One-star Brigadier General David Mann stopped by Crescenta Valley High School on Wednesday to walk the campus and talk to school administrators and students about what the military has to offer graduates.
Mann serves as deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Recruiting Command. He said there were a variety of reasons for his visit to the high school including talking to students about their career options in the military and to touch base with the high school administrators in the area. Mann added that it was through the recruitment office that he became aware of how low graduation rates are throughout the country. According to a recent study by the California Dropout Research Project, only two-thirds of ninth graders in 2002 earned a diploma by the time they were supposed to graduate.
â€œYou don't have that problem here at Crescenta Valley High School,â€ Mann said. â€œBut there is a big concern about graduation rates across the country.â€ He added that this is a problem for the private sector as well as the military. â€œWe want to partner with educators to keep kids in school.â€
He added that one program, â€œMarch 2 Success,â€ helps students in studying for standard- based tests and to improve in several academic areas. It is sponsored by the U.S. Army.
As Mann toured the local high school campus, he was joined by Associate Principal Chris Coulter, school board member Joylene Wagner, Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Warren Boehm and Lt. Col. David Worley, who mentors the JROTC program at the school. Tejal Patel represented the school's newspaper and Danielle Nelson filmed the event for CVTV along with anchor Benji Kim.
Mann commented on the amazing view the students had surrounded by mountains.
â€œI know why people love to live here,â€ he said.
Mann was up front with his desire to get students into the military.
â€œI honestly believe that if Americans truly understood what it meant to be a soldier they would want to join,â€ he said.
He stressed that he understands that many parents have concerns about their children entering the military, especially with the on-going Iraq war.
â€œThere is no getting around the fact that it is a challenging time,â€ he said.
Wagner said that her son had shown signs of interest in joining the military.
â€œWe told him to wait a little longer before making a decision,â€ she said.
â€œWe encourage [the students] to talk to their families,â€ Mann agreed.
Wagner told Mann that parents had contacted her with concerns about the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a career test that is sponsored by the military and given to those high school students who choose to take it. She said that many parents did not want their children to take the test without a parent's signature.
Mann said that he understood their concerns, but the information garnered by the test can be useful in the private sector as well as the military field. He again stressed that he is coming from an obviously pro-military point of view.
â€œI want to be honest â€” I want them to join the military, but we also want to help kids,â€ he said.
Mann said that he was raised in an Air Force family and had not planned on a military life, however once he got to college, he realized he could get a scholarship through the ROTC program.
The general visited the school's JROTC classroom and answered questions from the students. On the way to the classroom, senior Jesus Cisneros, who wanted to shake Mann's hand, approached the military entourage.
â€œI am joining the [U.S. Army] Rangers,â€ Cisneros said, with pride in his voice.
Mann shook his hand and welcomed him into the service.
Cisneros said that he had wanted to join the army since he was a little boy.
â€œI joined because I wanted to give back to my country and this is the greatest step you can take,â€ he said.
He added that his stepfather had served in Vietnam and was supportive, but his mom was worried.
â€œShe was scared at first, but now supports me,â€ he said.
Cisneros will leave for basic training one month after he graduates this June.
A student in the JROTC classroom asked what Mann would recommend to those who want to enlist.
â€œGet all the facts and seek the counsel of folks that love you,â€ he said. â€œBut at the end of the day it will be you that has to make that decision.â€