307th CES Helps Iowa Educators Touch the Future

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Justin Moore
  • 307th Bomb Wing

Iowa is known for vast corn fields and small towns, but if you look closely, in the middle of all that lies a state-of-the-art STEM center that could revolutionize how students learn.

Members of the 307th Bomb Wing Civil Engineer Squadron traveled to Woodbine, Iowa to partner with the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training program and the IGNITE Pathways program to help construct a new 45,000 square foot STEM education building designed to serve students throughout the state's southwestern region.

The IRT program supports local communities and nonprofits that need more human resources to complete the tasks. IRT is also one of the tools that DoD engineers and medical personnel use to help with training effectively preparing them to deploy.

"They need something finished, built, or remodeled. And we want to send our troops there to allow them to get experience, and it gives them hands-on, real-world training," said Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Bennett, IRT Project Manager.

The 307th CES members received essential training while furthering the construction of the STEM building. Members from multiple CE backgrounds all had tasks to complete during their time in Woodbine.

"This project helps us to check off core tasks for our upgrade training that we need," Senior Airmen Ryan Collier said. "At the same time, it helps us to know that we are a part of something bigger that will help the generations to come."

The Ignite Pathways program spawned from the mind of Justin Wagner, Woodbine School District superintendent.

Wagner, who also serves in the Iowa Air National Guard, has spent 27 years in education and wanted a new way to help students experience hands-on learning that integrated STEM and core subjects into the curriculum.

So, three years ago, he consulted with many community leaders and educators about his idea to create the program. To date, the Ignite Pathways has helped hundreds of Iowa students prepare to advance their education by giving them job-ready skills.

The program is set to expand to more than 80 programs in areas like marketing, agriculture, child care, and construction.

"It's offering things that students just wouldn't get the opportunity to be offered in rural communities," Wagner said, "It's been a game changer."

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