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Reaching out at the Rock II: Think Little Rock

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles about the efforts of Team Little Rock Members to volunteer in the local community.

Military service is a cornerstone of American heritage. Many significant and historically renowned Americans have dedicated a portion of their lives to serving their country in the military. Serving in uniform is such an integral part of American culture that 31 of America's 43 Presidents have done so.

Yet prominent American figures like George Washington, who was renowned for his leadership and prowess on the battlefield, and Thomas Jefferson, whose military service involved administrative brilliance, just to name two, also contributed invaluable service to their country outside of the military. It's a precedent of the founding fathers, which shows the extent to which service members can contribute to their country, on and off the battlefield.

The desire to serve the community, by inspiring a passion for education and erudition among local students, is why three Little Rock lieutenants judged science projects at the Little Rock School District 5th Grade Science Fair Feb. 23, at the Central Little Rock Library.

The three company grade officers are part of a volunteer organization called Think Little Rock founded by 1st Lt. Kyle Sanders, a 53rd Airlift Squadron copilot.

"The purpose of Think Little Rock is to help students desire a passion for education, specifically initiatives in science, mathematics and critical thinking," said Sanders.
At the science fair 1st Lts. Alex Deering, Dave Blessinger and Andrew Huddleston, all with the 53rd AS, represented Team Little Rock by judging and rating the science experiments of more than 60 students.

"It's nice to interact with kids eager to learn science," said Deering. "Seeing how enthusiastic these young people are is exciting, and it's great to give back."
As excited as the Airmen were to be there, their fellow judges were just as happy to have them.

"It's great to have the Air Force represented in the community of Little Rock," said Marilyn Johnson, Washing Magnet School teacher and judge at the fair. "We're honored and thrilled to have the men and women who serve our country here."

The projects at the fair were various in categories from life science, earth science, space science, physical science, behavioral science and chemistry.

Belssinger, who judged the chemistry projects, said he had a good time judging, and was impressed with a lot of the children's projects.

"There's no way I would have had the ambition or know how to do some of these projects in middle school," he said.

Deering, who judged the life science projects, said he was also impressed with the caliber of the presentations, even more so because they were designed and executed by children 10 or 11 years old.

"There was one project on cytoplasm streaming in plants that impressed me a lot," he said. "It had to take a lot of dedication and work to complete some of these projects."

After the science fair was over, the lieutenants with Think Little Rock and the hosts of the science fair said the day was a success. However, the group's founder said this is just one of the things Think Little Rock will do, and they intend to stay involved in the community.

"We have 25 volunteers already," said Sanders. "We'd like to send them to work with classrooms and help the kids out with math and science related questions. Even show the students how math is used in real life."

While a lot of the volunteers for Think Little Rock are pilots and navigators Sanders said anyone who wants to volunteer and has an interest in promoting science and education should email him at or visit the group's website at
Since the days of Copernicus mankind has dreamed of flight and erudition.

Unaccountable and invaluable discoveries have been benefitting humanity since the days of Copernicus and beyond as well. Whether putting the scientific revolution in motion like Newton did, broadening the scope of our understanding like Galileo, originating a new way of thought like Darwin, dreaming of a new idea like Freud or fathering a new way to relate to the world like Einstein, all pillars of discovery share a common trait, a desire for education, erudition and understanding.

Sanders said the objective for Think Little Rock is to kindle an appreciation for the sciences, and an understanding of applicable uses of mathematics in life outside of the classroom. Reaching out to the community, hoping to inspire the youth to educate themselves, provides a service beyond the call of traditional military duties, a service that upholds the precedent of Washington and Jefferson and beyond.