Even the Energizer Bunny would have a hard time keeping up with 1st Lt. Heather Flynn, USAF. A native of southern California, Lt. Flynn graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2009, spent three years in three different positions at Vandenberg Air Force Base, recently married a KC-135 pilot who is serving in current operations and now is stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, where she is the flight commander of the 4th Communications Squadron's SCO Flight. When she is not practicing yoga, hiking, kayaking, camping or horseback riding, she is participating in a 5K or 10K fun run. Yet as a member of the Vandenberg-Central Coast Chapter, the lieutenant still had time to create—from the ground up— the chapter's scholarships and teacher grants program.
Lt. Col. Mike Anderson, USAF, chapter president, suggested the scholarship and grants idea, and from there, Lt. Flynn took the stick and started down the runway. "I couldn't imagine a better way for the organization [AFCEA] to get its name out in the community, benefit local students and benefit society at-large than by assisting these well-rounded, intelligent students who will go out and run companies and develop technologies that will aid our world," she says.
The lieutenant researched the scholarship and award process within the school districts, established chapter procedures for the education program and developed grading criteria. Working with the school superintendents from Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc and Solvang, Lt. Flynn solicited grant applications then organized the selection and distribution process.
Lt. Flynn also collected, graded and awarded scholarships to students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees this fall. "You should have read these essays. These kids are really driven. Many of them have already started their own charities and clubs that are benefiting the community. Imagine what they will be able to accomplish once they receive a college education and the impact they can make," the lieutenant says.
In addition, as a result of her efforts, teachers created innovative programs for underprivileged students. Using grant money, one teacher created a laboratory that demonstrates the properties of heat resistance and dispersion on a NASA-provided shuttle thermal insulating tile. A biology teacher searching for ways to help biology students better understand the spread of infectious disease, used the chapter grant to purchase a meter, ancillary equipment and other materials to enable students collect and measure bacterial growth.
Lt. Flynn not only helped students to enter college but also has some advice for students who will soon be leaving higher education to enter the work force. "Keep perspective! Find out where you fit in the big picture and what your contribution can be to it. Everyone is important to their organization at some level. Be smart and assess your situation for what it truly is. The ride may get wild and bumpy, but hold on tight and never lose sight of your purpose, faith and goals. Don't stress. You can do this by being proactive and preparing rather than reacting and making knee-jerk decisions that aren't well thought out," she advises.