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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2016

RAD team mentors Hampton STEM students

By Tech. Sgt. Katie Gar Ward 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

It was a Friday morning at Hampton High School, and the halls were abuzz with students laughing and talking about weekend plans.  The bell had just rung, and many students began filtering into the library.

The students’ voices quieted down, and they took their seats at a group of round tables. 

Their conversations had shifted from the latest pop songs, to fighter jets, weather and math.  Sitting among the students were two men in military camouflage.

They clearly were not part of the student body.

These men were actually Airmen from the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia

U.S. Air Fore Staff Sgt. Mark Green, 1st Operations Support Squadron airfield management NCO in charge, and Senior Airman Seth Morgan, 1st OSS airfield systems technician, are part of the 1st OG’s Real Access to Diversity team.  Their attendance at the school was not to catch up on the latest teenage trends, but to incorporate real-world lessons into the students’ curriculum.

The RAD team is comprised of Airmen who mentor students in science, technology, engineering, and math classes on the practical application of STEM principles.  STEM is an educational initiative that incorporates technology and engineering into traditional fields of math and science.

According to Green, the RAD team compliments teachers’ lessons by explaining how aspects of STEM are applied in their daily Air Force duties.

“It gives us that moment to where we get ‘re-blued,’” said Green. “It brings us back down to the ground because we do it every day, so when we see the kids grasp this information because we are out here showing them ‘Hey, what you’re learning, we’re actually using that same material out in the real world,’ it’s a very humbling feeling.”

Bridging the gap between the classroom and the real world was a key aspect of the RAD team’s mentorship, said Kenya Whitney, Hampton High School geometry teacher.

“Having the Airmen visible in the classroom makes what we’re teaching more tangible for the students,” said Whitney. “They’re talking about planes using trigonometry and angles of elevation.  It made the students think ‘Oh, I could really use this information one day.”

Part of STEM education also involves a more collaborative teaching approach.  Partnering with the RAD team helped facilitate a more interactive classroom environment, said Tiffany Hardy, Hampton High School principal.

“Technology is changing so much that there are jobs that don’t exist today that will exist in three to five years, so [students] need to be learning skills they can transition into a job they don’t even know about yet,” said Hardy. “Talking with Airmen who come in and say ‘You can do it; the world is open to you; you have the opportunity,’ helped the kids build a new sense of confidence. They’re walking taller as a result of this mentorship.”

Tiffany Gurly, an 11th grade STEM student at Hampton High School, said one of the most enjoyable experiences with the RAD team was a visit to JBLEin June of this year.

“It was interesting to see how things applied in the real world.  Seeing all the machinery, the people and how they interacted with each other really pushed me to strive to work harder this year,” said Gurly. “It’s easier to say it in the classroom, but to actually see these things physically represented really mattered.  It really opened my eyes -- seeing how the Airmen were able to do something like that made me realize I could do something like that too.”

For more information about joining a RAD team please contact the RAD POC at 764-2438. Contact the local high schools for more information regarding STEM.