Kyndal Olander is excited. The third-year boarding student from Brooksville, Florida has reached her senior year “the way you’re supposed to, by rising up to leadership through the ranking system at Farragut.” Yet, even though she’s achieved the status of battalion commander for her senior year, she is more thrilled with the way residential life has evolved.
“Evolved is definitely a great word to describe it,” says Kyndal, whose list of accomplishments since arriving at Farragut are seemingly endless. “The residential life has really stepped up their game. The type of culture that’s been created with the restructuring of the staff, the different formations, the platform to lead, is gratifying. It allows the regimental staff to lead from the front.”
“Residential life instructors are important for the growth and development of boarding students because this is their (boarding students) home away from home,” says Wallingford, who begins his third year at Farragut.
“It’s important for parents to realize we’re instructing their kids about life, giving them life skills they can use once they leave here. There’s a certain balance between structure and freedom. I remind my staff this is not a boot camp but we do have guidance and standards we have to follow. If we meet those standards, we’ll be just fine and a mutual respect will exist organically.”
To establish and maintain this new way of life, Wallingford made sure to devise a staff with experience working in a dormitory setting. Thus, he brought in people with extensive backgrounds in those areas while keeping others already here who understood Farragut for what it is.
The three new hires for this year include:
- Marc Spera, who has 23 years experience working in residential life at three other boarding schools
- John Gavlick, who Wallingford worked with at Culver Military Academy for 17 years
- Kim York-Wallingford, who worked 15 years at Culver Military Academy in the Health Center overseeing over 800 boarding cadets and their holistic health before joining the nursing staff at Farragut two years ago
The people retained include:
- Pete Vaughn, director of residential life who joined Farragut two years ago after an illustrious 14-year career as a police officer with the City of St. Petersburg Police Department
- Calvin Brown, as Transportation Director who has been a mainstay at Farragut since 1988
- Jim Christopher, who will focus primarily on residential life for all academic concerns pertaining to our boarders while also being in charge of evening study hall
- Danette Locklear, who worked eight years in residential life at Randolph Macon Academy in Virginia after serving in the U.S. Army as a 77F Petroleum Supply Specialist
- Robert Locklear, who worked 12 years in residential life at Randolph-Macon Academy before joining Farragut last year with his wife, Danette
“Having a team that is dedicated solely to what happens with the boarding students will go a long way to helping build a tight-knit community,” Wallingford says.
Besides the new staff, Wallingford incorporated the type of structure he believes will allow the boarding students to succeed from the beginning of each day and through the week that will make each cadet accountable throughout the year.
Specifically, changes to the day include:
- Breakfast formations — boarding cadets are now summoned for formation by floor before breakfast to ensure each student begins his or her day with a meal. “It also has reduced long lines in the mess hall, which caused a lot of people to miss breakfast in the past,” says Kyndal.
- Boarding formation — formation by boarding students before the first school bell. “We used to have cadets arriving to class late, which should never happen if you’re living on campus,” says Kyndal.
- Sheet list — cadets are assigned a specific color of bedsheets for each week to ensure cleanliness. The boarding regiment is tasked to ensure cadets change them weekly.
- End of day formation — Boarding students now gather for formation on the east grinder for activity check. Cadets in athletics, drill, and clubs proceed to their respective activities after being checked off while those without a specific detail venture off to the waterfront as a group. “It’s been really good for us as boarders. It’s created more of a community because everyone is being active. Even better, everyone who goes to the waterfront is getting QBH certified.”
- Activity areas opened for access on weekends — the gym, pool and weight room have been assigned specific coaches for weekend duty so cadets can take advantage of those activities during their free time.
- Nightly advisor program — Administrators assigned to 11 kids a piece. Throughout the year, those administrators meet with each cadet on an individual basis to discuss how life at Farragut is going. Check up on those 11 kids assigned to you. See how their academics are, see how school is, what’s going on, anything they can do to help.
- Life skills club — organized and run by Kim Wallingford, cadets will learn the essentials of etiquette, cooking, and housekeeping that will teach them about responsibilities of home life.
- Privileges — these include extended lights-out, 10:00 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. on weekend nights, with the possibility to bump it up to 1 a.m. “This is where accountability and responsibility come into play, and most importantly, mutual respect,” says Wallingford.
Perhaps the biggest change, though, comes from the fact that “they let us lead from the front,” according to Kyndal.
“The way the residential staff has evolved allows us as leaders to take ownership of our duties,” says Kyndal.
“Not once has an adult had to get involved with issues. The staff is there to offer advice, to mentor, to guide, but they understand how residential life is because the staff is now dedicated strictly to the dorm life and the boarding cadets. They know us and understand us. They know and understand how boarding life is.”
Wallingford believes this aspect is the most important one for Farragut life.
“Are you going to have issues in the dorm? Sure, it’s a community. This kid can’t get along with that kid but you have to learn to talk it out and work it out What better way to do so than let the adult come in and serve as a mentor. The cadet leadership of Richard Dunleavy, Kyndal Olander, Valentina Torres, Zach Fine, and Patrick Hales has done a tremendous job of taking hold of everything and making the system work. When everyone knows people care about them, care about who they are, then life becomes better across the board.”
Commandant Wallingford continues, “Kim and I plan on having open houses at the Commandant’s quarters for our boarding students starting with all new cadets and will wind up with our Senior class. It’s a good time to get know the cadets, have some snacks, play cards and board games, and relax in a home environment to watch some tv or a good movie.”