Active-duty military teaches kids in Porterville’s STARBASE program

Porterville Military Academy incorporates a Department of Defense Youth Program that teaches fifth graders about STEM

PORTERVILLE –  Porterville Military Academy kickstarts STARBASE, a new STEM-oriented educational Department of Defense Youth Program for fifth grade students scheduled to begin in the fall.

On Aug. 18, Congressman Kevin McCarthy announced that the Porterville Military Academy (PMA) will launch the Department of Defense Youth Program, STARBASE. The STARBASE program offers fifth graders in Porterville 25 hours of hands-on experience in STEM and military-related education. The program is set to begin in the Fall of 2022.

“STARBASE is a state-of-the-art program that provides students with opportunities to learn more about STEM through hands-on learning,” McCarthy said in a released statement. “I have no doubt that this program will help to inspire a generation of future STEM leaders.”

STARBASE is for fifth graders and taught by active military members, according to public information officer Jason Pommier, who share real military experience and also follow a curriculum outlined  by the Department of Defense and Porterville Unified School District (PUSD). Students come in a day a week over the course of five weeks to work on and learn about various STEM projects.

STARBASE comes at a time during a critical need for education within the military because of the advancements made in modern warfare, which makes the military more complex. The Army News Service reported the Army was facing a deficit in STEM majors in 2013. To remedy this, the Department of Defense began targeting youth, which is how programs like STARBASE were formed. However, America is continuing to produce a shortage of STEM majors that are employed in their respective fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Congressman McCarthy was an advocate for PMA’s STARBASE application, which The California National Guard submitted on behalf of PMA. Pommier attributed the speed of implementing this program into PMA to McCarthy.

“We had people fly out from Washington, from the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to take a tour,” Pommier said. “I think they were pretty much blown away by the facility that we had here.”

The STARBASE program could potentially be available to all fifth grade students in the Central Valley in time through PUSD labs, namely, The Future Ready Lab / Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab and the Garner Holt “AniMakerspace” Lab.

Although STARBASE is for fifth graders, the Porterville Military Academy provides other hands-on experience to 7-10 grade cadets as well. For example, the Academy of Aviation and Leadership is incorporated with the PMA and has 15 flight simulators and other aviation training experiences. It allowed cadet Brady Unruh to be the first PMA cadet to receive his FAA private pilot license through the Air force Flight Academy this summer.

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