Some people spend their lives trying to find ways to make a difference — Kelia Roper and Micah Morrison have a chance to make that difference now as 1st Lieutenants in the General Patton Internship program.
The General Patton Internship was created in 2017 with the goal of increasing diversity in the Army, specifically in officers branching combat arms. Interns in the program start by completing the Masters Education Course (MEC) which gives them insight on how to operate at a college or university.
“The Master Educator Course (MEC) starts off with a four week, almost like a boot camp on learning about higher education…” said Jeffrey Sun, professor of higher education. “...Then they learn all about how to teach, how to work with students, how to work with administrators, and how to improve your program.”
During the internship, participants can further their education through earning credits towards a master’s degree in higher education. But will also have a chance to put their education to use immediately.
Upon completing the course Patton interns are sent to different colleges and universities including several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to work with Army ROTC programs. Most will then go on to spend a summer at Fort Knox, Ky., where they will serve as Cadre members for Cadet Summer Training.
1st Lt. Kelia Roper found out about the internship from Army peers that recommended the program to her. After doing some research, Roper was ready to dive in.
“The Patton Program was recruiting for African American minorities, and I just so happen to be one,” Roper said. “It is something I am passionate about, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped to it.”
For Roper, this experience hits close to home as she is going to be working with her alma mater, Fort Valley State University this year.
“The fact that I had an opportunity to go back to my school, that was probably the most exciting part,” Roper said. “ Yes, going into teach other HBCUs, that was exciting but going back to the school that gave so much to me, that was just the best part for me.”
1st Lt. Micah Morrison is getting a new experience as the West Point graduate heads to Delaware State University to work with their Army ROTC Cadets.
“I didn’t go to an HBCU, I didn't even go to a regular college,” Morrison said. “The campus experience is a little bit foreign to me. They can teach me about [campus] and in turn that allows the class to be more comfortable talking to me. We can build trust together.”
Both Roper and Morrison share a common passion for teaching while sharing their experience as African American officers. Through the General Patton Internship, these 1st Lieutenants will connect with students across campus and work with current Cadets with the goal of increasing diversity of the Army's officer corps through the Army ROTC program.
“We don’t have a lot of minorities in the officer corps,” Roper said. “We have a lot of minorities enlisted, but I think that is due to the fact that they don’t want to go to school or can’t afford to go to school, so they enlist. When you have a student that is allowed to go to school or has the opportunity to go to school, they don’t really look into the military, it is not something that is looked into. Because of that, we don’t have a lot of general officers, we don’t have a lot of field grade officers that look like me, that look like other minorities, I feel like it is so important to help reach and build that group of people in the officer core.”
As the new academic year approaches, 33 young officers will be heading out to 32 universities to get started on what they hope will be an impactful year.
“I can show them that ‘hey, you can do this,” Morrison said.” Don’t think it is so far away from you because you are a black person or whatever your background is; that this is not something you can’t go out and get. I am living proof that it is possible.”
About Army ROTC
Army ROTC is one of the best leadership courses in the country and is part of your college curriculum. Through classes and field training, Army ROTC provides you with the tools to become an Army Officer without interfering with your other classes. ROTC also provides you with discipline and money for tuition while enhancing your college experience.
Army ROTC offers pathways to becoming an Army Officer for high school students, current active duty Soldiers, and for current National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers through the Simultaneous Membership Program.
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