OUR PEOPLE: HPS Veterans and Enlisted Alumni Clarify College, Career and the Military
November 11th is Veteran’s Day, a day we remember and pay tribute to the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have answered the call of duty to defend our nation and way of life. As we express our deepest thanks for the veterans who served our country with great honor in the past, we also want to help our students who may enlist learn from the experience of our Hartford Public Schools veterans and enlistees; about the experience, the realities, the rigor, how it improves you, and tuition aid towards college. Please enjoy our interviews with University High School of Science and Engineering alumnus George Davis; Parkville Community School Principal Dirk Olmstead; and Senior Director for Special Programs at Hartford Public Schools, Dr. Donald Slater. (You can watch our interviewees on our Conversations in Education television show: College, Career & the Military, here.)
George Davis, Midshipman 3rd Class, University High School of Science and Engineering—Class of 2015
I am currently at the United States Naval Academy getting my 4 year college degree, my BS, in Oceanography. I will commission as an Officer in the Navy or Marine Corps in spring of 2019 where I will go on to lead enlisted Sailors or Marines. I grew up in Berlin, Connecticut and I graduated from University High School of Science and Engineering in Hartford, CT in 2015
I joined the military directly after high school, graduating in early June of 2015 and sworn into the Navy on July 1, 2015. I decided to serve for many reasons; among these reasons are free education, a guaranteed job, seeing the world, opportunities and experiences that you could not get anywhere else, the doors it opens after the military, the ability to better myself for my country and for my family, and to do my part for our country and its citizens.
I have been stationed in Annapolis, Maryland since July of 2015 where I am getting a world class education, participating in all kinds of clubs and extracurriculars, and sailing on Navy’s division one Offshore Sailing Team. I wear my uniform proudly every day because the education that I am receiving that is paid for by the taxpayers of America is the most powerful weapon we have against our enemies in today’s world. I know that I can use that education to make the world a better place.
This past summer I was on a Destroyer out of Norfolk, VA, a 510 foot U.S. Navy ship, where I could put the training I received over the past year into use; I drove the ship, conned the ship (gave helm and engine commands), and learned how to live on a ship. I got to go to Mayport, Florida where I debarked and came back to the Academy to start my second Academic year. The friends I have made in the military are more like family; I spend so much time around these people that they are all part of my family now and I would not trade that for the world.
The military, and specifically the Navy, has many different paths for enlisted and direct commissions to receive their college education. They were generous enough to offer me their scholarship to attend the United States Naval Academy with 4,400 other amazing people from all 50 states, and a multitude of other countries. Other college education programs in the navy are Seaman to Admiral, ROTC, OCS, Enlisted Commissioning program, and the BOOST program.
The military has made me a better person. It has helped me become a more well-rounded individual, exposing me to situations that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. I have lived with enlisted on a ship and come to appreciate the sometimes menial tasks that they are required to do and respect how hard they work to become the technical masters that they are. The military has brought structure to my life and has helped to save a lot of my friends’ lives who would otherwise be involved with bad people without the military. The military has helped me to build a strong moral, mental, and physical backbone and structure . It makes my family proud of me and it helps me to appreciate my family that much more.
If I had not joined the military, I wouldn’t be getting the great education that they have to offer for me, I wouldn’t be the well-rounded person that I am today, and I may have not even gone to college at all. The big advantage that the military has is that by joining you are guaranteed a job, quality health care, and one of the world’s largest families. After you fulfill your commitment to the Navy you can go on to do anything, you can go back and get your college degree for free, open your own business, or climb the ranks in any business setting you choose. You will meet people along the way who have served and make bonds for life, there will always be someone there to help you achieve your goals.
I would strongly advise any high school student to seriously consider the benefits of serving. The advantages and opportunities are infinite. If you are at all considering a career in the military, or even just to join to jump start the rest of your life, go see your local recruiter and they can give you all the information you need: which path to take, officer, enlisted, school; they will have it all. The things you will do in the military will be unlike any of your childhood friends; you will see the world from a unique perspective, you will have the opportunities to receive a world class education free of charge, and you will make bonds with the people you meet and serve with for life. A bond unlike any other will be formed.
Best of luck to those who are thinking about a military career, I hope to serve alongside you some day and hopefully this interview has swayed those of you who are on the fence to serve, or at least visit your local recruiter to learn more.
Dirk Olmstead, Principal, Parkville Community School
I have taught Grade 5, Grade 6, and Physical Education. I was an Instructional Coach, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal, and Principal. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I was a 26 year old teacher when I decided to join the Army Reserves/National Guard in Arizona. I had always been interested in the military but joined in order to have a second income and I planned on retiring from the Army.
I have served with a Transportation Company, a Postal Company, and a Ground Ambulance Company. I did my Basic Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and my advanced training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I served one weekend each month and two weeks in the summer. In 2004, my unit was activated; we were called to Active Duty, and were stationed in Tikrit, Iraq. I was gone from my family for an entire year.
The military assisted me with some of my college tuition for my Master’s Degree and my Sixth Year Degree. I would have had to take out more Student Loans if the military had not helped me.
The military helped me to realize that I can accomplish anything. It gave me the confidence to endure through any conditions including lack of sleep, sickness and injuries, living in a war zone, and 129 degree temperatures. The Army helped me to learn to prioritize what needs to be done and trained me to be a more effective leader of people. If I had never joined the Army, I would probably still be a teacher, and I doubt I would have been as effective.
I received an Honorable Discharge from the Army in 2006, after eight years of service.
When you enlist in the military, it is an eight year commitment. Various recruiters will tell you that it is for less but, in reality, they have control over you for the full eight years. The military is not for everyone. It will test your boundaries both mentally and physically. During Basic Training, you will be deprived of sleep for weeks on end, you will attend classes on a variety of subjects, and you will live in close quarters with many other soldiers from different parts of the country that may have different beliefs. You will be subjected to the most stressful conditions there are and you will learn how to handle it. There will be many opportunities to learn leadership skills that you will use for the rest of your life, not only in the military but also in college.
Dr. Donald Slater, Senior Director for Special Programs at Hartford Public Schools
Editor’s Note: Dr. Slater (pictured in tank in Irag at the top of the page) has been a high school science teacher, a college adjunct professor, an assistant principal, a principal, and the Chief Operating Officer of Hartford Public Schools. He has also been a Commander of a 138-person medical unit that took a 14-month tour in Iraq. After 27 years in the military – the Army Reserves for 8 years, the Army National Guard for 19 years—his sentiments run parallel with those of Principal Olmstead’s: the military can grant one the great gifts of discipline, maturity, education, achieving dreams you never thought you could achieve, but the military may not be for everyone. You must be ready to work harder than you ever have, to go days without sleep, to run 7 miles with a 40-pounds on your back, being hungry, cold, wet, and, of course, the ultimate commitment—being called to combat. If you are choosing to join the military just for the college funding, as he advised previous high school students, Dr. Slater advises that you don’t. There are many other sources of college funding out there for you.
Watch our video interview with Dr. Slater, below: