Military Opens Door to More Dropouts

ANNVILLE, Pa. (AP) – Brittany Vojta survived boot camp. It was high school she couldn’t make it through. Now, however, she has benefited from a program the National Guard started this year in Pennsylvania for privates who drop out of high school after signing up.

In an old barracks at Fort Indiantown Gap, the 18-year-old Cleveland woman and other dropouts spent three intensive weeks in class this summer to help them pass their GEDs – so they would meet the minimal educational requirement for staying in the Guard.

Straining to fill its ranks with the Iraq war in its fifth year, the military is taking on an ever bigger role providing basic education to new recruits. The strategy is potentially risky for the military as it strives to maintain the quality of its force, but it’s giving dropouts like Vojta a second chance.

“Something happened in that soldier’s life that was bad. … We have the ability to stop another bad action from happening – them getting discharged from the military,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Walton, 32, who started the Pennsylvania program. He says it is not about filling quotas but helping the troops.

I have to salute the military, the Pa. Guard, for doing this, I know a guy from many years ago that had serious family trouble at home, he was a Senior in high school but his relationship with his Dad was far less that desirable, he quit school and went into the military, they would take you back then if your test scores were high enough, with the caveat that you must finish your education and earn your GED before you were through with basic training or boot camp and allowed to fully graduate with your platoon.

He went on to enjoy a very successful career and excelled at his every endeavor, he gained much confidence once he was in an environment where he could express himself and was encouraged instead of belittled, and he continued his education, earning 2 degrees, just think what a loss it would have been if the military had turned him down and denied him the opportunity to reach for the stars and make a better person of himself.

While that program is aimed at keeping recruits in uniform, the Army and Army National Guard also reach out to past dropouts – some of them already years out of school – with a promise of helping them get their GEDs if they enlist. More than 13,000 recruits have earned GEDs through the program, known as Education Plus, which started in 2005.

Pennsylvania’s GED program is aimed at soldiers who enlisted in high school while in good academic standing, then failed to graduate. The military allows people as young as 17 to join, if they have permission from a parent.

And by giving our young people this chance we may well be cultivating the greatest leader in military history, or a scientist that discovers the cure for cancer, or perhaps the next great president, or an award winning writer that can paint a picture with his words.

There are some kids that just don’t get it in high school, no matter how hard they try, I had one subject that dealt me fits, Algebra, and I failed it 2 years in a row, 2 years in the same class with the same teacher and I failed it twice, well, looking back through eyes that have seen a lifetime of experiences since then, I have come to the conclusion that I, and several others that failed that same class, more than once, weren’t necessarily failures.

I look back and see the records OF that class and teacher and I feel that SHE failed US, we didn’t fail, she just wasn’t a great teacher, or, actually, she wasn’t an educator, and that happens to many kids, not just the ‘bad’ kids, even kids that want to learn, kids that have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and maybe the Army IS the place for them to get that right touch that they so desperately need to succeed in life.

“I never understood math … for four years in high school I couldn’t do it,” said Vojta, a private first class with the Ohio National Guard who passed her GED test and hopes next to become a military police officer. “Come here for a couple of weeks and I got it down because they’ve actually taken the time to explain it.”

I applaud the Guard for this program, I know they are producing WINNERS, and I know that we, the citizens of the USA, will benefit from this program as these fine young people go on to bigger and better careers than they could have even imagined as drop outs.

Just because a kid can’t quite grasp the standard high school curriculum doesn’t mean they can’t go on to great things with the proper guidance, and this program is providing that guidance.

Defense analyst Cindy Williams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the military could be hurting itself over the long term by recruiting dropouts. The Department of Defense’s own studies over 40 years have shown that soldiers with regular high school diplomas are more likely than those with an equivalent degree to finish an enlistment term.

And suppose this analyst is able to convince the military to do away WITH the program?? Money saved?? Sure, but suppose this program produces the next Gen. George Patton??

Then it’s worth every penny it cost and every effort put forth to make it work, I don’t look at this as lowering the standards, I look at this as leadership and development training, taken from a different approach.

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Military Opens Door to More Dropouts

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23 Responses to Military Opens Door to More Dropouts

  1. Miss Beth says:

    Excellent article, Fred and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve seen way too many kids that, had they been given the right kind of opportunity, could have had such different lives. There will be failures, sure, there always are, but the successes–ah, think of the successes!

    Good read!

  2. jo says:

    We had the same algebra teacher ? 😛
    You must have been reading my mind…I am all for this, and for the draft.
    Been working on something all day to explain myself, but co-blogger went awol and the blog roll is messed up.( my personal one )
    Anyway…I am from the era when many young men dropped out and joined the Military ….damn near 100% of those ended up being wonderful,hard working solid citizens.
    We need to maximize potential, not keep doling handouts,welfare, rehab, etc etc etc to all the screwed up young out there. They can benefit, and then we do.

