COMMUNITY VOICES | How one veteran continues to make a difference for her community

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As we recognize all veterans and active duty military for their service, the best way to honor them is to remember what they fought for. I was privileged to serve my state and country as part of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Throughout my time, which included a deployment to Iraq, I met many individuals who took on tough challenges with a tremendous amount of tenacity and pride. They did this work so we could all have an opportunity to chase the American dream.

Central to this dream is the promise that all children have the opportunity to receive a high quality education. After all, an exceptional country most certainly demands an exceptional education system. But is this dream a reality for our students?

Recent results indicate that only forty-one percent of Minnesota’s fourth graders are proficient in reading. Every year students are promoted from grade to grade without the ability to read. This critical life skill is too important to leave so many of our children unequipped to succeed in life. The numbers are even more staggering when you break them out by race and ethnicity, leaving very little doubt that a persistent achievement gap is plaguing Minnesota. This is a situation that we cannot accept. Like we do in the military, it’s time for us to show a united front and address our education crisis. There is too much at stake to stand idly by.

If we can train and educate the best and most elite military in the world, why aren’t we eliciting these same results from our education system?

Statistics like these are even more real for me now that I’m a first-time parent. Searching for the right school for my child has been a disappointing experience. Schools aren’t held accountable for how well they educate students. Teachers aren’t recognized for their hard work and exemplary performance. There are also way too many barriers for families who are trying to find the best school for their children, especially if you live in the wrong zip code. 

For me, as a veteran and as a parent, ensuring that all children have access to a high quality education is paramount. Every child deserves the best, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, or where they live. That’s why I’ve jumped at the opportunity to support education reform and continue to make a difference in my community.

During my deployment it wasn’t just my fellow soldiers, family and friends that watched out for my well being, it was also the community I grew up in and the friends of family that I didn’t even know who reached out. They are the ones that kept me strong and motivated.  They are the reasons I want to continue to give back and support a better public education system for our children. We must do everything within our power to get involved and give back to our local communities in support of policies that empower parents, elevate great teachers and ensure student success.

As a veteran, I would to say thank you to the teachers that step up to the challenge everyday! Through the dedicated efforts of our military veterans and teachers, the American dream will once again become a reality for all children.

Veronica Chapel currently serves as a Field Coordinator for StudentsFirst Minnesota. Before joining StudentsFirst, Veronica worked on staff in the Minnesota Legislature and served in the Minnesota Army National Guard. She currently resides in Woodbury, MN along with her husband Loren and their daughter.