In school, I was always fascinated by foreign countries. I recall writing a paper in grade school about New Zealand and imagining myself living there someday. Travelling to Colorado on three annual mountain climbing backpacking trips with the YMCA in my early teens taught me a lot about geography by using a compass, using USGS topographic maps, and orienteering to find routes through passes and up mountains.
When I attended the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) St. Louis Area Working group (SLAWG) in May 2018, I heard the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) describe the GeoPlunge tournament—a competition that encourages geographical literacy in grade schoolers. I knew immediately that I wanted Engility to be part of the action. My leadership and coworkers quickly responded to my call for volunteers and support. This month, we will begin our classroom time, tutoring 4th graders as they prepare for the November 14 competition, and getting those grade schoolers some great looking GeoPlunge tee shirts.
Building Bridges in St. LouisA St. Louis native and life-long lover of all things geographical, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of some students in my hometown. Raised and educated in north St. Louis County, I have been interested in activities that promote north St. Louis and bring education and jobs to the current and future residents.
I think geography expands a child’s mind to see people from different parts of the world and cultures as fellow citizens of the earth. Many St. Louis area public schools are very diverse in cultures, race and religious background (much more than when I was in high school). But some schools still lack exposure to other people and cultures within the St. Louis area. Growing up in St. Louis, it is a city with imagined and real boundaries separating people. A favorite ice breaking question in the area is, “Where did you go to high school?” A little puzzling to transplants, answering that question pins someone to a particular social group. As a “north county” kid, we didn’t mix much with the “west county” kids or “city” kids or “south county” kids', unless is was on the basketball court, football or soccer field. I think learning geography can begin in your own hometown and through maps and geospatial sciences; the whole world is at kid’s fingertips today. We have an opportunity to use geography to show these children how to explore our world – virtually – and inspire them to cross boundaries to discover each other.
A Passion for STEMParticipating through USGIF’s SLAWG education committee has given me a great outlet for STEM activity. The committee is helping NGA’s outreach to the neighbors of the Next NGA West (N2W) site in north St. Louis city. GeoPlunge and Project Connect are the first events I’ve joined. I also get to work with many small businesses, some young adults and entrepreneurs with mobile geospatial apps through my day job on Engility’s IGAPP contract with the NGA. Our app brokerage service places meaningful apps into the hands of warfighters quickly and securely, and we get to interact with dozens of small businesses.
Tournament TimeI look forward to sharing experience from the classroom as we approach the November GeoPlunge Tournament. NGA has partnered with three St. Louis public schools for 2018 (up from two last year). I’m so looking forward to this that I bought a GeoPlunge game to practice with my family.
Find your fit at Engility by visiting www.engility.com/careers.