USACE Middle East District Recognized for Student Outreach

Transatlantic Middle East District
Published May 2, 2024
Updated: May 2, 2024
Students trying virtual reality glasses.

Clarke County High School Students Melody and Zachary Moore try on virtual reality glasses during a visit to Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. The visit was part of their internship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District high school internship program. The program was recently recognized by Winchester Public Schools and the Virginia School Boards Association when the district was named to the VSBA Honor Roll.

Four women receiving award.

Katie Lockhart, Winchester Public Schools Career and Technical Education Coordinator, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) architect Sarah Field-Jablecki, TAM Engineer Mary Billings and Sara Weinstein, Winchester Public Schools work-based learning coach, during a ceremony in which TAM was inducted into the Virginia School Boards Honor Roll.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) was recently named to the Virginia School Boards Association Honor Roll in recognition of its high school internship program.

The program assigns students with an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects to district mentors in those career fields and allows them to work on a collaboratively designed project through the course of a high school semester.

During a presentation of the award at a recent school board meeting, representatives from Winchester City Schools, one of the school districts TAM works with, praised the program as a model worth emulating.

“For a number of years now, the Army Corps of Engineers has offered an exceptional opportunity. The experience is so thought out and well rounded, the way this is developed is what we’d like to project-based learning to look like and something we’d like to see duplicated,” said Katie Lockhart, Winchester Public Schools Career and Technical Education Coordinator.

The program started several years ago with individual family or student requests to shadow engineers but over time involved into a formal program where students receive academic credit for their work.

Mary Billings, a supervisory engineer with TAM said it’s that formal process that makes the program so successful.

“No longer is this just something where a person may have a family friend who works here and asks if their son or daughter can shadow one of our outstanding STEM professionals,” she said. “We work with the local school districts to advertise the program, and students go through a formal application process to compete for an internship. Each year I am so impressed with the high achieving students that apply with an interest in engineering or architecture.”

Garrison Myer, the TAM intern program manager, said one of the other improvements the program has made is having the students, who come from different school districts, work together.

“In the past each student would choose an individual project. We now have them work together as a project development team to design one thing. That replicates the workplace more and allows them to learn how each person contributes to a team,” he said.

Most of the students go on to major in those subjects in college and some have returned to the district during the summer as paid interns. The goal of the program is to remain connected with the students throughout their educational process so TAM is their number one choice for employment after college graduation.

Lockhart said that was another reason she viewed the program as such a model for success.

“This is the ideal way for high school students to see that making these early connections as they are learning can create a career opportunity on the horizon,” she said.

TAM’s commander, Col. Philip Secrist, said he considers his district’s participation in STEM activities an important part of USACE’s overall mission.

 “From elementary school through college, developing and maintaining an interest in a STEM field, particularly in public service is critical to our nation. The time and effort we put into developing these students now is definitely something our society will get back. I really appreciate the great partnerships we have with the local school districts and we’re grateful for the recognition.”