Last friday I went with the students at the Christopher House to a day-long career fair. I was really looking forward to the day. Most days we just spend three or four hours with the students but this friday we were going to be together from 8am-4pm. The career fair was on Navy Pier in Chicago at a big conference center. The career fair was sponsored by LULAC (Leauge of United Latin American Citizens) and was targeting Latin American students, which the majority of my students are. I was told that they were going to learn about things like college degrees and writing resumes, along with spending some time at the career fair, walking around to different booths.
Now I’m pretty sure LULAC is an awesome organization, but this student career fair was pretty messed up. In the morning we went to different conference rooms depending on the student’s grades… and the 3 hour seminars were all about jobs in the military or government agencies. We learned about the Air Force, OSHA, the FAA, and other government agencies that the students could work for. We were told over and over “stay in school”, “don’t do drugs”, “get a college degree”, and most of all, “we need more Latinos in these agencies/in the military” and “you can make great money doing this”. The entire thing was a three-hour commercial for jobs with the government and the military. The students didn’t learn anything new except some cool things they could do in these jobs and what great benefits they would get.
It got event worse when we went to lunch. I was pretty excited because we were going to get free lunch… and who doesn’t like free lunch? I arrived with my group of students and probably 250 other teens and some leaders into the room for lunch at 12. We were all hungry and the buffet tables were all set up around the room… it seemed like it was time to start eating. Instead we were subjected to over an hour of people in the military sharing their stories and motivational speeches, their arguments and their commercials for joining the military…. all before they let us get up and get anything to eat. For better or for worse, many of the men they had speak were latino like many of the students and told stories of growing up in poverty… “I had no way to pay for college”, “my parents were working 3 jobs and I raised myself”, “I was stuck in life on the streets”… and, of course, for all of them the military “saved” them and answered all of their problems in life. The military was the solution.
What do you think? I felt like my students were being sold a line… like the military was a sleazy car salesman trying to unload a car that was going to break down 5 miles off the lot. What was military life really like? What will help you make it through, what do you need to make it, and what sacrifices do you need to make? There was simply no mention of any of that. Instead the military gathered a group of students who may not have the same opportunities as students who grew up like me… students who may be worried about their future or getting into college… students who may feel like they have a little less to loose or may feel like this is the best option they will be able to find because so many options seem closed to them. The military seems to seek out these vulnerable students…
isn’t that wrong?
Why didn’t the military come into my high school? Why didn’t they come after me. I was a leader with great grades and spent three years on a varsity team… why didn’t they try to recruit me? Wouldn’t I have been a good fit for the military? But my life was different than the lives of the students that I am working with. I knew that I would go to college, make it through pretty easily, and get a good job. I was a legal citizen with parents who could support me, both financially and with encouragement. I didn’t feel like I needed a way to escape my life or my situation or my neighborhood… my situation was different. So maybe the military has decided that it is just easier or more efficient to go after the vulnerable kids in our communities…
why are we not standing up for these kids? why are we not objecting to these practices?
It’s really disturbing that I have to walk by military recruiters at my school every Tuesday and Thursday. Friends of mine who are considering military service do so because their grades aren’t good. But why can’t the government just encourage them to do well in school? Or give them options other than the military? It makes me sick and it’s time we do something about it. Recruiters don’t belong in high schools. My friends and I shouldn’t be exposed to them in our place of learning.
– Whit Allen, 16, Aurora USA