Laughlin’s grow your own program: helping shape the future of Team XL

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Phaff
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

As many people may remember, in high school, students take core classes and some electives they found interesting. These interests introduce students to new passions and career fields in life. Del Rio High School is expanding on that concept.

Joe Frank Ramirez, a former Air Force maintenance worker turned teacher at Del Rio’s Gerardo J. Maldonado Career & Technical Education (CTE) Center, runs the Grow your own program, a class that works with Laughlin Air Force Base to let students gain real-life work experience. These students are allowed onto the base for several hours a week to work on aircraft maintenance, flight line management, scheduling, and planning. They work side by side with employees of the base to learn more and receive mentorship. The program's purpose is to help develop these young adults to be better prepared for life regardless of their path.

“It's a three-year-long program: the first year, we learn basic safety,” said Carla Robles, CTE Program student. “Then the next two years, you'll be out here at Laughlin working a job with the help of the actual employees.”

The program isn't just for those who want to try and get a job on base after they graduate. It’s to help prepare all participating students for adult life and give them the tools they need to be successful.

“I've had past students come up to me and say ‘thank you, I learned this, this, and that,’” said Ramirez. “I’d teach them how to write a resume and they take that to whatever job they’re going to do.”

This program has helped lead students to jobs right after high school here on base and helped develop them to leave their hometown to pursue college degrees or even military careers.

“I've had students that went on to work on jobs all over Laughlin,” said Ramirez. “Some went on to college and have gotten their bachelors in aviation mechanics; some have joined the military. One past student just applied to work for the Thunderbirds.”

This program has helped develop and shape the maintenance team here at Laughlin since a large number of the maintenance has a connection to the program.

“Forty four percent of my graduates that have graduated and applied for jobs at Laughlin have gotten one out here,” said Ramirez. “Roughly 53% of Laughlin maintenance has come from this program over the last 33 years.”

For students of the Grow Your Own program, applying straight out high school means they already have more experience than most new hires.

“We get trained on how to work on and maintain the different aircraft here at Laughlin Air Force Base,” said Kody Kenner, CTE Program student. “It gives everyone the experience to actually get hands-on work instead of just showing us stuff in a classroom.”

The students themselves enjoy the opportunities that they get with this program. It gives them a break from the classroom and a chance to learn new skills firsthand.

“We actually come to the base and are hands-on learning something new almost every time, applying what we learn from class and the workers out here,” said Eric Alvarado, CTE Program student.

Not only does this program teach participating students various job skills, but it also helps them get a head start on employment at Laughlin with on-the-job training if they choose to apply. It also teaches them responsibility and other life skills to give them the best chance to succeed with whatever path they choose as they enter the world.

“It’s really about trying to give everyone a chance to learn more and be prepared and to help this next generation be ready for whatever they want to pursue,” said Ramiez. “But it all falls on them; what do they want to do, and are they willing to do the work to be off a little better.”