WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — For soldiers at Fort Drum, it’s been a while since they walked into a middle school for classes.

But now, through the 10th Mountain Division’s new Mountain Mentors program, working with students will be a common occurrence.

This program was recently launched to help develop partnerships with schools in the surrounding areas. It is focused on career exploration.

“We’re looking at how can we share with [students] our experiences and what the army’s offered us,” Division Civil Affairs Officer Major Jeffrey Lydic said. “Really just reconnect with communities after being gone for so long in the last two decades.”

Case Middle School in the Watertown City School District is one of the first schools to partner with the Division for this program, after working with the school’s teacher Mark Taylor and teacher Rachael Witter.

Several soldiers visited the school to speak to the over 550 students on September 23. Students were prompted with U.S. Army trivia and learned about soldiers from different ranks and backgrounds.

Sergeant First Class Roxanne Nissen, who is a MEDDAC with the Division, was one of the visiting soldiers. She spoke about her experience being an enlisted female in the Army.

“We do want to have that positive relationship between our civilians and our soldiers,” SFC Nissen shared. “Who better to start that positive relationship than with our middle school students.”

Out of all enrolled students at the Middle School, 10% have a federal connection to the U.S. Army. Considering Watertown is only ten to fifteen miles from Fort Drum, Maj. said this is why the school is a perfect place for Mountain Mentors.

“The Army is unique because unless you’re associated with it, or have a family member that associated with it, you don’t really known or understand what the job is,” he said. “So we think it’s important to go out and introduce ourselves in the communities.”

Aside from the educational perspective, of bringing Army knowledge, history and opportunities to students, the program also aims to develop future leaders.

Major Lydic expressed this is the top priority.

“If one thing comes out of this, and we build better leaders, better citizens through our interactions and programs, then we’ve accomplished what we’re setting out to do,” he concluded.

The program will continue this school year at Case Middle School. Students are set to visit the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum, and soldiers will soon be mentoring students during the lunchtime period.