HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Students in an Air Force program designed to foster and develop youth interested in science, technology, engineering and math for an Air Force career passed a major milestone here this year.

The Leadership Experience Growing Apprenticeships Committed to Youth, or LEGACY, program identifies and retains young diverse talent to make up our nation’s future STEM-driven workforce.

“The LEGACY program is a true STEM pipeline. It’s starts students from ages 11 to 15 with one-week summer camps to introduce them to STEM through hands-on projects and demonstration,” said Kerry Reed, LEGACY program site lead for Hill Air Force Base. “Then, at 16, they earn a junior apprenticeship and the opportunity to work with a mentor on base. This is the first year at Hill Air Force Base that we have 16- and 17-year-olds working on base and getting paid.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, junior apprentices worked virtually with mentors from the 309th Software Engineering Group at Hill Air Force Base. This year 21 students are working in-person on base.

The junior apprentices experience a six to eight week internship working with mentors in a career field matched to their interests while also moving them around to broaden their knowledge and interest in STEM.

Ryan Jaskowiak, a junior apprentice with three years in the LEGACY program and an interest in aerospace engineering and becoming a pilot, has been working on temporary maintenance structures for F-16, C-130, and F-35 aircraft during his internship at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex.

“The LEGACY program is a place where I can go and talk to people with similar interests and experience a lot of cool new things in STEM,” said Jaskowiak.

There are currently 12 students in each of the craftsman age groups of 11-15 and the junior apprentice group grows by 12 every year.

Craftsman students finish their camps with an open house where they demonstrate projects they’ve made and concepts they’ve learned. Students built hover boards and raspberry pi computers for this year’s open house.

“I’ve had parents tell me that this was the first time they’ve had the experience of coming to an event to watch and cheer on their child that is interested in STEM,” said Reed.

The program takes new students in the 11-year-old group every year through an application process and invites prior students back.

“I’ve seen the impact these programs make on students and their lives. I’ve seen the lightbulb turn on,” said Reed. “I’ve seen their excitement to realize they like math, and that they can do it. This program is really making a difference in the world.”

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