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Robinson student spends summer at MacDill

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

While a lot of 16-year-olds are spending their summer at the beach or have a summer job behind the counter at the local fast-food establishment, Yvonne Martinez has been helping National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft mechanics repair the rotor blades on one of its helicopters.

It's just one of many tasks the Robinson High School senior was assigned during her internship at MacDill, a new summer program made possible through a community partnership program between the base and the school.

Martinez's month of work at NOAA Aircraft Operations is up this week and she said it has been a rich learning experience. She is the first-ever high school intern to work at NOAA on base and qualified by being a junior in school and through her participation in the MacDill Aeronautical Academy program at Robinson and Civil Air Patrol background.

"I ask a lot of questions," said Martinez, who added she has been absorbing as much information as possible while working at NOAA. "There are a lot of very knowledgeable people here."

Martinez, who has been working five days a week from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., said she has installed floorboards in one of the aircraft and assisted mechanics with helicopter repair. She said the helicopters are the most interesting. Although her job was limited to handing up wrenches and other tasks like waxing the rotor blades, she enjoyed her time working with mechanics. She even got a ride on the chopper, which she described as "exciting." She rode on one of the larger planes in the NOAA fleet, but says she didn't have a task on the scientific data-gathering mission and fell asleep.

Martinez said the flying can be fun, but she doesn't have much interest in making it a career.

"Some of the people here have been trying to talk me into being a pilot, but I don't think that's for me," she said. Martinez, who said she wants to go to college after graduating Robinson next year, has not decided on a career, but says something in the aeronautics field may work out for her.

Melvin Carr, the instructor of the MacDill Aeronautical Academy at Robinson and Martinez's teacher, said many of his 90 students are looking hard at the job opportunities in aeronautics. Many of those jobs have nothing to do with flying, he said.

"When some of them find out starting mechanics with Southwest Airlines are making $23 an hour they realize the opportunities are there," said Carr.

Carr is married to Cindy Carr, the director of the community partnerships program at MacDill. It was the two Carr's who initiated the internship program.

It's been working out well for NOAA and Martinez, said Carr and while some changes may be made, plans are to continue it next summer.

"NOAA has really gone to bat and they even got Yvonne GS-1 status so she could collect a paycheck," said Carr.

The goal of the program, and the many student field trips Carr takes to MacDill, are designed to give teenagers a look and the inside of the industry so they can better decide what career path to follow.

"This gives them a behind-the-scenes look," said Carr. "It's all here (at MacDill) and they can get up close and see what it's all about so they can be in a better position to make decisions about what to do with their lives."

 

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