CHICAGO (NNS) -- Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officers from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Midwest offered students at a local high school a look at the Navy and the civil engineering profession while also helping the school celebrate Black History Month Feb. 2 in Chicago.
As part of the Chicago-area community outreach efforts by Navy Personnel Command, NAVFAC Midwest Commanding Officer Capt. Jake Washington and Public Works Department Great Lakes' Ensign BoMee Sin and Ensign Chris Thomas visited Simeon Career Academy to talk about their experience in the military and encourage students to be diligent in their studies and to make wise choices for their futures.
"African American History Month is about history - your history - and how far African Americans have come," said Washington, who hails from nearby Gary, Ind., and earned a degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. "There are still struggles yet to be overcome, but the lesson of your history is that these challenges can be overcome by determination and persistent effort. You can go as far as your dreams, your abilities and your preparation will carry you."
Washington said he felt a connection with the Simeon students, and he believed it was critical that the students have as many positive role models as possible.
"I'm here because I really care about you guys," he said. "I, too, grew up in a tough and dangerous community. I was fortunate enough to have great teachers, older siblings and very hardworking parents who kept me on the right track. I am here to offer to you what others provided for me when I was your age.
"Life is tough," added Washington. "When you leave this school and you no longer have the nurturing environment of these classrooms to come to, you're truly going to be out there making your own way. That is why you must begin to decide now what you want from life and prepare so that you can face the future with confidence and ultimately achieve your goals."
Many of the students did have specific goals in mind. Their career dreams ranged from design, photography and nursing to social work and designing video games.
Students asked the ensigns what they thought of being in the Navy, and why they chose to join.
"I chose the Navy because it had the biggest field in engineering, and my major was chemical engineering," said Sin, who earned her degree from the University of Alabama in 2008. "You start off with a lot of responsibility, but all the people around you are there to help you."
"I've enjoyed working with my co-workers. It has been a great learning experience," agreed Thomas, who earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland in 2006.
Organizers of the annual event said they enjoyed hosting Washington, Thomas and Sin.
"Having motivational speakers talk to the students like this is such a powerful influence," said Sandy Sloan, a former Simeon Academy guidance counselor and one of the other participants in the event. "It's so important to show them positive examples of what they can do with their lives."
For more news from Naval Facilities Engineering Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navfachq/.