LEGACY youth program builds interest in STEM careers

  • Published
  • By Todd Cromar
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

An Air Force program designed to attract, inspire and develop the next generation of our nation’s scientific and technical workforce is underway at Hill Air Force Base.

The Leadership Experience Growing Apprenticeships Committed to Youth, or LEGACY, program is an Air Force program aimed at building interest in science, technology, engineering and math through summer craftsman camps and paid summer apprenticeships while showing how STEM applies to the world around us.

Kerry Reed, Hill AFB’s LEGACY program site lead, explained the objective of the program, and this new and innovative approach to foster and maintain youth interest in STEM.

“The primary goal of the program is to create a STEM pipeline by taking children and young adults ages 11-22 through the LEGACY program. The program exposes them at a young age to STEM subjects using fun and interesting hands-on experiments and projects, with combined interactive education and field trips,” Reed said. “The children see and experience how STEM principles are making a difference in their daily lives.”

The Air Force LEGACY program was started at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and has been in existence for three years. The program is intended to address future predictions of possible personnel shortfalls in STEM-related career fields throughout the Air Force.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. Contrast that with employment demands in STEM occupations growing at a rate of more than 24% over the last decade versus 4% for non-STEM occupations.

The program has been specifically tailored toward expanding the pool of STEM-career qualified individuals and is intended to create a positive influence on recruiting and hiring scientists, engineers and technical subject matter experts in the future.

“Many programs have given children the opportunity to attend a week-long, STEM-related camp,” Reed said. “What makes LEGACY new and different is the program provides a pathway, year after year, for students to continue to learn and develop an interest, talent and career in a STEM field.”

The program is broken into three phases:

The first phase, “Craftsman Camp,” is designed for youth ages 11-15. These free camps offer students opportunities to engage with their peers by participating in hands-on activities while building self-confidence, learning teamwork and an interest in STEM.

Phase two, “Junior Apprentice,” is for youth at least 16 years old in grades 10-12. Students experience a six to eight week paid internship allowing them the opportunity to work side-by-side with multiple mentors from their respective base, while getting exposure to real-world research and showcasing their projects at the end of the session.

The third and final phase, “Apprentice,” is an Air Force paid summer apprenticeship for college students. Building on their experience from the Junior Apprentice phase, students work under the tutelage of a mentor and are expected to be more independent and have more responsibility, while preparing for a STEM career after graduation.

“The program involves lessons and skills that can help students throughout their lives, regardless of the path they choose,” Reed said. “Our goal is to give them exciting and new opportunities that lead to STEM-related degrees and eventually, STEM career paths. A child cannot grow up to be something that they don’t even know exists.”

Currently there are five Air Force bases participating in the LEGACY program. In addition to Hill and Wright-Patterson AFBs, the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado, Robins AFB, Georgia and Eglin AFB, Florida, also have programs.

For more information on the LEGACY program, visit http://wpafbstem.com.