Dear Real Change,
I am a former Seattleite, now living and teaching high school in the rural Mississippi Delta, and was particularly drawn to Laura Peach’s “Be All that You Can Be” article in the March 14-20 Real Change. Growing up in northside Seattle Public Schools, I have strong memories of rarely seeing a military presence at my schools but an overwhelming presence at central and southside schools. This disparity always made me uncomfortable, and the unfairness in many ways fueled my passion for entering public education in hopes to fix some of the broken policies and underfunded programs.
However, nothing compares to what I see now at my rural, isolated, and poor high school, 99 percent of the student body being minority. JROTC is a strong organization that flourishes at my school. Students, many of which have never seen the Mississippi River — a 30-minute drive from our town — are drawn to the military and its promises of paying higher education and helping students “see the world.” The question that Ms. Ragland posed at the end of the article is what I wish to speak to: “Why not push for kids to go to AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps instead of the military?” And, unbeknownst to many, this is exactly what the U.S. Public Service Academy organization is trying to do.
The U.S. Public Service Academy will be America's first national civilian university that will be modeled on the military service academies by providing rigorous undergraduate education and helping to develop passionate and patriotic leaders who want to serve their country. The difference is that upon graduating, these students will enter the civilian service sector of our economy — by working as teachers, police officers, emergency responders, and other critical public service jobs at the local, state, and nation levels — in order to really address critical needs in our society. The goal of the USPSA is that these graduates will be on the fast track to leadership, propelling them into a lifetime of public service, arguably jobs that are much more beneficial to the betterment and advancement of our society than military jobs.
On March 22nd, Senators Hillary Clinton and Arlen Specter, and Representatives Jim Moran and Christopher Shays joined dozens of USPSA supports to announce the introduction of the U.S. Public Service Academy Act to Congress. Both Senators called for immediate action on this legislation and the next step will be hearings to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in the Senate and to the Committee on Education and Labor in the House.
However, there is still a lot that we as citizens can do to convince the Congress to support this Act and get this academy built! Please visit the website (www.uspublicserviceacademy.org) and find a way to help, whether it’s by just signing the petition and writing our representatives or making presentations about the academy in the Greater Seattle community.
I pride myself on being a Northwesterner by heart, because never have I lived in a place where grassroots movements to better our society have flourished like they do in Seattle. That is why I know that the Northwest will help the U.S. Public Service Academy give students an opportunity to become patriotic leaders of our country who will address critical needs in American society… instead of rely on their bodies to fight unnecessary wars overseas.
Alexandra Wakeman | Indianola, Mississippi
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