View Full Version : Military recruiters' receptions vary

12-30-02, 07:25 AM

Marines recruiter Sgt. Joseph Migliore last week talks with Amado H. Sosa, 17, at Webster Schroeder High School. Amado, a senior who has already enlisted, says, “I don’t want to be an ordinary guy.” Military recruiters are not uniformly welcomed at Rochester-area high schools. [Day in Photos]

Marines welcomed in Webster but other area schools reluctant

By Corydon Ireland
Democrat and Chronicle

(December 30, 2002) — With his shoes shiny and hair clipped to the skin, U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Migliore stood next to his recruiting table in the crowded cafeteria at Webster Schroeder High School.

“I keep a copy of my old school ID in my pocket,” said the 1990 graduate of East High School during the recruiting trip last week. “Just to stay humble.”

Military service, he said, turned the aimless 18-year-old boy that he was into someone that has what the Marine Corps calls “self times 3”: self-direction, self-reliance and self-discipline.

“I don’t want to be an ordinary guy,” said Amado H. Sosa, 17, a native of the Dominican Republic, who will graduate from Webster Schroeder in June. He’s already signed up for the Marines.

Drug use, a criminal record, poor academics or asthma and other medical problems disqualify many potential recruits. Out of a typical 100 high school seniors, said Migliore, only 40 are eligible.

Military recruiters are not uniformly welcomed at Rochester-area high schools.

Webster Schroeder, where the security director is a retired Army general, has a military-friendly policy. One day each month is set aside for recruiters from a different service.

Last week, hundreds of students in the school’s cafeteria seemed relaxed at the presence of the 30-year-old Migliore and his four crisply uniformed assistants -- most of them recent graduates of boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

Pfc. Stephen Austin, a 2002 graduate of Webster Schroeder, got out of boot camp just four days before he arrived in uniform at the cafeteria where he once slouched over his sandwich every day.

“Now I feel like I can do anything,” and have confidence and self-respect, said the 19-year-old.

Other high schools grudgingly let recruiters visit, as infrequently as twice a year, said Master Sgt. Angel L. Aguayo, who oversees recruiting in 27 area high schools in three counties.

And until only recently the Rochester School District had an 11-year ban on military recruitment in its seven high schools because of the military’s discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

In October, the school board voted reluctantly to lift the ban. The Leave No Child Behind legislation, signed into law this January, requires high schools to give access to recruiters, or lose federal funding.

About 600 school districts nationwide had similar bans in place.

“Rochester was one of the first, if not the first” with a ban, said Bill Kelly, president of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

Earlier this year, the group argued against lifting the ban in Rochester schools, at least until the law is challenged in court.

“There are a lot of people who want to defend their country,” said Kelly, who said the military is an attractive option for some high schoolers.

But gay men and lesbians who want to join, he said, “would have to hide too deeply in the closet.”

And besides, added Kelly, any high school senior can easily get information about the services, including on the Internet -- making school visits moot.

“We have more military recruiters than we have Starbucks in this town,” he said.

Rochester school board Vice President Shirley Thompson said military recruiters must register with the central district office as representatives of a “discriminatory organization” that is allowed by law to be so.

And recruiters are required to give 30 days notice before visiting schools.

Discriminating against gays is just one reason to ban military recruiters from public high schools, said Thompson.

“There aren’t many occupations that put young people in harm’s way, as the military does,” she said.

By January, an ad hoc committee of the school board will be in place to develop written guidelines on the military recruiters policy, said Thompson.

One would be a provision that allows “alternative perspectives” to be present when recruiters are in schools, said Thompson. “Young people should be aware of as many options as possible.”

The committee would include parents, a member of the Gay Alliance and other groups and representatives from the military.

Standing in the cafeteria at Webster Schroeder, where he graduated in June, Marine Corps Pfc. Jason Krueger, 19, didn’t see the big picture.

But he saw the students, and knew what he himself looked like in that same cafeteria not long ago: a guy in baggy pants, with his hat on backward.

The Marine Corps “has given me a lot more respect towards everyone,” he said.

“Some of these kids have no idea what they’re going to do after high school,” he said, back from circulating through crowds at the cafeteria’s tables.

Krueger’s family was skeptical he could make it in the military, he said. “I was, like: ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.’ “