picture shows blocks of participants on a video meeting in Jan of 2024.

Counselors Mobilized to Counter Military Recruitment of Young Adults

January 30, 2024
by Camille Dager, COO
Mennonite Church USA

picture shows blocks of participants on a video meeting in Jan of 2024.
POTC volunteer counselor training. (Left to right, top row) Titus Peachey, Max Lewis, Brad Boyd-Kennedy, (middle row) Fred Suter, Rick Yoder, Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz, Melissa Atchinson, (bottom row) Tim Godshall, Randall Koehler, Scott Roser (Counselors not pictured) Ruth Keidel Clemens, Eldon Epp. Photo by Camille Dager, Mennonite Church USA.

Jan. 25, 2024

Peaceful Options for Training and Careers (POTC), an independent initiative formed by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Central Committee, has begun training volunteer counselors to help young adults find non-military career, service and training opportunities. Titus Peachey, a retired MCC peace educator, led the most recent training session on Jan. 18, 2024, via Zoom.

“This is a fascinating and meaningful experiment,” Peachey said to the eight attending volunteers. He explained their role, saying, “We are a resource. We will walk alongside, listen, ask questions and offer resources and suggestions. We will not tell our callers what to do. We will try to find a good balance between providing information and allowing our callers to find their own answers.”

When the new POTC website is live in March 2024, young adults will be able to submit a request form to speak to a POTC counselor. The counselor will engage them in a conversation about their hopes and goals, leading them to connections and resources in their own networks, communities and beyond. For those who are contemplating military service, counselors will provide information on what to expect and the opportunity to speak with a veteran. Those who have already enlisted but would like to withdraw will be directed to the GI Rights Hotline at (877) 447-4487.

“Providing youth and young adults with available resources other than joining the military is critical to our theology of promoting a culture of peace,” said Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, MC USA denominational minister for Peace & Justice, who attended the training. “It empowers them to explore non-military avenues for personal and global security, as they make decisions about their future,” she added.

Although POTC has Mennonite roots, POTC career counseling services are available to all young adults in the U.S.

POTC addresses the widespread issue of military recruitment on high school campuses. Since the passage of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, public high schools who receive assistance through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 are required to give the military as much access to campuses and student contact information as is given to postsecondary institutions and prospective employers. Approximately two-thirds of public high schools receive federal Title 1 ESEA funding.

Sometimes, local school boards or teachers unions try to resist this requirement. In July 2023, Congressman Max Miller of Ohio introduced a bill, H.R. 4522, to eliminate this by strengthening ESEA “to ensure access of Armed Forces recruiters to secondary school campuses, and for other purposes.”

POTC will hold another training for additional counselors in the coming weeks. All counselors undergo an MC USA background check.

If you are interested in volunteering with POTC, please complete this form indicating your area of interest.

POTC is funded, in part, by Mennonite Church USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund. To support this ongoing work, please give online here or write a check to MC USA, noting “Church Peace Tax Fund” in the memo line, and mail to: MC USA, 718 N. Main Street, Newton, KS 67114.