How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Visiting with the cadets from 1st Battalion on Matriculation Day. Dorie Griggs second from the left.

By Dorie Griggs

Parents of cadets at The Citadel are a special group of people. They help each other through the uncertainties of knob year and become friends for life.

The Atlanta Citadel Club had a “Mom’s Club” for years. The Mom’s Club was started by the wife of an alumnus who was also the mom of a cadet. The group acts like a support network for Georgia families. At the end of my son’s knob year, an email went out asking for volunteers to help since the current coordinator had a graduating senior. I volunteered assuming I would help an upperclassmen’s parent. As it turned out, two of us volunteered and we both had rising sophomore cadets.

With one year of experience as Citadel parents under our belt, we headed up the group. Our first official decision was to call ourselves the Georgia Citadel Parents Group to make sure the dad’s felt included.

Citadel Family Association volunteers help the arriving cadets and their families unload the cars.

Each spring, we set up two parent orientation days in June and attend the pre-knob dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club for the incoming first year cadets. At the orientation meetings, we review The Citadel’s list of items the cadets are required to bring.  We also go over the “Nice to Have List” the Citadel Family Association (CFA) has on its web site.  The new parents have a chance to ask questions and the parents of upper class cadets have the opportunity to share their tips on surviving the first year.

There are so many things to learn that having a group of parents who have been through it really helps the new parents. In addition to what items to pack, there are new terms to learn, traditions to understand and some cadets are on military contracts, which adds a whole different perspective to the regular college experience.

CFA volunteers visiting with parents as they wait for their cadets.

Getting a cadet ready to report is really a team effort, but as a leadership school, once the cadets arrive at the school the parent involvement really drops off. The cadets begin to take charge of their own experience and are responsible for letting their parents know what they may need. Generally speaking this involves support, reassurance, reminders of why they are there and some money in their Bulldog account every now and then. 

In addition to volunteering with the Georgia parents, I also became active in The Citadel Family Association.  The CFA volunteers are a big part of Matriculation Day, the day when first year cadets report.  The CFA volunteers wear blue shirts that day.  They are there to help the new parents navigate the stressful morning when you drop off your son or daughter.  As the new families arrive, the CFA volunteers help unload vehicles and support the parents as they wait for their cadet to go into the barracks to report for the first time. 

The families and volunteers carry everything into the barracks.

Many volunteers can be seen giving hugs and offering a tissue or two.  Dropping a child off for college is difficult, leaving them at a military college is a notch or two above difficult. The training I received in seminary in chaplaincy work came in handy when listening to stressed parents.

The morning ends with the president addresses the new parents followed by a barbecue lunch for the parents and CFA volunteers.
 
The best thing about my son’s sophomore year was the friendships I formed with other parent volunteers. We had a particularly close group of friends who met and worked together that year. We are spread across the country. Our cadets often times didn’t know each other, but that doesn’t matter. We became very close out of our shared love for our cadets.

We call ourselves The Citadel Ya-Yas. (I’m sure I’ll write more about this group of friends later.) We met while supporting each other through the leadership training our sons and daughters went through at The Citadel.  We now support each other as our children graduate, are commissioned and go on to jobs or training in the U.S. Military.  A few of the graduates are now deployed.

A few of The Citadel “Ya Ya’s” (plus a son of a Ya Ya) gather for a reunion and to show off our new shirts thanks to Kaye (Not pictured) March 2010.

Our children decided to take the road less traveled and attend The Citadel.  We supported our children and each other along the way and found lifelong friends in the process.

Dorie Griggs has contributed previous blog entries about her journey as the mother of a Citadel cadet. You can read her previous submissions:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

 

 

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19 Responses

  1. It sounds like the support coming from the Georgia Citadel Parents Group significantly increased when you and your associate got involved (applause…applause!!). And it also sounds like the YA-YA group of friends that you made have the potential of providing long-term help and support. I suspect that as much or more support will be needed after matriculation as was needed before it. I look forward to seeing your post with more about the YA-YAs that you alluded to.

    Thanks for this review and hopefully a number of additional parents will get involved as needed not only at the Citadel but at the other military academies too.

  2. Thanks for another GREAT post Dorie! I could not have made it through the last 4 yrs with the Ya-Ya’s.
    Thanks!
    Maureen

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