By Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet CommandOctober 22, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Army Cadet Command, which is the largest provider of college scholarships in America, awarded $29 million in benefits to Hispanic-serving institutions over the last five years.
That assistance created a wealth of educational opportunities and paved the way for some 1,000 Hispanic Cadets to join the officer ranks through ROTC.
As the Hispanic population booms and the Army continues its effort to assemble a force that demographically mirrors the nation it serves, Cadet Command wants more Hispanics participating in its programs.
But the organization needs help.
Col. Erik Peterson, Cadet Command's deputy commander, reached out Oct. 22, to members of the influential Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, or HACU, detailing the Army's outreach and the need to inform students of the opportunities it makes available.
"The officer corps leading the finest army in the world should reflect our nation's rich, dynamic diversity and our changing demographics," he said. "To that end, our partnership with HACU remains vital. Together we're making progress in the Hispanic-American community, but much remains to be accomplished."
Just before he addressed the nearly 1,000 people in the audience -- many of them college students and educators -- Peterson accepted an award on behalf of the Army from HACU in recognition of the Army's efforts in creating higher educational opportunities for Hispanic students.
"Our Army is proud of the long-standing partnership with HACU," he said. "We look forward to continued collaboration as we champion higher education success together."
Peterson highlighted some of the Army's tangible commitments to Hispanic higher educational opportunities through informational booths, access to professors of military science and seminars about educational resources and career opportunities in the Army. As part of this year's HACU conference, Cadet Command held a free workshop about March2Success, an online program that helps students improve proficiency in math, science and language skills and helps them prepare for the SAT and ACT.
Participation in the conference is only part of the Army's commitment, Peterson said. The Army and HACU have conducted a college tour program since 2009 that brings Hispanic high school juniors and seniors to college campuses to experience campus life, to learn about the admissions process and financial aid options and to make more informed decisions about their educational futures. Several hundred students have taken part.
The most recent tour was held in August at UCLA with more than 400 students attending from the Los Angeles area. Another is set for November at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
"This HACU-partnered effort has been so successful, we're now piloting a new college tour seminar in 2013, geared specifically for high school counselors," Peterson said.
Scholarships, however, have helped pave the way for many students to attend college and, ultimately, serve their country. ROTC not only provides a means for young people to develop their education, but also to develop themselves as leaders -- whether in uniform on in America's communities.
Peterson illustrated the Army's commitment to educational opportunities for Hispanic students in awarding a four-year scholarship Monday valued at $35,636 to Sean Wallace, a freshman Cadet with the University of Maryland.
Wallace is considered one of the many standouts in Army ROTC, having held a 3.5 GPA in high school, scoring a 1250 on his SAT, taking part in sports and leading his classmates as senior class president. As a Cadet at Maryland, he said he's already honing his leadership ability and preparing himself for what he sees as a bright future.
"I'm already learning to understand my own limits and how to become a better leader," Wallace said. "This program is giving me essential skills to succeed."
HACU's president, Dr. Antonio Flores, often speaks candidly about the need for increased opportunities for Hispanic students. He uses terms like "persistent Hispanic higher education under-attainment" and rallies others to be involved in helping close the gap, Peterson said.
"Let's keep working together," Peterson said. "I encourage you to talk with your Army ROTC programs on your college campuses, the Junior ROTC representatives in your high schools and the education services specialists at your local recruiting stations. Learn more about the educational resources and the scholarships available through the Army, and help us make sure students are aware of these benefits.
"By working together, we can close this gap and truly champion Hispanic higher education success."