Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Volunteers take part in uplifting school project

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden)
Staff Sgt. Aaron Leitzel, 614th Air and Space Communications Squadron satellite communication manager, helps hold the opening of the balloon while being inflated Dec. 17, 2012, at Swigert Academy. As a STEAM school, Swigert Academy emphasizes the importance of math and science to its students while preparing them for the future through an academically challenging environment while fostering creativity and teamwork.

By Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden

21st Space Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Volunteers from the Colorado Springs military community assisted with the annual hot air balloon launch Dec. 17 at the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy.

Part of the school’s curriculum includes a lesson about balloon flight as it relates to the periodic table and density. This lesson culminates with a real-life hot air balloon demonstration and the launching of the students’ hand-made hot air balloons.

Swigert Academy is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math school, meaning it focuses its core classes around those subjects. As a STEAM school (also known as STEM), Swigert Academy prepares future leaders through an academically challenging environment while fostering creativity and teamwork.

“I enjoy working with kids from all walks of life. They bring life and joy to my heart,” said 1st Lt. Kevin Slaughter, a volunteer from the 21st Force Support Squadron. “Dedicating my time to them is just as important as the job I do each and every day.”

This year’s hot air balloon launch included civilian and active duty military volunteers from the 21st Space Wing and other local units, who constructed and inflated a hot air balloon under the watchful eye of seasoned balloonist, Stephen Blucher, Rocky Mountain Hot Air Lines.

“I volunteered as soon as I heard the phrase ‘assist with inflating a hot air balloon,’” said Master Sgt. Tony Davis, Air Force Space Command engineering and installations requirements manager. “How many chances do you get to do something as cool as that?”

If it weren’t for volunteers like Davis and Slaughter, events like the hot air balloon demonstration at Swigert Academy may not be feasible.

“Without the help of volunteers, many of these events wouldn’t even be possible,” added Davis. “Think about how many charities and community functions that could not survive without the help of their volunteer workforce.”

“Our troops are mentors for youth,” said Stan Cindrity, Peterson Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center student liaison officer. “As our resources get stretched thinner and thinner, we need to start partnering — collaborating with our community — because they’re looking to us for volunteers.”

After a full day of balloon-wrangling, the volunteers were thanked by the students on behalf of the school, reinforcing the fact that this day was about giving back to the community and serving its children.

“I truly believe that we are all here to serve,” said Slaughter. “Regardless of where we serve, or who we serve, we have an obligation to serve in the communities we live in, to include this great nation of ours.”

For information volunteering at local area schools, contact Cindrity at 556-6141.

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