By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
Willie Anderson knows the difference a mentor can make in a student’s life.
“My sixth grade teacher, Theodore Gassion, opened my eyes to see the importance of attending college and what the world had to offer,” said Anderson, who is a quality assurance specialist at Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin Orlando. “I became the second in my family to attend college.”
On April 28, Anderson, Michael Abernathy, quality assurance director, and Air Force Maj. Alvin Otero, F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program integrator, volunteered to talk about STEM careers and give an insight into their own career paths to middle and high school students during the STEM Revolution held at Evans High School in Orlando. More than 200 students from the surrounding schools and their parents attended the event. STEM careers are professions related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We spoke to the students about career paths based on their current and future interests,” said Anderson. “We also talked to them about finding funding for college such as grants and scholarships, and the importance of internships and other opportunities that will set them apart from others when applying to college. It was important to stress to them that they will need to, at times, overcome failure and learn from it and it is important for them to find role models and mentors to help them in their future careers.”
The DCMA team was invited by Nicole Bronson, the calculus project lead and Find Your Voice lead with the Minority Achievement Office in the Orange County Public Schools. Bronson has worked with Anderson during previous outreach events, including feeding the homeless.
“Given today’s technology advances and human dependency on it, STEM is linked to almost everything we do,” said Anderson. “In my job as a QA specialist, I work hand-in-hand with contractors and customers, and technical knowledge plays an important role when performing my job.”
In addition to various government and corporate volunteers mentoring students, other highlights of STEM Revolution included discussion panels, technical demonstrations and robotics competitions by the students, and exhibit displays.
According to Anderson, STEM outreach events help students understand how they can use certain technical skills in a variety of professions.
“These events expose younger generations to other specialized career fields and different employment opportunities such as private industry, government agencies and the military,” said Anderson, who has worked for the agency for 16 years. “This is important for those kids whose parents may not have the higher education experience. We want students to further their education and take advantage of the opportunities available. For example, DCMA has opportunities for recently graduated college students, including the Keystone program.”
Bronson thanked all of the volunteers in a recent email.
“The energy, willing spirit, and expertise you brought to the STEM day was extraordinary,” she said. “Please know that the sacrifice of your time and effort to be a part of this event was an investment in the lives of children…Thank you for reaching back to pull our next generation up.”
Anderson said he enjoys volunteering and mentoring students throughout the year. In May, he spoke to students at The Center for the Advancement of Science and Engineering at Lockhart Middle School in Orlando. Later this month, he will speak to STEM students at Valencia College.
He encouraged other DCMA employees to pay it forward and volunteer in their local community.
“Besides representing our organization, community involvement is very important for defense organizations like DCMA since the general public may not understand what we do,” said Anderson. “The best way to attract the brightest to our organization is leading by example and influencing and mentoring those talented young men and women who will follow in our footsteps.”
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