With the start of a new school year, a group of local servicemembers are hoping they can keep students in school and on the right track.
Today, airmen at Randolph Air Force kicked off a session of GAMER, which stands for Giving Americans Motivational Education for the Real World. The program, which has partnered with the base for three years, encourages at-risk youth to stay in school, pursue their dreams and avoid drugs and alcohol.
Major Joel Neeb has participated with the GAMER program and this year is no exception.
"This is an incredible opportunity for us to give back something to the community," Neeb said. "We here at Randolph Air Force Base recognize the fact that our jobs are cool, our jobs are fun, and they're something that resonates with kids."
This year, students from Sam Houston High School, will meet with Randolph servicemembers on a weekly basis through September and October. At each session, volunteer speakers from within the base will educate 200 students on how they grew up, including what choices they made to better their future. Those students toured the base today and met with servicemembers, including the service dogs used by the Air Force.
"We present them with our daily jobs," Neeb said. "We show a video that highlights the exciting things we get to do. Then we talk about each of our individual responsiblities in the Air Force. Most importantly, we talk about our journey. We talk about what it took to get from where they're sitting to where we're standing and the good and bad decisions that we made along the way."
The program has paid off. Last year, the base partnered with Tafolla Middle School and Lanier High School to produce successful results:
- Freshmen dropout rate decreased from 25% to 12% for the year
- Students with perfect attendance increased from 12 students in September 2011 to 251 students in June 2012
- In 2011, "College night was attended by only 10 students. This year, more than 100 attended.
Neeb says that although he's proud of what he does, the program also showcases a variety of speakers to show how everyone at the base works together to create a team at Randolph.
"I'm a fighter pilot, but I'm going to put in front of them the support network behind fighter pilots," Neeb said. "I'm going to show them the firefighters that will pull me out of the wreckage if I ever should crash. I'm going to show them the security forces team that provides the canine's units that protect our base and patrols and monitors and the gates, that keep our base secure. And I want to show them that it's not just the pilot that goes up there and does his job, it's everybody as a team - as a group of wingmen - that takes care of one another to get the job done."