VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- The sound of squeaking sneakers and bouncing basketballs emanated from the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club gymnasium on Friday, Nov. 3. The cause – a series of pickup basketball games between 30th Security Forces Squadron Defenders and the Boys and Girls Club youth members.
Helping orchestrate this event was Staff Sgt. Cort Romo, 30th Security Forces Squadron unit trainer, in an attempt to kick off a base mentorship program for youth in the community.
The program, dubbed “Cops vs. Youth” or sometimes “Cops vs. Teens”, has been underway at the Vandenberg AFB Youth Center for nearly a year with the support of Romo and 30th SFS volunteers. It all centers on a series of basketball games, with 30th SFS Defenders shooting hoops with teens and youth, while also using that time to provide guidance and advice about various issues. With three events over the past year, the program established some roots at Vandenberg AFB.
Eventually, Romo looked to take the next step with the program and offer the same support outside of the base and to the local community. So, why the Boys & Girls Club in Lompoc? As Romo remembers, it was simple curiosity that brought him there.
“Well, I kept driving past their building over and over, until one day I finally decided I want to find out more about this place. So I stopped in and met with the staff and got to see more about their program,” explained Romo. “My goal is to do a sporting event once a quarter, and my ultimate goal is to have a squadron rep who comes here once a week or every other week – just purely for mentorship – so they can see constant faces on a regular basis and know that we’re here to help, we’re there for them. Mentorship is the biggest thing we want to provide.”
For Devika Stalling, the Boys & Girls Club Lompoc Unit Director, the possibility of a mentorship program involving 30th SFS Airmen from the base presented an excellent opportunity.
“Having the base working with the staff and members serves as an extra positive support system to help motivate youth and build better adult to student connections, which then helps youth build confidence and boost self-esteem within themselves,” said Stalling. “It's a win, win for all involved.”
So for a few hours on a Friday afternoon, the Boys & Girls Club basketball court was active with fast breaks, fancy passing, and even a few dunks courtesy of the 30th SFS Defenders, who all shared the court in hopes that these first few games could lead to something more. As to whether or not it was a success, Stalling did get some early feedback.
“Our members were overjoyed at the number of Air Force volunteers who came to spend the day with them,” said Stalling. “One member said, ‘It was his best day EVER!’ and others keep asking, ‘When are they coming back?’”