Posted 10:17 p.m.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made his way through the Desert Southwest Thursday on his “Strong Start, Bright Future" annual bus tour.
Duncan visited Marine Corps Air Station Yuma to discuss the improvement of education for military families.
"I've seen so much of the United States that it's really taught me what I do like and don't like and what I want from life," said Abagail Smith, 17, a senior at Gila Ridge High School. "It's made me a much more-well-rounded person."
Abagail says being a child of a military family has its benefits. But the average military child will move up to nine times between kindergarten and 12th grade.
"Everyone deserves a great education,” said Duncan, “and no one deserves it more than the children of military families."
For that reason Duncan paneled the education forum. Duncan met face to face with Yumans to improve education for military-connected students.
"I honestly never thought sequestration would happen,” explained Duncan. “I'm just stunned that we're having to deal with it … There's just no upside here."
Duncan says he'll take what he learned back to Washington defending education for students like Abagail who says, in spite of the struggles, she's always had a cheering section.
"My parents have always been the biggest factor in my education,” she said. “My father, who's been a Marine for 20 years … has met every single teacher that I’ve had in my entire life.
As she wraps up her high school career, she understands the value of sharing her story at Thursday forum.
"I hope [Duncan] will take away mostly the positive that came from it. The reasons I have those positives [is] because the school system has been so supportive."
Secretary Duncan also visited the Yuma Community Food Bank Thursday afternoon.
As part of his “Strong Start, Bright Future" back-to-school bus tour across the Desert Southwest, the former Harvard and University of Chicago graduate toured the facilities as local students filled backpacks for needy children.
He even took a little time to shoot some hoops with members of the Yuma High Criminals basketball team.
Secretary Duncan had some special words when asked about what he saw.
"It's inspiring, it’s such important work, to see the community coming together to help each other, this is what it’s all about. To see people, to see parents, to see grandparents engaged, this is a community taking care of its neighbors."
Duncan told the crowded warehouse about the important role the Yuma Community Food Bank plays in helping hungry children succeed in the classroom.
"If you’re hungry, if your stomach is grumbling, it’s hard to concentrate on class. But if you’re well-fed, if you’re nourished, if you’re cared about, then we are giving children a chance to be successful.”