46 in the collection
From the South Bronx to West Point A public school discovers the Army
The Eagle Academy has a website but no information. The Eagle Academy Foundation website has mission statement, board of directors, and so on. The Wall Street Journal attitude is that poor kids "benefit most" from ROTC training. Clearly, if enough poor youth serve in the military, then rich kids won't have to.
by William McGurn
When it comes to our nation's future, millions of us will be glued to our television screens looking for clues from the election results. Not Roberto Huie. When it comes to America's future, this high school senior already knows his part: as a member of the West Point Class of 2015.
Mr. Huie may not be the kind of kid you think of when you think of our military academies. Part Latino, part African-American, he lives in a South Bronx neighborhood that belongs to the poorest congressional district in the nation. Nevertheless, he has two big things going for him: a mom raising him to be a manĂ˘€”and an all-boys public school teaching him what it means to be a leader.
All that converged yesterday morning on the second floor of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. There 50 of Mr. Huie's peers, drawn from the school's highest-performing students, were seated for what theyĂ˘€”and Mr. HuieĂ˘€”all assumed would be another presentation from another college rep. Instead, they watched, captivated, as Army Maj. Michael Burns presented Mr. Huie with a letter from the superintendent of the United States Military Academy congratulating him on his appointment.
For most American kids, it would be an extraordinary opportunity. For kids like these Eagles, it can be a life-changer. The tragedy is that many of those who stand to benefit most from an ROTC scholarship or an appointment to a service academy have never even thought of the military.[emphasis added]
Maj. BurnsĂ˘€”an African-American West Point alum and U.S. Army pilot who has seen combat in both Iraq and AfghanistanĂ˘€”says there are definitely "some misconceptions and misimpressions" that hurt the Army in the minority community. He notes that these misconceptions are sometimes reflected in the corps of cadets. Last year, he says, West Point had only two minority cadets from all of New York City. The year before that it was zero.
The Eagle Academy hopes to change that. The Academy was founded in 2004 by the city's department of education with the help of 100 Black Men, a service organization that puts a special emphasis on education and mentoring. (It is also supported by News Corporation, which owns this newspaper.)
It's not a place where they indulge in pity parties. The credo on the wall outside the principal's office puts it this way: "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."
As a public school, the Eagle Academy is open to all comers. Its location, however, means there are no white students. Achievement, the staff drum into these young men, is open to all those who work hard and set high standards. Mr. Huie certainly did. Now he's the first Eagle accepted by a U.S. military academy.
The school believes that many more might benefit from opportunities the military offers. To that end, Eagle had planned to offer Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps this school year. Notwithstanding the obvious military component of JROTCĂ˘€”all branches of the service have a programĂ˘€”its focus is citizenship, service and leadership. In the 1990s, Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, effectively doubled the program, calling it a "social bargain."
Today more than 450,000 kids at more than 3,000 high schools across the country participate. Unfortunately, New York City's budget cuts meant the Eagle Academy couldn't come up with its half of the money needed for a JROTC instructor. They're still hoping for a donor.
When asked why the Eagle Academy is so keen to sign up, the school's director of college and career-planning, Donald Ruff, says it's "because our values so clearly overlap." In fact, Mr. Ruff says he's already got a few dozen students asking about JROTC. He imagines more would be interested once it got off the ground.
Maj. Burns agrees about the benefits of JROTC. Kids in places like the South Bronx, he says, "have more distractions that can derail them than, say, kids in the suburbs." JROTC is a great way to give these kids a taste of the self-confidence that comes with discipline and achievement, as well as opening their eyes to new opportunities.
Let's not stint the patriotism, either. The young people who are choosing the military do so at a time of war. As Maj. Burns and his colleagues know from sad, firsthand experience, war means that good men and women are sent in harm's way, and some do not live to make the return trip home.
So I ask Mr. Huie if he's thought about that as he steps forward to wear the uniform of his country. "I pretty much came to the conclusion that this is the time when the country needs us," he tells me. "And hopefully I will be ready for the responsibility."
Spoken like an Eagle.
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