LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
After being named the best youth program in Air Education and Training Command for 2010, the Lackland Youth Center director hoped to one day win the Air Force-level competition.
One day came a lot sooner than expected for both the youth program and its director, Susan Brasel. The 802nd Force Support Squadron youth program was recently named best in the Air Force.
"I set a goal to win the Air Force Youth Program of the Year," said Ms. Brasel, who became director in January 2010. "(To win) would mean we were servicing all facets of the youth program.
"I put that goal in writing, on Power Point, and set it to music. I've learned when a goal is set in writing and a firm commitment is made to achieve it, somehow the law of attraction is going to bring the people, the items and the finances to make it happen," she said.
Ms. Brasel said meeting the goal in the first 365 days was never expected, "not in a million years."
She said just winning at the AETC level would be a first step to higher level competition.
"We beat some pretty good programs in AETC and that was a good start," Ms. Brasel said. "I thought, now I know what needs to be done to compete at the Air Force level. Needless to say, we were very thrilled to win the Air Force award."
For the October 2009 through September 2010 award period, a wide range of activities were instituted at the youth center. Among the programs that served 8,800 youth were summer camps, a digital photography course, participation in the Bexar County 4-H show, family fitness activities and cultural-ethnicity awareness events.
Youth membership grew to 3,300, and the center hosted more than 11,000 visitors. The staff also garnered Air Force certificates of excellence, and the center was recognized by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America with a diversity award.
Lt. Col. Chad Schrecengost, 802nd FSS commander, said it's a solid combination that makes the Lackland Youth Program the best in the Air Force.
"You start with fantastic facilities and develop some dynamic programs," Colonel Schrecengost said. "However, the constant all along has been the tremendous staff in delivering that service to the children.
"Any time I have a down day, I'll go to the youth center and see what's happening, especially in the summer. It's an automatic pick-me-up. It's high energy, a testament to Susan and her staff."
Ms. Brasel credits listening to the youth and obtaining grants to the program's success.
She said the Lackland program doesn't offer just the typical programs because the staff thinks outside the box to address needs and develop programs.
"We had a teen forum recently," Ms. Brasel said. "We wanted to know what we could do for them, what they weren't getting in school.
"They wanted textbooks in the building - done. Stacey High School doesn't offer driver's education, so we're going to institute a class here over the summer."
The program was also recently recognized by another organization. In 2010, the persistence by Ms. Brasel and the staff in applying for Boys and Girls Club grants resulted in $38,000 for the youth program. It was the highest total awarded by the organization to military services.
"It was a shock to me because I thought everyone was fighting for money," Ms. Brasel said.
Visitors to the youth center also confirm how the program meets the base youth needs.
"It's been validated to me by spouses' clubs from all over the Air Force who tour here," Ms. Brasel said.
"They are blown away by the activities and the programming we have here. They don't have it at their bases."