridgeland campuses during the fall and spring semesters, include Fall Foundations of Officership, Individual Leadership Studies, Basic Leadership and Leadership and Teamwork. Each one is taught in a combined lecture/lab format.
"The Magnolia GOLD program has a lot to offer students," Sgt. Washington said. "Brian, who has the attributes and discipline to be a good leader, is an example of how this program can positively impact students. I teach leadership skills, study skills, goal-setting skills, physical education and fitness; that's just a small sample of what the program offers. These tools will help students for the rest of their school life, well really, the rest of their life. The lessons taught in this program will help students in all of their other classes by teaching them how to study and how to communicate."
The Magnolia GOLD program lends itself to students interested in becoming National Guard officers, whether they choose Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) or Officer Candidate School (OCS). A number of students who took part in the program during the 2016-2017 academic year are planning to take part in a training camp at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, this month. Although there are additional opportunities for cadets, there is absolutely no military obligation required to take Magnolia GOLD courses, and it doesn't mean that they will be required to join the Guard.
"One thing I'd like to stress to potential students is, you don't have to be in the military to be part of this program," Sgt. Washington said. "I think that's one thing that scares some students...they think they have to join the military to be involved in the class. I had about five out of 20 who were not cadets enroll in my classes this year. I teach the classes in a way that everybody can learn; it's not military specific. The skills learned can be used in life in general. Many of these students are university-bound, and they can take what they learn in these classes and use it at four-year schools. These are skills that can help them be better students and better professionals, no matter what field they go into."
A former elementary school teacher, Sgt. Washington holds a bachelor's in elementary education, a master's in school counseling and a specialist degree in administration and supervision. He has 16 plus years of military experience. Sgt. Washington began as active duty in the Air Force before joining the Army National Guard in 2001, shortly after 9/11.
Magnolia GOLD Goodman classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays and Ridgeland classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students are not obligated to continue taking classes in the program after taking one, although it is encouraged.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed the Magnolia GOLD classes," Flaherty said. "In fact, I feel like these are some of the best classes here at Holmes. I've definitely learned a lot and know I'll take these skills with me when I leave here."
For more information on the Holmes Magnolia GOLD program, contact Sgt. Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 472-9005.
IN THIS PHOTO: Pictured are (left to right) Sgt. Eddie Washington, Holmes Magnolia GOLD program instructor, and Brian Flaherty of Flowood, a freshman secondary education major on the Ridgeland Campus who is part of Magnolia GOLD. Flaherty is also a cadet in the U.S. Army Reserve.