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News - 2011
Navy Mentors Future Engineers 

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW) LaTunya Howard Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. – Sailors from Naval Support Activity Mid-South (NSA) partnered with local scholars for the Memphis Youth Science Technology Engineering and Math (MYSTEM) Summer Academy June 14-25 at the University of Memphis (U of M).

“MYSTEM is a Navy-led initiative meant to inspire the youth of Memphis to consider careers in the science, technology, engineering or math fields as a viable option for success,” said Capt. Douglas McGowen, commanding officer, NSA.  “Pursuing degrees in these fields leads to nothing but good things in their future.” 

 The Navy, along with 16 local teachers, worked with 230 seventh and eighth graders from across the city.  The theme for the two-week program was based on real-world problems requiring technical solutions.  The scenario for MYSTEM 2010 was the Haiti earthquake of January 12. 

“We have natural disasters and all types of problems going on in our world,” said Dedric McGhee, Science Instructional Specialist, Shelby Summer Scholars Institute.  “Our kids should be thinking about problem solving using science, technology, engineering and math.  The Navy solves problems so we said, ‘tell us how you would look at this particular problem’.” 

 The students were divided into three groups with mission themes of respond, rescue and restore.  The Navy provided technical support, professional development and mentorship to the students.  "The commitment to support the initiative received from Admiral's Quinn and Faller was phenomenal." said Ensign Julieanna Walker, MYSTEM volunteer and resource coordinator, Navy Personnel Command (NPC).  “Between Command Navy Recruiting Command and NPC about 100 Sailors were able to touch the lives of the children and teachers."

“Sailors play a vital role in the shaping of a young mind,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Ace Sutton, NPC, PERS-811, a MYSTEM volunteer.  “The MYSTEM project was one of the best opportunities for Sailors to interact and help young Americans learn the importance of teamwork and build the communication skills needed to be successful in the future. This allowed the students to complete the goals set in a timely and effective manner.”  

 The first day of camp the students were directed by U of M Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets through team-building activities.  The students quickly became acquainted with one another during their mini-boot-camp experience.  The next few days were spent assembling, programming and testing robots.  The students then focused on receiving and understanding the mission while developing execution strategies.

“Having the opportunity to come out and volunteer with these young people, and to help guide them as they accomplished their missions was a rewarding experience for us all,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Phylis (AW/SW) Barr, NPC Petty Officer 1st Class recruiter detailer. “Their enthusiasm and imagination along with the sailors expertise and real world experience, helped drive home to the kids that the technology they were studying and the skills they were learning could be used on a broader scale globally, and it really made them proud. Helping them learn to work as teams despite their differences of opinion was also an entertaining aspect. The kids realized quickly that listening to each other and working together were big parts of being a successful team.”

During the final week, students had their strategic plans tested and they worked on perfecting the execution of their plans.  On the final day, the students presented all that they had learned to peers and their families.  The students built bridges, tested and purified water, simulated delivery of essential supply drops using parachutes, and demonstrated ways of moving and treating massive groups of people.  

 “The existing public and private curricula do not produce an adequate supply of technically adept, inspired children to meet the global challenge,” said McGowen.  “We can do nothing or we can do something.  MYSTEM is one tangible investment we can make now to prepare our workforce with a techno-centric industrial base.”

 For more information on activities supporting STEM education across the Nation, visit the Navy Diversity Directorate Web site at:

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit


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