It’s no secret...the future of this country rests solely in the hands of today’s youth and what we do as a society to provide direction, instill discipline and offer hope to our young citizens will have a direct reflection on the future course of this country.
Major General Walter Churchill, USMC (Ret.) saw the need to help guide America’s youth down the right path. His vision was to give every child in this country a chance to succeed in life and have the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle - free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The United States Marines Youth Foundation was incorporated in 1967 to endow the Youth Physical Fitness (YPF) Program and others like it benefiting American Youth. The Foundation, through the inspiration of Gen. Churchill, was organized as a subordinate organization of the Marine Corps League, and for more than 50 years now, has been working to help the youth of this country realize their dreams. Though Gen. Churchill is no longer with us, his will to help America’s youth lives on through the Youth Foundation under the guidance and direction of General Alfred M. Gray, USMC, (Ret.), the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
From a one-high school test program in 1958, the Marine Corps' Youth Physical Fitness Program has grown into a major national athletic event. Recruiting Station New York City conducted the first program and patterned it after the Marine Corps' physical fitness test administered at recruit depots. School administrators enthusiastically received the program and the late Lieutenant Colonel John A. Dowd, officer in charge of Recruiting Station New York City began plans to encourage more high schools to participate. These plans were immediately successful and the Marine Corps' Youth Physical Fitness (YPF) Program was born.
Early YPF meets had been limited to size and awards due to budgetary restrictions. At one point, competition was only open to high school male teams, however, it wasn't long before female teams made their way onto the playing field.
At the first national meet in 1966, Carle Place High School, Carle Place, L.I., N.Y., took first place honors and, in doing so, started a winning streak that continued until 1970 - five succeeding first place national championships. In addition, Carle Place also boasted the 1st place individual high scorer during those five years. In fact, in 1966, 1968 and 1969, Carle Place placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in individual high scorers.
During his tour as the National Commandant of the Marine Corps League from 1960-1961, MGen. Churchill brought the Youth Physical Fitness Program under the umbrella of the United States Marines Youth Foundation and the Marine Corps League. During its early years, the YPF Program centered mainly in New York and Ohio, however by bringing the YPF Program under the direction of the Youth Foundation, Gen. Churchill was able to expand the program across the nation.
What started out as primarily a high school program, the YPF today encompasses students from elementary school through high school. Students can earn up to 11 certificates, one for each school year they participate. Additionally, the Foundation mails several thousand participation certificates (designed for those students who don't attain a minimum score within the program). The Foundation also began offering the Semper Fidelis Award for Musical Excellence to deserving male and female band students who deserved to be recognized and awarded this prestigious award for being the outstanding band students within their high school. It is the policy of the Foundation to ensure that every child who participates in the programs receives the appropriate recognition. The Foundation also supports the schools with Program Books and individual and team awards for high school competition at the state, regional and national meets.
The YPF Program can be incorporated into the regular educational curricula of the schools - public, parochial and private. Its aim is to provide the incentives, motivation, organization and machinery necessary to encourage schools to adopt the fitness program with optimum participation by all students. The program's purpose is to encourage the self-improvement of all our country's youth - physically, morally and mentally. The same philosophy that the program was originally built upon still holds true today.
The National High School Physical Fitness Championships have been held in San Diego during the Armed Forces weekend in May for the past several years. The United States Marines Youth Foundation would like to see more high schools take part in this "only" national level competition.