Karen Matthews
The Associated Press
February 12, 2009

NEW YORK — Students at 10 New York-area high schools will learn skills from the Army under a program coordinated by the Public School Athletic League and a nonprofit organization.

The program is designed to teach student-athletes “life skills” from Army training, according to Academics in Motion, which operates in nine New York City public high schools plus Hillside High School in New Jersey.

“Army recruiters are people with a very solid background in working with young people and really serving as mentors,” said Jim Presbrey, co-founder of Academics in Motion.

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He said the program “isn’t about getting kids in the Army. It’s about helping kids develop their life goals and come up with a game plan to meet them.”

But Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has protested what it calls overly intrusive military recruiting in city schools, said the program raises serious concerns.

“The Army has a long track record of targeting New York’s poor black and Latino populations with coercive and aggressive military recruitment techniques, and now we are seeing potentially another avenue for military recruitment in our schools — and with the Department of Education’s encouragement,” Lieberman said.

Academics in Motion said in a news release last week that the eight-week pilot program would begin this month, but a spokeswoman said Wednesday that the start of the program was being revised and pushed back to an unspecified later date.

The original press release said that the program will teach students skills such as “goal setting, effective thinking, attention control and memory,” with the goal that it could become a national model.

Chris Coles, president of the parent-teacher association at Jamaica High School in Queens, one of the schools where Academics in Motion operates, said he thought parents there would welcome the Army’s participation in the program.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t have a problem with it,” he said. “It sounds good.”

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