An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Team Scott teens learn life lessons, leadership skills with Keystone program

  • Published
  • By James L. Hodges
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
In 2012, having a place for teenagers to go is no different than it has ever been - it's a "keystone" in their growing up years. That's why Air Mobility Command has the Keystone program in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

"Keystone is a place where you can come and hang out with people who are close to your age but it's also a place where you can come out and help a community as well," said Camille Parker, a Keystone teen in the 10th grade at Mascoutah High School.

Parker is a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America Keystone program, a leadership development experience for teens ages 14 to 18. According to its Website, Keystone clubs "aim to have a positive impact on members, the club and community by focusing on academic success, career preparations and community service."

The Keystone club at Scott AFB meets Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. to discuss upcoming business such as community service events and fundraisers, said Debbie Stewart, a Keystone adult advisor with the 375th Force Support Squadron.

"We also network and come up with ideas of where the club is going and where we would like to be," said Stewart.

The program, available at all Air Mobility Command bases, is important for youth development and helps to defy stereotypes that many people have regarding teens, officials say.

"The teens are hungry for a sense of belonging and they enjoy working with their peers to reach a common goal," said Stewart. "These could very well be areas that the teens would not be involved in without Keystone.

The program gives teens life-enhancing experiences and character development opportunities.

"I'm in ROTC so the community service hours help a lot," said Cameron Yates, a sophomore at Mascoutah High School and a member of the Keystone program. "We went picking up trash on the highway; we're going to volunteer at the animal shelter, which I think is great because they really look like they are undermanned.

"I think it's a good thing that kids come and help people and I really enjoy it," said Yates, but Keystone is more than just a community service opportunity to him.

"I think it's a good leadership experience," said Yates. "You get to help the community but also with the conference we're learning how to be leaders and how to do the right thing, even when no one is looking."

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America 2012 National Keystone Conference that was held in Fort Worth, Texas from March22 to 25 is the conference Yates was referring to. He was one of six teens from Scott AFB, along with Parker, who attended the conference. Eighteen teens in total from five AMC bases participated with their adult advisors in the conference.

"I learned to be a good person and not try to conform to everyone else," said Yates. "Be yourself and everyone will like you."

They also learned important life lessons such as "not to post stuff on facebook that you'll regret," laughed Yates.

Internet safety was one of the topics discussed at the conference said Jess Pinto, a senior from Mascoutah High School who was also in attendance from Scott AFB. A topic in the media now was also featured - bullying.

"[We talked about] how we should care for others and when someone is being bullied you should stand up for that person," said Pinto. "[We learned about] helping them out and trying to reach out for them so they don't do anything stupid like commit suicide."

An important part of the conference and the club itself is networking.

"I think it's really cool because there are so many people who are part of boys and girls club that you don't even know about," said Parker. "When you get there you can tell that they are really as into it as you are and you can talk to them about things that go on in your club as well as things that go on in theirs."

But convincing her friends to join Keystone has been another matter altogether for Parker.

"A lot of my friends you tell them about it and they're like, 'that doesn't sound all that great' but when they get here I think they like it a whole lot," said Parker.

The Keystone program fits into the Comprehensive Airman Fitness ideals. CAF is an Air Force program designed to help Airmen, Air Force civilians and family members become more resilient and better-equipped to deal with the rigors of military life and Keystone does just that.

"Seeing how the teens are when they first join Keystone versus after they've been in Keystone for a while," Stewart remarked was the best part of Keystone for her. "[We] get to see the changes that they make within themselves and the differences they make in their community."

But to the teens it's not that complicated. To sum up Keystone, Pinto said, "You get to hang out, you get to help people. Basically you're like a big family."