USS Colorado crew visits Century Middle students for Constitution Day

THORNTON, Colo. – There’s a submarine in Connecticut that has yet to have its first day at sea, but it has a great name, a dedicated crew, and is already making a difference in the world.

[[{"attributes":{},"fields":{}}]]Students celebrated Constitution Day at Century Middle School, Sep. 16, by hosting three crew members of USS Colorado and officials of the Colorado Commissioning Committee. The team is visiting schools throughout Colorado while the submarine is still under construction.

“Part of that is to learn more about the state and the people we’re going to represent, and part of it is to share about the Navy and encourage kids in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Col, Colorado’s executive officer.

Col’s presentation with Petty Officers Michael McKenna and Eric Robinson at a school assembly was a study in submarine technology. Students were fascinated to find familiar touch screens and joysticks are making their way into ship control rooms. They also related to how Sailors use formulas to figure out lightning distance, water pressure and other conditions at sea.

Eighth grader Gracie Pollock learned she was studying all the right things at Century. “We did a formula today in math that was just like what the Sailors did to solve an equation. Seeing how our school work connects to people’s work in the real world shows how it can pay off.”

Col pointed out other things that pay off in the real world: integrity, teamwork, self-determination. “Nobody is going to spoon-feed you what you need to know to be happy, successful people,” Col told the students. “You need to figure out what you like, what your natural gifts are, and figure out what you want to do to make an impact in our world. You really have a ton of potential to make a difference for good.”

Teachers Michelle Pearson and Mike Grapner initiated and coordinated today’s visit. Both are members of District Twelve Educators' Association.

“Our kids had a real sense of pride in their country today,” observed Pearson, a seventh grade geography teacher. “We came together wearing red, white and blue to talk about the freedoms and the rights that we have, gifted to us by our Constitution.”

Century Middle isn’t in a military community, but its community service is military-focused. Students and faculty perform service projects supporting the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum, the USO, and Wreaths Across America, a grassroots organization that seeks to place a wreath at the gravesite of every American veteran across the world.

“I have former students of mine who are active military right now,” said Grapner, an eighth grade American history teacher. “We have a family who lost their son in Iraq, and he came through Century. We feel a personal connection to the military.”

Century’s connection deepened further with USS Colorado on Constitution Day. “Having Lt. Cmdr. Col and his Sailors with us was really a good visual reminder to our kids that there are lots of paths to take in life and the military is an option. Our kids saw we have highly-intelligent, highly-studied people working on behalf of our country.”

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Lt. Cmdr. Col talks with Century Middle student for Constitution Day. See more photos at CEA’s flickr album.

Col’s favorite part of the presentation is answering student questions. A question today on how they avoid running into whales (answer: sonar technology) reminded him of a question at another school: Do sharks eat submarines? Thankfully, no.

“There’s a lot that young people don’t know about submarines and don’t know about the Navy, and we get to help answer their questions and encourage them,” said Col. “There’s a lot in our culture that tells kids they’re not enough. We want to tell them to pursue their dreams, to be determined, and that their potential is limitless.”

“A lot of kids don’t realize that what the military does is hard work,” Jocelyn Pancoast, a seventh grade, said after the assembly. “This presentation showed us that they really fight for their country. It was cool to get to know them and understand what they do.”

The new submarine is scheduled to launch early in 2017 and will be the fourth USS Colorado. The three previous ships with the state’s name were a World War II battleship, a World War I armored cruiser and a Civil War era frigate.