Middle school students explore engineering careers at Lockheed Martin

Joshua Cedillo (center), a 7th grade student at Benbrook Middle School, presents a gift to Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh during a Junior Achievement “JA in a Day” event hosted by Lockheed Martin. Also pictured is Lockheed Martin Vice President JD McFarland. Lockheed Martin photo by Alex Groves.

More than 200 students from Benbrook Middle School got the chance to try on pilot helmets, play with model airplanes and get a pep talk from U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.

“Everybody in here can be an engineer,” Welsh said. “Everybody in here can be good at the work that Lockheed Martin does. It’s not just the math and the science. It’s the thinking, a different way of looking at problems.”

It was all part of the Reverse JA in a Day event held Friday at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility. JA – that is, Junior Achievement – is a nonprofit educational organization that helps elementary, middle and high school students explore careers. Typically, JA visits schools for JA in a Day, but with “Reverse” JA in a Day, students visit the workplace and take part in activities hosted by JA and the company. Reverse JA in a Day began last November at Fidelity Investments in Westlake, where students learned about finance.

This time, the theme was engineering and technology. It was the first time JA held the event at Lockheed Martin.

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“A lot of times the kids get focused just on what’s right around them on a day-to-day basis, and they don’t see what the bigger world has to offer,” JA President Randal Mays said. “That’s what we’re doing here by bringing kids out of the classroom and into the workplace.”

JA Business Relations Manager Priscilla Miller said programs like JA are especially important because of House Bill 5, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013. The bill requires eighth grade students to declare a “career endorsement,” similar to a major in college, that helps guide what classes the student will take in high school.

“Having the students go into the business community and learn about all the jobs that are available to them helps them with that process,” Miller said.

Seventh grader Joshua Cedilo, 13, said he wants to become an Air Force pilot one day. He said Reverse JA in a Day taught him that he could “accomplish anything as long as you believe in yourself.”

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“Never stop dreaming,” he said. “Even though it might get rough, get up and try again.”