NEARLY 300 high school students participated in Military Career Day in Downey, California on Thursday, February 22, featuring presentations and activities by the various branches of the U.S. Military.
The daylong program— held at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy, a Catholic college preparatory academy — kicked off with remarks by Downey Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez and Downey Unified School District Superintendent John Garcia, Ph.D.
St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy President Erick Rubalcava said the school hosted the event because it aligns with its mission of “pride, virtue and purpose.”
“For kids to be able to see different opportunities and to find their purpose — which may be found in the military service — are very important. We are firm believers that we provide all opportunities to find out what that purpose is and that ties into why we were open to hosting the event today,” Rubalcava told the Asian Journal.
The event was also made possible by the City of Downey, Downey Unified School District, and the various branches of the U.S. Military.
“Our vision in the Downey Unified School District is to make sure that every one of our students graduates and is college and career ready, is globally competitive, and has a strong character,” Garcia told the Asian Journal. “We see it as our obligation to provide as many options for them upon graduation as possible.”
Throughout the academic year, the school district hosts college and career fairs and other information sessions like Military Career Day to give its students insight into the different paths they can pursue after they graduate from high school.
“Some kids will go straight to college, some kids may choose to enter the workforce. Other kids may be interested in something like the military that is a very viable career option. There are over 150 possible positions in the Army alone,” Garcia said.
Mario Guerra — former Downey mayor from 2006-2014 who now serves as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army — urged students to ask as many questions to those they met during the day.
“Our Army, for example, is even older than our United States of America, so it’s important for us to carry on that tradition,” Guerra said. “It’s an all-volunteer Army, it’s an all-volunteer military, so it’s up to you to do that.”
He added, “talk to all the different branches and ask them about themselves. I can tell you that every single servicemember here today is highly educated, that’s something they promote.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ripley, commander of the Los Angeles U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion, told the audience that “it’s a privilege and an honor to wear this uniform.”
“I make sure that I remind myself that I’m fortune that I’m a soldier. We have a long history of heroism, leadership, storied accomplishments — not only in the Army, but in the private sector as well,” Ripley said. “All we want to do today is provide you information with what the service does, what kind of opportunities there are from each service, what motivates you from service — adventure, education, scholarships, training, skills.”
“I’m the first person to admit that the Army is not for everyone, but don’t think the Army or military is something you can’t do,” he said.
After the formal program, students broke off into smaller sessions and heard from representatives of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and National Guard.
The representatives spoke about what made them enlist in their respective branches, the recruitment process, and the various benefits that have been afforded to them, such as scholarships and higher education pathways.
“At least the students received the education to know what’s out there,” Rubalcava said. “They may not be called to service but at least they explored the options and that we provided them the opportunity to learn about it.”
A Military Career Day was also held in the City of Carson earlier this February earlier in February.