By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
Academy Public Affairs
When is being at the end of your rope a good thing? How about when you’re a middle- or high-school student visiting the Air Force Academy’s rock climbing wall as part of the Cadet Wing’s Youth Diversity Outreach program?
Nearly 30 teenagers from the local community spent a full day with cadets, including three hours in the rock climbing room, Feb. 27. In addition to climbing, visitors met the Bird and Air Force cheerleaders and watched the Air Force basketball team play the UNLV Rebels.
Jarnell Reynolds, a student at Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs School District 11, said climbing was his favorite part of the day.
“It was something different,” Jarnell said. “It’s not something you do every day.”
Volunteers found out about the program through the Cadet Multicultural Club, said Cadet 1st Class Carrie Wong K, the cadet in charge of the event and an exchange student from Belize who is assigned to Cadet Squadron 11. She signed up because she loves working with children and teens.
“I did work like this when I was at home, so I’ll continue doing this when I return, probably with the YWCA,” Cadet Wong K said.
Col. Gail Colvin, the vice commandant of cadets, started the program in 2007 to familiarize students from the community with what the Academy offers and to let them interact with cadets, said Carol Lagatta, administrative assistant to the vice commandant.
“This is a great way to expose children who may not have the chance otherwise to see what we’re really doing at the Academy,” Ms. Lagatta said. “Children relate well to the cadets, and cadets get to share why they came to the Academy.”
At least one person who came to visit the Academy during the outreach program’s first year has applied to join the Class of 2014, Ms. Lagatta said. Meanwhile, the local community has eagerly tried to get more children involved.
“We’ve had more response from the local community than we could accommodate,” Ms. Lagatta said. Thirty cadets volunteered to spend the day with the visitors, and 26 families from Colorado Springs quickly filled the slots.
Colonel Colvin said she hopes to carry the program into the future.
“We want to reach out to the community and show them what’s available out here,” she said. “Our vision is to continue this partnership with the local community and encourage (children) to be hopeful for their futures, set goals and dream for something bigger than they had ever imagined.”