By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Seven Ellicott High School students walked in the shoes of seven masters of space Friday as part of a job shadow program here.
The program matched high school students with members throughout the 50th Mission Support Group and 50th Space Wing Staff, including Col. Brian Barthel, 50 MSG commander. Students viewed a short mission brief and introduction and were paired with members based on the student’s career interest.
Jena Bienia, the 50th Force Support Squadron community support coordinator, along with Danielle Van Esselstine, the Ellicott High School principal, coordinated this inaugural event.
“The shadow program was a big hit at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson [Alaska], so I decided to bring the program here,” said Bienia. “The whole day takes a lot of coordination to get the hosts matched with the students but in the end, it was all worth it.”
Students shadowed Schriever members at the child development center, the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron, the Schriever Fire Department, the 50th Contracting Squadron, the 50th Security Forces Squadron, the 50 MSG commander and public affairs.
Jacob Crist, Ellicott High School junior, shadowed multiple 50 CES members, opening his eyes to the variety of career opportunities.
“It was pretty cool,” said Crist. “I was able to speak with engineers and mechanics, look at blue prints for some of the buildings and see how the power plant and the pump station work. I was really able to see how these folks do their daily job.”
Crist also got his hands dirty with members of the CES utilities shop, and helped with plumbing repairs at the CDC.
“I want to come back on a Wednesday,” said Crist. “That’s when I was told they really get dirty and I would love to be able to participate.”
Joseph Allen, Ellicott High School senior, saw the firefighter’s perspective during his time with the wing. Allen suited up in Schriever turnout gear and participated in an auto extraction exercise.
“I’ve had a really great day,” said Allen. “These are a great bunch of guys and they really taught me a lot, on top of that, it was really fun.”
The hosts benefitted from their time with the students as well.
Jim Giddens, Schriever Fire Department assistant chief, was glad to participate and show Allen around.
“I’m always happy to participate in a program such as this,” said Giddens. “He was courteous and respectful and looked like he really enjoyed learning about being a firefighter. I enjoy my job and enjoy showing it to other people.”
Giddens said he hopes the program continues and that the fire department gets a chance to host again.
“I really believe in this program,” he said. “By doing this, we are investing in the future of America. Based on the young people who participated in this program, I am very happy with our future.”
Instead of showing his student the ins and outs of being a group commander, Barthel tailored his tour to match his student’s interest in engineering.
“He was very interested in engineering so I tailored his tour and what he saw at Schriever to that,” said Barthel. “He was able to talk to the engineers and see the design aspect.”
Barthel’s shadow received a rare chance to see an important piece of the puzzle when he sat in on the wing commanders financial management board, which included all of the group commanders.
“He was truly able to see the process from design, to finding and advocating for funding and [after the FMB] we wrapped up with the contracting piece of the puzzle,” said Barthel.
Barthel hopes to continue this program in the future.
“It’s our responsibility to the community and to our nation to help grow the leaders of tomorrow,” said Barthel. “You never know, by having a student shadow you, you might be helping spark the interest of the next space operator or security forces member.”
Team Schriever members wishing to volunteer for future shadow day events should contact Bienia at 567-2315.