Stirring interest in sailing: USS Milwaukee crew visits MPS

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Crew members of the USS Milwaukee spent the week visiting Milwaukee Public Schools.

It’s Armed Forces Week, but the crew also had another reason for visiting with students -- they are making an investment in local STEM programs. Right now, they are stationed in San Diego, but soon they will be moving here to receive their ship, and when they that happens they want to know the city and its people.

“The idea is not to return with a ship, the idea is to set a footprint here in Milwaukee with crew 111. Know that we’re here in the community. We’re bringing your ship, our ship, the navy’s ship, to you here shortly. So we’ve never left, that’s the idea,” said Command Master Chief Greg Garcia.

The ship’s commissioning will be spring of 2015, right here in Milwaukee. That begins the combat ship’s official service in the Navy and its 30 year relationship with the city. The crew will now have a head start on that relationship, as well as their understanding and involvement with the STEM program here.

“When we move up here to receive our ship shortly we can be familiar with the program but it allows us to get in the school and focus on building relationships with the kids,” said Garcia.

Command Master Chief Garcia said that the crew had a lot of choices when it came down to just how they were going to volunteer or be involved with their new city, but he said that it was soon obvious that STEM was the right choice.

“They wanted to give something that mattered. And I think involving themselves with the children, hopefully influencing and encouraging them to do positive things. When we walk in with our uniform, especially the young soldiers with the stories that they have and the skills and the training that they have, it makes an impact on these kids,” said Command Master Chief Garcia.

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Thursday, they visited Victory School, and there, the teachers agreed.

“That’s really awesome. They get to meet all these people that probably during other circumstances they wouldn’t, and it also teaches them a leadership role because it takes them out of their own shy zone and speak to those people and answer questions and it kind of gives them confidence and they feel proud of themselves,” said Amrit Kaur, a 2nd Grade Teacher at Victory.

This visit is just the beginning. The USS Milwaukee Commissioning Committee has identified STEM investment as an integral part of their community efforts and will drive investment in local STEM programs through volunteerism, grants, scholarships and an educational partnership. The committee will establish two educational endowments through private funding. The first endowment will fund scholarships for the ship's crew and their families.  The second endowment will support STEM skills programs in Milwaukee to establish a mentoring initiative connecting STEM students in Milwaukee with STEM-based activities aboard the ship with a goal of growing a technically-trained, next-generation work force that supports industry and jobs in Milwaukee and the Navy.

The crew members will be visiting 14 of MPS's schools this week.