Marine Veteran Finds Second Act in Classroom

Marine Veteran Finds Second Act in Classroom

Marine veteran Sequoia Aldridge stands at the head of her classroom. Following a 30-year career in the Marine Corps, Aldridge joined Teach for America's Military Veteran's Initiative. Photo courtesy Sequoia Aldridge.

Lagrange, N.C. (March 16, 2016) – Ask Sequoia Aldridge what prompted her to join the Marine Corps, she'll quickly tell you that as a high school senior in 1984, unsure of where she was going, it was the recruiter. Introduced by a friend, she says the sharp and decisive nature of the recruiter was what convinced her that becoming a Marine would be the right choice. "I was just really impressed," she said recently. "There was something about his demeanor, his sense of urgency and attitude that resonated with me and I was like ok, this is where I belong." And when she got to recruit training, the constant push to be better would stick with her throughout her career.

"I have just really enjoyed the camaraderie, the competitive nature of being in the Marine Corps," she says. "It is an environment where there is a constant and consistent, everyday push to be better as a person, better as an athlete, better at your job, regardless of what it is."

That sense of belonging turned into a 30-year career in the Marine Corps for Aldridge, who retired in 2014 as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 with extensive experience in personnel management. After leaving the Marine Corps, she had some uncertainty about her next steps. She enrolled in an MBA Program, but couldn't find the sense of meaning that she was used to in the Marine Corps. Instead, she found that meaning by joining Teach For America's Military Veteran's Initiative. Now she's begun her second act as a science teacher at Frank Middle School in LaGrange, N.C., where she applies the elements of leadership she learned as a Marine to the classroom. 

"You have to really use every leadership skill you have and that you've gained, and every life experience," she says. "They love hearing stories, they love hearing about your life, and they actually appreciate the consistency and the leadership."

As a teacher, Aldridge has found some challenges in leading 7th graders. It's a stark contrast from the attention and discipline she found in the Marines she led, but her passion for the people remains.

"My greatest attribute as a Marine was that I cared deeply about the people I served, and the people I served with," she says. "As an educator, I have that same passion. I love my kids, I care about those kids, and I care that they learn every single day."

During her career in the Marine Corps, Aldridge worked in personnel management as a Personnel Officer. She worked around the world at bases in Okinawa and Iwakuni, Japan, and spent a year deployed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Aldridge recalls her time as a Marine as the most challenging of her life, but also the most rewarding, something she reminds young people considering a future in the military.

"Understand that the Marine Corps is challenging both mentally and physically," she says. "Everybody knows who the Marines are. There's nothing more rewarding in life that you can do than being a Marine. And you have to know going in that it's challenging."