July 16, 2012
By Julia Bobick
FORT KNOX, Ky. (U.S. Army
Recruiting Command) -- Recruiting Command's deputy commanding general is passionate about sharing the Army's commitment to education and helping young people succeed not only in school, but also in life. That passion is the reason Brig. Gen. Henry L. Huntley was asked to speak to Kentucky principals about the challenges facing today's students and how the Army is partnering with educators to make a difference.
"The Army has given me a platform; I'm just doing my part. We can't afford for the American people to not know who we are -- we are their Army," said Huntley, who spoke at the close of the summer conference of the Kentucky Association of Secondary School Principals, or KASSP, in Lexington, Ky., at the end of June.
It was during a University of Louisville function earlier in the year that Huntley met W. Blake Haselton, the university's interim dean of the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Human Resource Education. He was so impressed with Huntley's passion and determination to help young people stay on the right side of the law, graduate high school and be prepared for whatever career path they choose, that he recommended Huntley be a speaker.
Huntley, who takes every opportunity to speak with students and educators wherever he travels, readily accepted the invitation to speak to the group of middle and high school principals.
Co-hosted by the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Principals Academy, or KPA, the KASSP conference focused on ways to help the principals change their school's emphasis from just helping students succeed academically to helping them succeed in life, according to Debbie Powers, KPA executive director. She said her organization, supported through a Council on Postsecondary Education grant and funded by the Kentucky General Assembly, helps provide principals professional and leader development opportunities and resources to enhance student learning in Kentucky.
The conference theme had a natural tie to USAREC's partnering efforts with educators to help keep students on track to graduate, as well as the Army's commitment to preparing Soldiers for a lifetime of success.
"We strive to have a climate in the Army that fosters life-long learning," Huntley said, adding that Soldiers have to have a good foundation to build upon - a foundation that begins at home and in the schools. "Before they can come join us, they have to go through you."
The Kentucky State University graduate said that when he and the thousands of recruiters across the nation go into schools and talk about education, however, they talk about it as a requirement for everyone -- not just those whom they want to bring into the Army. When he speaks with students, Huntley said one of his primary messages is that they can learn wonderful things in the classroom to take them anywhere they want to go in life -- they just have to be willing to put forth the effort. They also have to have the moral courage to let their teachers know when they're having trouble and not let school just pass them by.
Recruiters serve in schools as mentors and athletic coaches, teach classes on everything from salsa dancing as physical education to calculus, and offer anti-bullying programs and initiatives to promote drug- and alcohol-free school activities like prom.
"This is about more than making sure our young people are qualified for military service. It's about making sure that our young people stay on the right path, graduate from high school and are able to do better at the next level, whether they want to go to college or whether they want to prepare themselves for that tough life they are going to have to live beyond those high school walls," he explained.
"As we look at the landscape we are dealing with today, it's kind of tough on our kids out there. We have to make sure our [students] are able to be leaders in the local communities, state communities, civic communities and national communities," Huntley said. "They cannot do that if they cannot get the very basics they need to get them across the start line. If we cannot motivate our students to take the first step, then we are not going to succeed as a nation."
Huntley applauded the principals for participating -- often at their own expense -- in networking and collaboration activities life the KASSP to share ideas and best practices for engaging their faculty, motivating their students and improving their schools.
The challenges of getting students motivated to get off the start line, not just getting them across the finish line, was a message that resonated with Madison, Ky., High School Principal Elmer Thomas. He also took note of some of the additional ways local Soldiers could complement his school programs.
"He shared a lot of great things we can use as motivation for our faculty. I appreciate what he's brought to our organization," Thomas said, "and appreciate that he thanked us for what we do to lead our schools and students into the future."
Huntley closed his remarks by thanking the principals for their service, passion, energy and dedication to their students. Just like people run up to and thank him every day for serving the nation in uniform, Huntley said "somebody should run up to you and say thank you for what you do on a daily basis for our nation."