Public Service Symposium

Students around the metro area gather to discuss public service with Chuck Hagel


Photo By Logan Berggren

Students gathered in the UNO auditorium awaiting to see Chuck Hagel. The main focus of the symposium was to put a spotlight on public service. “I think for students who are interested in politics, it is a good introduction to the importance of public service and how students should get involved early in their lives.” Watson said. “Public service is important to the preservation of our democracy especially during our polarized society today.”

Logan Berggren, Features Editor

On Friday, November 1st, 2019, six students and social studies teacher Alyssa Watson from Millard West attended the Chuck Hagel Symposium in Public Service. Former secretary of defense and U.S senator Chuck Hagel was at attendance where he spoke and answered questions from students about current political topics or what his experiences as a politician have been.

Students were given the opportunity to listen and learn from someone who has dedicated their life to politics and public service.The day started with an introduction of multiple speakers such as Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Sacha Kopp and University of Nebraska at Omaha student body president Aya Yousuf. Hagel then gave an inspiring speech about the importance of public service and that the future is in the hands of the current youth.

“At the Chuck Hagel Symposium, we listened to Hagel talk about issues our world is facing today and his take on them,” senior Ethan Dunn said. “He mentioned the importance of public service and how teens our age should be more involved.”

The students were then split into multiple groups where they were brought to separate seminars pertaining to public service and politics. These breakout sessions included “Climate and Your Health,” “Write Now! Writing For Public Service,” “Vulnerable Populations and The Threat of Human Trafficking” and various others. 

“The first seminar I went to was about writing, and we talked with an English professor about writing and the importance of it and using it in our careers,” Dunn said. “The second seminar I went to was about spies; it was interesting to hear all the truths about what the intelligence agencies do.”

An award was also presented at the beginning of the symposium. The Chuck Hagel Student Scholar award is given to one student from each school that attended. They were presented the award and was able to shake Hagel’s hand and take a picture with him.

“Chuck Hagel Student Scholar awarded to students that have demonstrated a desire to pursue public service post high school and who have been involved and successful in social studies classes,” Watson said. “They received a certificate and a $50 gift card to UNO bookstore.” 

Senior Ashley Arp was the Millard West student who received the award. Arp was in Watson’s AP Government and Politics class where she furthered her interest in politics and public service.

Photo By Logan Berggren
Senior Ashley Arp is called onto the stage to be presented the Chuck Hagel Student Scholar award.

“We walked into the auditorium and Mrs.Watson made me sit somewhere and told me that I was nominated for an award,” Arp said. “It was shocking, I wasn’t expecting to win an award.”

The high school students that attended were left inspired and ready to participate more in the public and political field. Hagel pushed in his speech for more people to volunteer and be active in the community. 

“I went because of my interest in politics and I think it would be cool to listen to someone who lived in Nebraska and gained a prominent role in the political field,” Dunn said. “It is important for people our age to hear about public service because the world is going to be in our hands and we need to educate ourselves so we can better serve the future.”

As politics are in people’s lives more than ever, the Chuck Hagel Symposium helped inspire and teach many high schoolers interested in shaping the future. Hagel stated in his speech to the students, “Character embodies integrity and honesty.” Public service is crucial to society and as the new generation grows the future is in their hands.

Photo Courtesy of the Chuck Hagel office
Millard West students and teacher Mrs Watson meet with Former secretary of defense and U.S senator Chuck Hagel.