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High-flying Blue Angels crew members have down-to-earth advice for alternative ed students

October 10, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

Not even a war will stop the Blue Angels from giving inspirational speeches to troubled youths in the Imperial Valley.

With the recent attacks on the United States and the war effort response in Afghanistan, U.S. military bases around the world are on high alert.

The Blue Angels squadron, which does winter training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, came to the Valley early this year because of the recent events. The unit arrived at the Naval Air Facility El Centro about 10 days ago and will depart Saturday.

On Tuesday, three Blue Angels crew members took time to give a presentation to students from three local alternative education schools.

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Students from Del Rio High School in Brawley, Calexico community school and the Learning Center community school in El Centro were chosen to hear a presentation from Blue Angels Command Master Chief Paul Orr, air frame specialist Eddie Ruiz and life support specialist Terry Bagard.

"We want to give some general knowledge of what we do," said Orr.

"What we do is interact with the public as much as possible. We try to give young people encouragement," said Orr.

Ruiz told students about how he lived in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Chicago.

Ruiz said of the 400 students that graduated in his high school class, many are dead and 50 are in jail.

He told of how his girlfriend, then age 16, was shot by another girl while he and his girlfriend were walking in his old neighborhood.

His stories brought a response of amazement from most of the students. Ruiz said the military took him away from that harrowing life.

Students quickly started asking questions about the military.

Roger Rubalcava, court and community school coordinator for the Imperial County Office of Education, said, "We want to push them to new things.

"Some of the things we try to instill into them are the same as in the military," he said.

"We want them to move on and we push them to move on and return to high school or further their education," he added.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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