  3. gunz says:

    I was a sit through grad. This isn’t a real old idea; I joined in 1987 without a diploma OR GED…

    The stipulation was, at least in my case, that I would earn my GED while in the Corps and as early as possible. Within the first year I not only received my GED but my High School recognized my achievement and gave me the credit I was lacking to receive my actual diploma also.

    To make a long story short I went to live with my mother in another state my sophmore year and where I only needed 17 in one state I ended up short my senior year because they required 21.

    Had nothing to do with grades, but the Corps took me without a diploma or GED all the same.

    So I have no problem with this…

  4. SunniKay says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Everything you said here is true.

    I had a teacher in college, who taught German, who was a horrible teacher. I failed that class that semester, but went on to take it in summer school with a different instructor. I passed with flying colors, and understood what I was learning. My first teacher failed me, and because I was at a large university I was able to take it again with a DIFFERENT teacher. It made all the difference in the world.

    In respect to kids who fail out of high school, you are talking about an age group that in and of itself is a challenge for anyone. Add to that home trouble, pressure from other children that age, or being in a small school with only one teacher per subject and life seems unbearable.

    It is for all of these reasons that I think this is a very good program. It gives young adults a chance to try again, it removes them from potentially bad situations during their second chance, and it gives them a structured environment that is going to allot them the time they need to complete their education, while meeting all or their life support needs (food, shelter, and medical care). Not only that, but they later get the opportunity to further their education in a college or university, and we can’t forget to mention the skills and trades that they could learn “on the job” while in the military.

  5. GUYK says:

    It is a matter of supply and demand. When the demand is outweighs the supply under the current standards then the standards will have to be lowered to meet the demand.

    A high school diploma doesn’t always mean much but it does mean that the individual had the perseverance to finish something the individual started. The military is based on discipline both extrinsic and intrinsic..the diploma indicate intrinsic discipline and a person without it has a tough time in the military as all of you vets well know. Some such as I learned it the hard way back in the days when instead of getting kicked out they took stripes and gave you some slam time. Others never learned it and spent a lot of time in the slammer before getting kicked out with a bad discharge.

    But a HS diploma doesn’t mean that the HS grad will be successful in the military..but for that matter does the Armed Forces Qualification Tests AFQT)..tests and diplomas are just indicators..not guarantees. I would rather accept an individual with high AFQT scores and no HS diploma than I had one with a HS diploma and low AFQT scores..especially in these days of inflated grades. At least the AFST proves the enlistee can read and write…some.

    In 1982 I read some DOD stats about first term enlistees. Over thirty percent did not complete the first enlistment for various reasons. And most of those reasons were unfavorable to the enlistee such as drug use and other disciplinary problems. Now this was a time frame when over 90 percent of enlistees had at least a GED before enlisting..doesn’t say much for the diploma requirement, HUH?

    Just for the record..when I retired in 1983 as a senior Non Com I had 61 people under my span of control. All had at least a HS diploma, over half had BA/BS degrees, and one MSgt was working on a PHD. But in 1983 there were people standing in line at the enlistment offices trying to get in..different now.

  6. rich glasgow says:

    This sounds like an excellent program. I’m all for it. I’m really opposed to the draft and if this program helps to get the numbers up at the Guard while improving people’s opportunities in the long run, then right on! I agree with Big Dog about the illegals. What a great way to earn one’s citizenship…join the Guard or some other branch of the service and become a bonefied American.

  7. A lot of dropouts don’t have the structure and support at home that they need. This program will give them a new start and the confidence to go far, away from troubles at home, while giving them, as SunniKay said, “a structured environment that is going to allot them the time they need to complete their education, while meeting all or their life support needs (food, shelter, and medical care).” Sometimes the home environment is not the best environment , especially at that age. This program will get them away from home and see the world is a big place with lots of opportunity.

  8. Robert says:

    You know I think degree’s and pieces of paper are over rated….
    Example: We put in place a policy that states you must have a bachelor degree in business in order to become a member of the management team, since this was enacted our productivity,teamwork as well as employee morale has seen a drastic reduction. You can teach the “theory’s” of anything, and “practices” but you can not teach heart, people skills and crisis management the way a hands on experienced person does.
    I have always said; give me a hungry, loyal, fairly smart individual and I can work wonders with them, give me a degree’d individual and it will be a wonder if they work at all.
    I applaud this program and I would like to see it expanded.

  9. mrchuck says:

    As a Captain of an Infantry Rifle Company, back in the early 60’s, my best soldiers came from the groups of soldiers you have described.
    I personally believe “they” had seen “shit hit the fan” very early in their unpleasant upbringing.
    They were worth more than their weight in gold to me,, and my Sergeants.

    You may have noticed I did not mention Lieutenants. Most were not worth spit, unless they came up thru the “mustang” program. The only exception were Texas Aggie graduates.

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  11. Richard says:

    This is pretty cool. Sometimes it is a good thing to take a chance on people. From the personal experience of a High School Dropout I have been with the same company almost 21 years and make right around 30% more than my wife with her Masters in Science. I have gone on and gotten about a year of college since then and when I eventually retire I will most likely return to finish college as welll.

