School programs: A rookie's perspective

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ryan M. Breaux
  • 361st Recruiting Squadron F-Flight Recruiter
I've only been recruiting for a few months, but in that short time, I've learned that school programs are extremely important. Not only do they let the faculty and students know you exist, but they ultimately show the community you care.
I've learned that in order to have effective school programs, relationships should be established early and trust should be built between the school and the recruiter. I showed up to this assignment with all sorts of questions and I know that some of my peers are still trying to develop their own school programs. My flight has developed some very effective strategies and we've all had quite a bit of success with our schools. I'd like to share my initial experiences in hopes that my fellow recruiters might benefit from them.
So, how do you get into the schools?
First, I'll state the obvious: we need to get out and visit our schools. Second, when visiting schools for the first time, we should set an agenda. We should meet the faculty and generate those influencers from the get-go. Seek out the registrars, counselors, athletic directors and principals.
We are professionals, and that should be obvious during our initial interactions with the school faculty. I highly encourage wearing a sharply pressed, long-sleeved shirt with tie tack and cuff links.
When meeting with the faculty, we should offer to help out in any way we can. We have able-bodied Delayed Entry Program members who are ready and willing to assist. We also have marketing funds that can turn into sponsorships with the athletic departments.

Public schools often feel underfunded and understaffed so offering to address both of these needs upfront will quickly build rapport. I've found that a great way to get into the classrooms early is by offering to assist with "Gear Up" or "CAREERS" programs.

These are programs that are designed to equip juniors and seniors with the tools they need for success after high school - which is right in our wheelhouse.

Continue to foster the relationship with your schools by offering to fill in as a guest teacher. Take the experiences, certifications and lessons we have learned throughout our careers and in our Professional Military Education and apply them in your schools.  You'll be amazed at how well our technical skills, knowledge of Air Force history and leadership skills translate into the classroom.

Consider the often criticized table set-up. Alone, it's a generic school visit and rarely generates interest. But after speaking in the classrooms, you'll have met the students and built rapport. You're no longer just another military recruiter setting up a table. You're now a recognizable face.
You're the Air Force representative who mentored them, made them laugh, was real with them, taught them something, and maybe gave them the confidence to do something they never thought possible. All of these things make you approachable and will result in more productive school visits.
Other than looking sharp and acting professional, how else can we convince the schools that it is in their best interest to allow us to speak to their students?

Again, we need to meet the needs of the counselors and let them know how we can help. I've found that our best talking-point here is the Community College of the Air Force.
Instead of just regurgitating numbers and/or facts, I let the counselors know just how it can help their students achieve their educational goals. I explain how the CCAF awards college credits for Basic Military Training and tech school.
The truth is that some students don't know how they can ever earn a college degree.  Explaining to the counselors how the CCAF can open doors for their students to something amazing - a college degree - has been very effective. How many of us would not have degrees if not for the CCAF and the Air Force?
High school counselors want their students to pursue a college education and by painting a realistic picture of how they can achieve that through the Air Force, we build rapport (and earn valuable influencers).

Remember, we are not only the lone branch of service with our own community college, but we earned 80.19 percent of all associates degrees in the Department of Defense during fiscal 2013 - 28,184 of 35,149. That is substantial!

A few other tools have been integral in the success of F-Flights' school programs. Through cross-talk among the flight, heavily promoted by our flight chief, we've shared our school agendas, told our success stories, swapped classroom presentation outlines, and we now all have our own "One-Sheet."

The concept of the One-Sheet originated from a flight-mate. It's essentially a letter to the faculty that serves as a short introduction and overview of our skills and experiences. It closes with the offer to share our talents with the classroom as well as our contact information.

A good One-Sheet  should describe how you, an American Airman, have had the unique opportunity to be trained in "fill-in-the-blank" areas, have visited various parts of the world and how you can provide valuable insight to the students because of this - all on one piece of paper or less.

With approval, I put my One-Sheets in every high school teachers' distro box.  In just two months on the bag, the One-Sheet has provided the opportunity for me to teach four Gear Up/CAREERS classes, one science class and I have several more presentations scheduled.

In addition, these presentations directly led to me being invited to participate in homecoming festivities at two different schools. It works!

By getting into my schools and building relationships with the faculty, I've found that there's really nothing to fear when it comes to school programs. In fact, building my school programs has been very rewarding. The schools need our help; we just have to use our sales skills to meet their needs and show them how we can provide it!

I hope that in sharing my experiences, we can all continue to improve our school programs through one of F-Flight's tools for success - Cross-Talk.

One team, one fight!  Together everyone achieves more.