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Upon entering the gymnasium at School Ages Services here, echoes of parents talking engulfed the room as they were about to witness their children graduate Feb. 21 from the Saturday Scholars program organized by the Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA).

Each mentor and student was called to the stage to receive certificates from NSGA Commanding Officer Capt. Kathleen Nelson and Installation Commander Col. John W. Ives.

Children proudly came down the stage holding their hard earned certificates in the air, while others simply admired them.

Parents stood ready with cameras and camcorders.

Feeling good about her success after the ceremony, Dane-sha Anderson, 11, said "I think I improved really well. I feel really confident because I don't have a hard time doing stuff."

The first week Dane-sha came to Saturday Scholars, she was a quiet and shy. But she said the practice and the mentors made it easier for her. "I had fun and would do it again," she said.

The six-week program was started to assist children needing a little extra help in reading and mathematics. With military and civilian volunteers lending their time to the cause, they helped over 40 children with their schooling in the Fort Meade cluster.

In this particular study session, students were specifically working toward doing well on Maryland state standardized tests at the end of the month.

Sheila Brandenburg-Thompson, Child and Youth Services (CYS) liaison for the NSGA, said the success of the children's intense study was a two-fold benefit.

"I think it's a wonderful program to build the child's self-esteem. In turn that helps them with their academics because it builds self confidence," she said.

With the help of Heidi Walker, CYS homework instructor responsible for the children's weekly curriculum, Petty Officer 1st Class Anthonio Brockington, volunteer coordinator, and parents, the program also brought together a community.

"I think this is a community project and it shows the dedication the military has for their community," Brandenburg-Thompson said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class JoAnn Herbert, of the Naval Information Warfare Activity here, is a veteran volunteer. She said it is "very rewarding, any volunteer duty working with children is my favorite."

Herbert felt like she made a difference in her student's life when he said he would do better in school because of her efforts.

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