This year, across the United States, one in three high school graduates will be Latino. Their heads will be held high and they’ll wear a smile as they receive their diplomas, but at the same time they will be faced with a critical question – what’s next? Each of them will have to make a life choice. In general, they must decide what direction they will take for a future such as: go to college or join the military or find a job.
It’s often an overwhelming rite of passage – turning 18 years old and being bombarded with emerging responsibilities, expectations, and challenges. They are now considered an adult as they transition into a world filled with options, possibilities, and pitfalls
An astonishing statistic is that 66,000 Latinos turn 18 every month, or 800,000 a year. Half of the 18 year-olds, the young men, will also be moving on to another phase of their lives. At 18 they have a legal responsibility that goes along with the other choices they must make. By law, these young men are required to register with the U.S. Selective Service. Every male living in the U.S. must register upon his 18th birthday, regardless of his resident status. Keep in mind two important things: the Selective Service does not ask for residency status and nor has any interest in it. Their goal is registration – period.
Why is registering with the Selective Service so critical? Because it’s a law and a civic duty and ensures a fair and equitable system is in place. It’s a responsibility that comes with living in America.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are other serious consequences for not registering. If you don’t register, it’s almost certain that door closes on most student educational loans and grants. For those men seeking employment, it means that they won’t be eligible for federal employment and many state, municipal, and government contractor jobs.
Here’s the good news. Registering is quick and easy. It’s as easy as the graduate’s short walk across the stage to pick up a diploma. Simply go to SSS.gov and click on the “register now” button. In less than a minute a man will have complied with the law and kept open the doors to college loans, job training, millions of federal and municipal jobs, and opened a pathway to citizenship.
If you know a young Latino man who’s graduating from high school and turning 18 this year, congratulate him, and ask him to register with the Selective Service. It may be one of the most important reminders he will ever receive!
[Photo by Milken Community Schools/Flickr]