CARSON, CALIFORNIA — Over 350 high school students from 10 area schools gathered on Wednesday, February 7 for the city’s fourth annual Military Career Day held at the Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center.
The day-long program kicked off with remarks by officials from the local government and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) about options students can pursue after graduating, whether higher education, technical careers, or joining the military, among others.
“When we first did this four years ago, we were definitely all positive about the success of this program because of the excitement I personally got from the city and from the district,” Filipino-American Councilmember Elito Santarina told the Asian Journal. “We clarified from the beginning that we’re not preparing the kids for war. These students are being given the opportunity to evaluate and check into the career options as well as being prepared for a brighter future to contribute back to the city of Carson and greater society.”
Carson Mayor Albert Robles, Mayor Pro Tem Jawane Hilton, Councilmembers Santarina, Lula Davis-Holmes and Cedric L. Hicks, Sr., City Clerk Donesia L. Gause, City Treasurer Monica Cooper, City Manager Kenneth C. Farsing, and Community Services Director Idris Al-Oboudi, were among those present on Wednesday and helped make this event possible.
In the past four years, the student and school participation has more than doubled, Santarina shared.
“Based on the comments we’ve received from students and schools, we’ve been able to narrow down and improve what information and activities to include each following year,” he said.
John Larson, director of communications and policy for the office of LAUSD boardmember Dr. Richard Vladovic, was one of the speakers who addressed the students and set the intentions for why Military Career Day exists.
“You’re going to have to think about what steps you’re going to have to take to give yourselves every chance you have to be competitive, whether it’s in the classroom if you go on to higher education, technical or professional careers you’re seeking to obtain, or one of the military careers you’re going to hear about today,” he said. “Today is about giving you informed opportunities that will make you successful for yourselves, for your communities, and this nation.”
Larson added that “continuing to be life-long learners is critical to succeed in your existence beyond high school” to compete in the global economy.
LAUSD Local District South Superintendent Christopher Downing urged students to “ask questions” throughout the day.
“Research shows that the difference between graduating from high school and not comes out to about $2 million throughout the course of your life,” Downing shared. “So every year, it impacts your income. But we all know you are all going to graduate.”
While most students may not go on to join the military after high school, Benjamin Soy — education services specialist for the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion–Los Angeles — said they can hear about and evaluate the multitude of options available.
The students were then organized into smaller groups and listened to representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, who shared their stories and gave information on the benefits their respective branches offer.
Mario Guerra, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, told the Asian Journal that “only 3 out of 10 high school students are eligible for the Army, so we want the best of the best. There are 150 career jobs that are in the military that are translatable to civilian life — from medical to technology.”
“Many people are misinformed about what the Army is and what the educational possibilities are,” he added. Among the education benefits this military branch offers include financial assistance, access to worldwide learning facilities, and even eligibility for spouses to enroll in certain programs.
Sergeant First Class (SFC) Kenneth Kinney, a Filipino-American recruiter for the California National Guard, said that enlisting in the military has a host of benefits: “it looks strong on your resume, it builds character, it helps make a young man or woman into someone who is competitive and successful career-wise in the future.”
“I don’t go looking for it but there is a lot of respect in having served in the military. I’ve done a couple of tours overseas, and my kids when they go to college — if they don’t get scholarships elsewhere — can use my education benefits, and if I want to further my education, I have that option as well,” Kinney said. “It doesn’t matter what branch of the military you serve, you are going to get a whole host of benefits from any of them.”
Fil-Ams share service experience
SFC First Class Julius Williams of the Army, who was born in the Philippines, said that the career day isn’t to “convince students to join or persuade them one way or another.”
“It’s for them to make an educated choice for themselves,” Williams said, who is a recruiter for the Army Recruiting Center in Torrance. “As a recruiter, I make sure those applying are qualified. You can tell me that you’d like to join, but at the end of the day, it takes a lot to pass the test, take a physical exam, and all that stuff.”
Sgt. Lio Palacpac — who is originally from the Philippines and has been in the Army for eight years — shared that being a member of the military is not just fighting overseas.
“I don’t think of this as a job — it’s a career. Joining the Army has helped me build my future and get an education I wouldn’t otherwise have,” he told the Asian Journal. “I would encourage people to get the right information from the source because there is a good side to the Army.”
Veterans of the Navy — who served over two decades — were also present on Wednesday and shared with the Asian Journal that they continue to reap the benefits of their service.
Herman Bautista, who is part of the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Branch 302, said that being a part of the military was a “big break for me, as a poor guy from Manila.”
Felix Antero, also of the FRA Branch 302 said, “The Navy changed my life. It gave me a lot of experiences, especially with travels to places around the world that I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. If I could do it all over again, I would. For Filipino Americans who are interested in joining the military, it’s a good starting point to what you want to do later in life.”
The schools that participated in the career day included Carson High School, Banning High School, Diego Rivera Learning Complex, John C. Fremont High School, San Pedro High School, Gardena, Jordan High School, Eagle Tree Continuation High School, Rancho Dominguez Preparatory High School, and Nathaniel Narbonne High School.
Downing shared that every 11th grader in the school district will have the chance to take the SAT free of charge on Wednesday, March 7.
The superintendent — who the schools from South LA to San Pedro — said the LAUSD is dedicated to ensuring that students graduate from high school and are prepared for higher education through programs like offering college preparatory classes or weekend classes.
A Military Career Day will also be held in the City of Downey on February 22.