Young Marine Program Aiming to Change Attitudes, Lives

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While their friends spend Monday evenings relaxing, this is the grueling reality for Beloit's Young Marine program.

"It teaches me respect, drives me to do harder in school," Young Marine Peter Hollands said.

In December, the 44 Young Marines completed their 13-week training. Now certified, the kids, some volunteers, others placed in the program by their parents, grow through the tough love of commanding Officer Rita Pelton.

"It's tough for parents to bring their kids, but it's sometimes the last step before court or juvenile hall," Pelton said.

The rules are strict. Kids who forget to fulfill commitments are called out. Those who laugh hit the floor with push ups, but there is also a tight-knit bond between the Young Marines and officers as they cheer on each other during physical therapy.

"They encourage me. They can be tough at times but they also drive me, and that only makes me want to work harder," Hollands said.

And while parents admit the Young Marines aren't walking in the park, they say the new approach provides a life-changing fresh start.

"Their attitudes are better. It raises their self-esteem. Most have little self-esteem before they come in," parent Brenda Newman said.

A program that's transforming attitudes, and transforming lives for these adolescents in uniform.

The Beloit based young Marines are also active in the community, serving breakfast for the Marine Corps League once a month, and getting involved in similar service projects. A new group of young Marine recruits begin their training in April.