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Through Airmen's Eyes: Airman makes most of AF educational opportunities

United States Air Force Capt. Derandoria Young (right of center),49th Medical Operations Squadron, poses with Ghana students and staff during her studies abroad in Ghana, Africa, in 2010. Sponsored by the University of Texas School of Social Work, the Maymester Abroad Course provided 61 students the opportunity to broaden their educational horizons. (photo courtesy of Capt. Derandoria Young/Released)

Capt. Derandoria Young (right of center) poses with Ghana students and staff during her studies abroad in Ghana, Africa, in 2010. The Maymester Abroad Course, sponsored by the University of Texas School Of Social Work, provided 61 students the opportunity to broaden their educational horizons. Young is assigned to the 49th Medical Operations Squadron. (Courtesy photo/Capt. Derandoria Young)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Airmen have different reasons for answering the call to defend our nation. Some join to travel the world. Some join to honor a legacy. There are some who join to better themselves, and in the process, they can help others.

Education is a key that some use to open this door. It is the key that Capt. Derandoria Young, an Air Force social worker with the 49th Medical Group, used to help her, and in turn, to help others under her care.

Her career path started out as an enlisted member. At 19 years old and in her second year in the Air Force, she came to a crossroads.

"My goal was to get an education and get out," Young said, adding that it was a conversation with an Air Force social worker that put her on the road to her current position.

She received her degree in social psychology at Park University, and then went on to get a graduate degree in public administration, her first of two master's degrees. She then received special permission to attend the University of Texas School Of Social work in Austin, Texas, while serving on active duty.

While receiving her social work degree, she took a trip that she said would change her perspective on life. In 2010, she and 61 other students took a trip to Ghana, a small nation on the west coast of Africa. The trip was designed to expand the educational experience.

"It was there I learned that everything you need, you probably already have," she said.

After graduation, she returned to Langley AFB, Va., where she worked under an Air Force social worker for two months. She was trying to learn everything she could while preparing to enter into the direct commissioning program as a social worker, she said.

The entry process was intense, Young said. In 2011, there were 100 people applying for only 12 positions. Air Force social workers also needed three years of experience to deploy, which she did not have.

She did have one advantage, she said. She had been a technical sergeant with 11 years in the military, and she knew that experience, and knowing the inner workings of the Air Force was something you couldn't replicate.

And after writing a two-page paper on her Air Force Social Work experiences, she was accepted into the program, where she is now working, and living her dream.

"The Air Force has been good to me," Young said. "It's given me and education and career." 

Young said she is a huge advocate of making the best of the opportunities the Air Force offers, and advises others to never give up pursuing their goals.

"If you're determined, it will work out," she said.