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Face of Defense: Airman Makes Most of Education Opportunities

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Warren Spearman
49th Wing

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., May 30, 2013 – Airmen have different reasons for answering the call to defend our nation. Some join to travel the world. Some join to honor a legacy. Some join for self-improvement and end up helping others in the process.

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Air Force Capt. Derandoria Young, in red dress, poses with students and staff during her studies in the African nation of Ghana in 2010. The Maymester Abroad Course, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Social Work, provided 61 students the opportunity to broaden their educational horizons. Young now is assigned to the 49th Medical Operations Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., as an Air Force social worker. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Capt. Derandoria Young, a social worker with the 49th Medical Group here, enlisted to help finance her education and now uses that education to care for others.

Young started out as an enlisted airman. At age 19, and in her second year in the Air Force, she said, she came to a crossroads. "My goal was to get an education and get out," Young said, but a conversation with an Air Force social worker put her on a different path.

After earning a degree in social psychology at Park University, Young went on to get a graduate degree in public administration, the first of her two master's degrees. She then received special permission to attend the University of Texas School of Social Work in Austin, Texas, while serving on active duty.

In 2010, Young and 61 other social work students took a trip to Ghana, a small nation on the west coast of Africa. The trip was designed to expand their educational experience.

"It was there I learned that everything you need, you probably already have," the captain said.

After graduation, Young returned to Langley Air Force Base, Va., where she worked under an Air Force social worker for two months. She was trying to learn everything she could while preparing to enter into the direct commissioning program as a social worker, she said.

The entry process was intense, Young said -- 100 people were applying for only 12 positions, and she lacked the three years of experience Air Force social workers need to deploy. She did have one advantage, she said: she had been a technical sergeant with 11 years in the military, and she knew that experience and her insider knowledge of the Air Force was valuable.

After writing a two-page paper on her Air Force social work experiences, Young was accepted into the program.

"The Air Force has been good to me," Young said. "It's given me an education and career."

Young said she is a huge advocate of making the best of the opportunities the Air Force offers, and advises others to never give up pursuing their goals.

"If you're determined, it will work out," she said. 

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