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2023 Arizona Youth Impact Program Reception – April 20, 2023 at the University of Arizona


“What a worthy cause, what a worthy effort two great partners Davis-Monthan combined with the University of Arizona and our Athletics program together we can do great things. And again, a worthy cause and worthy effort to change lives, to really provide a vision, and to provide a positive force in young men’s lives in the community. To see it through a different lens to be able to look beyond some of the things that maybe prevent them from seeing beyond. That’s because of the great partners in the room and we really appreciate it. Again, as much as I say thank you to you, I say thank you for allowing us as an Athletics program at the University to be involved.”

-Dave Heeke, Vice President and Director of Athletics at the University of Arizona


“Our kids have now really embraced this program. Our players are not only involved, but they are waiting for it to happen, and I think that’s a big difference. It’s a big difference when you initially are trying to figure it all out in year one, I can tell you that as a head coach, and then in year two you feel like you know it a little bit better, you have a little better understanding of what it’s going to look like. And now I think going into year three we are going full steam ahead. Our players are excited about it, I know traditionally we’ve used our sophomores, but what we like to do is let the first year Freshman try to figure out their summers and figure out what they need to do budgeting and balancing their time, and then… in their second year in college these sophomores now are really the ones that can really work with these kids. I think there’s a very mature group, we have a really good group of players, really at all four levels – freshman, sophomore, junior, and seniors. They understand the importance of academics, they understand the importance of community service, they understand the importance of athletics, and I think the Youth Impact Program gives you all three. It gives you the opportunity with these kids in the classrooms with teachers, they’re understanding obviously everything that the Air Force provides, and the DM base provides. Not just for National Security, but also for Tucson itself.”

-Jedd Fisch, Head Coach, Football, University of Arizona Athletics


“So those are the experiences, those are the stories, these are the kids you would never look at for any athletic prowess any athletic ability, but he’s a kid that came in, he learned the fundamentals, he took advantage of the opportunities and the camp embraced him and he embraced the camp and it changed him forever. Those are the stories, those are the opportunities that we’re providing. Getting kids to see life beyond their current circumstances. Seeing themselves as leaders. Seeing themselves as change agents and allowing them the opportunity to be bigger than what they currently are. That’s what the program in totality is really about. I appreciate everyone that has given. I appreciate everyone that’s involved in the camp. We have phenomenal donors, we have individuals, and local restaurants in the community who are donating meals for us as well, so the campers can eat every day. We feed them breakfast and lunch and then we also provide them with uniforms. So this is all due to your generous donations and we couldn’t do it without all of you. I appreciate the time, if you have any questions I’ll be around.“

-Syndric (Step) Steptoe, Director, Player and Community Relations | Football, University of Arizona Athletics


“So we’re going into an integrated model of STEM. Now STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – that simply means that whenever you join any 2 of the 4 pieces of STEM you have STEM in action and technology, science, we can get those things in reading and literature, so we don’t necessarily need to have a separate English class, to study a novel, to learn different things. If anything, we can up our game with the literature we provide so that when they’re making their scale models of the air force base which they’re going to do this year, when they’re making their airplanes and trying to project and hypothesize how far they can go, to light that airfield, that airstrip, then they won’t even realize that they are reading about the history of DM, that they’re reading about how to make a plane, they’re reading about how to put together lights to have them on their model, their 3-D model of what we are presenting and that’s what we’ve integrated with a wonderful team of teachers, I mean our teachers are fired up, they are ready to go and they want to do this!”

-Dr. Lisa N. Salgado, Adjunct Lecturer, University of Arizona


“I only want to take two seconds to say two things. Number one, I have one goal with respect to this program, it’s not just the connection to the youth, but the ability to connect the University of Arizona with Davis-Monthan. If we have one goal it’s to make sure that people don’t see Davis-Monthan as an addition to the city, they see it as a part of the city. A living, breathing component of it that they can rely upon and that we can work together to achieve better things. The last thing I’ll say is that thank you to all of you.”

-Col Scott Mills, Commander of the 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona


“Good afternoon to all of you wonderful people. Thank you for being here. Before I introduce some of the key members of this year, I arrived at Davis-Monthan in 2021 and was first introduced to the program. So being here for the last two iterations, and now my third, I’ll tell you, has been mind-blowing. Not only for things that we’ve been able to do for the youth but for the development that we’ve been able to give to our air force members I think they’ve gained more from the experience than the kids. I’m happy to say even to this day they keep in contact with a lot of the children they were able to mentor during the experience. I was able to see the growth in their leadership from all the NCOs and senior NCOs from every single year.”

-CMSgt Dana Council, Command Chief Master Sergeant,355th Wing, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base


“So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to change these guys, we’re going to mentor them, we’re going to change them from sitting on the couch not having been worked out for who knows how long since school let out. We’re going to guide them and mentor them to be ready to accept the challenge. So, as this will be my 3rd year I’m excited to mentor new airmen that are coming into the program. So, I’m going to be helping those folks so that they understand, and that our change is a lot more smoother and quicker than it ever has been before so that way our airmen are more adaptable and ready to take on the challenge. Thank you.”

-TSgt Manuel Gonzales, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona


“You guys are dream makers, and I want to thank you for making dreams. Everybody in this room has dreamed, dreamed big, and lived their dream. We’re giving our dream. We’re giving it with the dream team. Look at the talent that we have created, and every phase of this program is the best of the best. It started with you Dave, it started with Step when we had the grit and the fortitude to believe in making change before it was a popular idea. We were talking about social change, change for our young, change for our community, change for our nation, at the root, at where it’s most influential in a kid’s life. It’s that spot that we attack, and we win with that. This is a winning program, we’ve won every step of the way and each of us are products of this community, of that field, this institution, and this country has been made great by institutions, let’s not forget that. Universities and our military institutions. And our public has lost a little confidence in those institutions and being able to bring that institution to the families and the children in the community that don’t understand it, don’t have access to it, to enlighten them that institutes can make your dream happen, can make you live the dream. It’s phenomenal. That’s what we’re doing. We are creating trust from the community in the two biggest institutions that this community has to make them what they want to be. The object of this program is to make those children fall in love with their passion, with the subject material with an institution, and believe in something and believe they can go big, dream big and give the dream. But institutions are institutions. People matter. And it’s the institution that people represent that we surround them with and reflect those institutions. It is about great leaders, great people around those children for a sustained period of time, this is not 20 minutes and you’re out of here. This has been built specifically by Step and Lisa to have a specific trusting relationship built that they believe in you, and they believe in their leadership. And each of you are different because you bring a different culture to make them better and opening their eyes to different ways of doing things and different leadership styles. We do it for 2 weeks because we want that solid relationship that they would never get anywhere else they’re going to be surrounded by 40-50 leaders that they worship. And that’s what we want. We want them burning, we want that little light in their heart on fire, so when they leave here they’re going to remember this place, they’re going to remember the people and they’re going to drive to excel, whatever it is, over all adversity to make their dreams happen because they’ve been around dream makers like you. And this is what’s phenomenal about this program and I think we hit the perfect storm here. We’ve hit it.”

“They fall in love with the airmen. They fall in love with the University of Arizona, and they fall in love with people like you because there are people like us that are trying to make this nation, world, and community better. This is one way of doing it. So thank you for participating, thank you for giving, we’ve got this. ”

-Riki Ellison, Founder, Youth Impact Program

Permanently Impacting Our Nation’s At-Risk, Inner-City Youth