  12. I think this is a good thing. I’ve seen some very smart, hardworking kids have family issues like moving back and forth between Mom and Dad in different states (or from foster home to foster home) and not be able to graduate from high school. This is a good 2nd chance for them.

    I will say though, that currently the Marine Corps DOES require a high school diploma and if the recruit has enough college hours he or she can be a PFC rather than Private on graduation from bootcamp.

  13. GM Roper says:

    Hmm! I’m of two minds (no you’re not – YES I AM!!!) about this. Seriously, I graduated from HS in ’64 and while I barely was in the upper half (399 out of 800? or something like that) I was no prize as a student. I was no prize in college either graduating with what I jokingly call a very solid Gentleman’s C (2.004). Having said that, in grad school and in 30 plus grad hours post grad school I pulled almost straight A’s surprising almost anyone who knew me. Dumb? Nope, IQ exceeds 145! Lazy? Nope, worked hard as hell to get some of those C’s in high school and college. Immature? Ahhh, now maybe that was it and I just wasn’t ready yet. Grad school on the GI Bill was something I wanted to do. So, lots of kids just don’t seem to fit into the “government” run schools that values multi-culti feel good stuff rather than stuff they need to know to succeed. Some, like me just aren’t ready yet, and some, bless their hearts, have a really difficult time at home and succeeding at anything would be a miracle.

    Still, nothing should be free, so I agree with Big Dog and Fred others. If you can get in, get a GED and maybe like GUNZ get both, no problem, but we shouldn’t necessarily do it with no strings attached. Want in? Want that GED, fine, be ready to earn what you get!

    Thanks for this Fred, good post, good thread.

  14. Ranando says:

    I’ll go one better.

    You give us 4 years in the military and we’ll give you a collage or trade education, free. No loans, no pay back, free.

    No more excuses, you can become what ever you want to become for free, just serve your country for 4 years.

    This is a great story and I’m pleased to think what these fine young people may become.

  15. TexasFred says:

    Ranando, the college IS there, you give the Guard a 6 year enlistment and it’s a full ride, I don’t know what the regular Army has to offer, my Son is Guard and I know their offers…

    And the enlistment incentives are awesome too… I think the commitment in the Regulars is for 4 years but I can’t swear to that…

  16. 1389 says:

    Sounds good to me. Too many kids get discouraged because they’re stuck in a bad school, sometimes with disruptive or dangerous classmates, where little learning takes place. The same kids can often learn the material in a more focused environment.

  17. Kate says:

    I knew quite a few young fellas who dropped out of school and did quite well in the military. Then again, I knew a few who didn’t. The majority became, as you said, upstanding citizens. They just didn’t do well in school. Of course, being the wild child I was, I also knew a few who were given a choice….jail or the military. 🙂 90% did well, the other 10%? Well, they wouldn’t have been stellar characters anyway. And more than one gave his life in Vietnam.

    I think it’s a great idea.

  18. ablur says:

    I’m all for the program. The sooner our young get out of the liberal schools the better they will be. Given the willingness to drug and subdue any child in our current system, it is amazing there is any fight left in them.

  19. I think this is great. Yes, I know that this or that study says this or that about how grads are more likely to be successful and all that. Those are the same kinds of studies that said that 303’s and 707’s were all total failures. hell, those kids that the judge sent our way were among my best troops!

    The discipline and direction did miracles. The skills learned in the Army (insert what ever service) lasted a lifetime for those young men. Not a one of them went south. Strange, as noted above. Those kids that had trouble with school just opened up and passed all the courses with flying colors!

    Personally, I think it was the motivation to do well for the people that were working so hard to help them.

  20. I too think this is a great idea.. getting uneducated kids off the streets and helping them DO something with their life other than becoming criminals is always a good thing IMO.

    I really think that algebra teacher ya’ll had must have traveled around a bit.. sounds just like the one I had back in the mid 80’s. I thought it was just me being dumb until I took a summer class in the late 90’s and the math teacher was great, I began to learn algebra.. but she had to leave and her replacement was useless. (Argh!)

    I also support the new sign on bonus (my dem grandfather was all but spitting flames yesterday about it..LOL), mostly because I think our military aren’t paid enough as it is.

  21. Chris says:

    Great program to bolster the ranks, and help improve the lives of young Americans. Even if they don’t go career, they will be better and more productive citizens by having an education to help them!

    I can relate about the bad math teacher- I, an A and B student, got a D once because the teacher never explained things and just breezed through the books- I took a free summer course with a teacher at a different school and he simply explained things, they clicked, and I aced the course… he wanted to know why I was there! I told him and wished he was my teacher!

    Now they just need a program that allows young disabled vets to put the uniform back on! I developed some lung problems, but have no symptoms as long as I’m on meds…

    BTW, the Air Force downsized in the middle of the war- what is up with that? Nobody has a good answer for “Force Shaping.”

  22. dinosaur says:

    The military is a good place for people to start over who had a bad homelife. Then they are pulled out of gangs and do something constructive for the country the horror.

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