TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Let's face it. Kids these days would much rather play countless hours of video games, stay indoors, and enjoy their sense of entitlement.
What happens when you have an eager teen that would rather advocate to make their tiny world just a little better?
For 17-year old Ryan Pavey, representing the collective voice for tens of thousands of Air Force Reserve youth sets him apart from the average teen. As the AF Reserve representative to the AF Teen Council, it's something he believes allows him to make a difference in the lives of kids just like him.
"I bridge the gap between the Air Force Reserve and the active duty Air Force,” said Pavey, who took on the role in May 2014. “This allows me to share the concerns and issues of the AF Reserve with their active duty counterparts.”
November 27, 2014 - Ryan Pavey (15) holds the hand of Lola Oliver while visiting the Veteran's Home of California in Younville, Calif. (Courtesy photo)
As a member of the Air Force Teen Council, he helps improves communication between teens and Air Force leadership, said Heidi Welch, Air Force Personnel Center Child and Youth Programs Branch chief The overarching goal, she said, is for the AF Teen Council “to ultimately enact change which will improve the quality of life for Air Force youth.”
That change can come in the form of both large and small projects and programs. Pavey highlighted work that the AF Reserve Teen Council has done already like creating Facebook-based videos to outline teen benefits and opportunities for reserve youth whom might not know what is available to them.
One example the AF Reserve Teen Council has tackled is educating youth about the “Set Sail on your Scholarship” program, which, according to Pavey, “helps AF teens get learn about scholarships to for college via the AF Teen Council” so that ultimately no AF teen is left behind when it comes to educational opportunities.
“It makes me really happy to know there are other AF youth out there that can have their lives directly touched by the things I've done,” he said.
Pavey believes there's still more to do.
“There's a shortage or lack of youth programs for AF Reserve teens, or lack of programs that help improve the quality of life.”
To address this shortage, Lt. Gen. Jackson is focusing on “developing the team.” Air Force Services Child and Youth Programs has announced Teen Leadership Summits at Dahlonega, Ga. and Estes Park, Colo. this Summer for AF Reserve and Air National Guard dependent teens aged 14-18 to experience a week-long adventure with other Air Force teens.
The leadership camps strengthen self-confidence and resourcefulness needed in today's challenging and ever changing world.
While balancing the many other things that teens his age do, Pavey divides his time amongst sports and other extracurricular activities. Throughout the week, he said he allots, on average, three and four hours to address youth outreach efforts, including teleconferences with youth across the globe at a variety of AF installations.
His involvement on a world-wide stage for both AF Reserve and AF youth-related issues isn't lost on his mother, Lt. Col. Shawna Pavey, 349th Air Mobility Wing Inspector General.
“When it occurred to Ryan that there are more than 70,000 members of the AF Reserve, the vastness of that responsibility was really magnified to him to what it meant to represent all those people's children,” said Lt. Col. Pavey. “I was in the 349th [Air Mobility Wing] when he was born, so this is what he knows and I couldn't be more proud. To get that honor is tremendous.”
Lt Col. Pavey said she has learned through Ryan's experiences just how challenging it can be as AF Reserve teens to be included or even have an awareness of AF youth programs.
“Sometimes with the Citizen Airmen concept, our children tend to get excluded,” she said. “Youth centers are closed on (Unit Training Assembly) weekends, so typically the kids don't come to the base with their parents, making it more difficult to connect with the military community. I think having the AF Reserve Teen Council gives Ryan a chance to represent all those kids, to say ‘hey, we're here too, we're part of the military as well.'”
Ryan only wishes that other teens in his year group would see the value of helping others, as he has.
“It really saddens me, because I think if people did more to help others around them, the world would be a far better place,” Ryan Pavey said. “Some of it is because there is a lack of education on what they can do to improve the lives of others. I wish I could help others help others.”
And as for Ryan's future? He wants to be a neurosurgeon, and his involvement in the AF Reserve and AF Teen councils has only solidified those life goals.
“The possibility of being [a neurosurgeon] in the military has increased,” he said.
Which, for most teens, is a challenging dream to achieve. But then again, this isn't your ordinary teenager.
Learn more about Air Force Youth Programs
By U.S. Air Force Maj. Samuel Lee
Provided through DVIDS
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