October 24, 2016
By Judy McSpadden
Lockheed Martin has given generously to Our Military Kids for many years – in fact, since OMK’s inception. Its recent donation, however, differs from most in that it restricts a third of its total to a specific kind of earmarked activity, STEM programs.
Lockheed, an aerospace, defense, security and technology firm, wants kids to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math, said Jennifer Mandel, manager of the STEM Portfolio at Lockheed. “These are the jobs of the future,” Mandel said.
Our Military Kids grants pay for a variety of activities — arts, sports and other enrichment programs — for children whose military parents are deployed or recovering from injury. So far, 90 OMK grants this year have paid for children’s STEM programs. AT&T, another OMK donor, has also restricted its grants to STEM-related activities.
Rylan Sellers, age 9, used his OMK grant to attend Camp Invention last summer. “The camp covered more than inventing,” said Rylan’s mom, Tami Sellers, who described the camp activities that brought computers, engineering, biology and mapping to life. “For example, the kids had to develop this island. Bananas had to get to the monkeys – or something like that,” she laughed. “He loved every minute of it.”
According to Ms. Sellers, the camp happened at a very appropriate time. Rylan’s dad was on an 11-month military deployment to Guantanamo Bay, and Rylan’s sister, age 4, had health issues. “There was definitely stress,” said Ms. Sellers, whose husband, Don, a member of an Army National Guard security unit, had formerly served on active duty.
“We no longer had the support system we were used to,” Ms. Sellers said. “Rylan had to get used to being more independent, while I looked after his sister. But the hardest thing for me was to stop their grief while Don was gone.”
“This kind of stress is why we’re here,” said Linda Davidson, Executive Director of Our Military Kids, “Extracurricular programs reduce a child’s stress, increase academic performance, and enhance the well-being of the entire family.”
According to Davidson, Lockheed has continued its support of OMK programs through thick and thin, giving every year since 2005 for a total of nearly $600,000. “Lockheed has proved a wonderful corporate partner, giving not only funding but a variety of opportunities for our military families.”
Lockheed, a company of 100,000 employees working in areas such as aeronautics and space systems, has soaring in its DNA. Partnering with educators within nonprofit groups and schools, it provides curriculum and even its own engineers as teachers of kids, k-12. Its newest STEM education program, “Generation Beyond,” works with NASA to teach middle school children about deep space. Mandel said, “They’ve even outfitted a school bus as a virtual reality experiment.”
The interest in STEM education reaches far and wide. During last year’s White House Science Fair, President Barack Obama said: “[Science] is more than a school subject…. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change the world….”
Companies like Lockheed, operating through organizations like Our Military Kids, are working toward enhancing national competitiveness on the world stage…and beyond.
(Please email comments to JSMcSpadden@ourmilitarykids.org.)