“I was surprised at how many of these people have a passion and take pride in what they do,” said Harley, a member of the school’s Air Force junior ROTC program. She is considering a career in the military, where she could follow in her father’s footsteps as an Army Ranger if bans on women in combat are lifted.
Oxnard High School Principal Eric Riegert said the military day program is a way of providing as many options as possible for the almost 3,000 students in the school.
“We want to expose them to these things and allow them to pursue options,” Riegert said.
Although his daughter Kendra Riegert is in the Army, Principal Riegert said he recognizes the military is not for everyone. In addition to military career day and the ROTC program, the school offers a Law Academy, a green-based technology program and the Advancement via Individual Determination — or AVID — program, to appeal to a wide range of students.
“Through education, kids can be anything,” he said. “We don’t have a caste system in this country and it doesn’t matter what the family makes. We want to teach these students that they can achieve anything they want through hard work,” Riegert said.
The day’s program was coordinated by Susan Carrasco, Oxnard High School college and career adviser, and Maj. Dale Weaver, a senior aerospace science instructor at the school, who heads up the Air Force junior ROTC program.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of good jobs in the military,” Weaver said.
Representatives from most branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, along with the Air National Guard, were at the school during the daylong event. The students could attend one of six informational sessions in the school’s performing arts center, which were aimed toward students who want to enlist after graduation. Weaver said each session attracted from 200 to 300 students.
Smaller sessions were also offered in the school’s career center for students who want to pursue a college education with the hopes of joining the military as a commissioned officer.
Ninth grader Alex Pelayo was among the most enthusiastic during the informational sessions, eagerly shouting out answers and giving the affirmative Army battle cry, “hooah,” with gusto. Alex said he wants to be on a SWAT team eventually so that he can follow in the footsteps of family members in law enforcement, some of whom are with Los Angeles Police Department.
Alex said he was pumped up with enthusiasm after the talk. “The way they talk to us, they give us respect. For them to come here is a big motivation.”
Carrasco said she was thrilled with the students’ response to the program.
“The main focus is to get them scholarships to go to the universities, especially with the price going up at all the Cal State and CSU schools,” she said.
Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Mace Jr. had the larger crowd of students enthralled as he spoke to them at the school’s performing arts center. “I’m from the Marines and I’m loud and energetic. I give a lot and I expect a lot back,” he said, before advising the young people to have an action plan in place before leaving high school. “When you graduate, it’s usually too late and you’ll find yourself four years from now in the same place.”