Emily Berg

Emily Berg

Name: Airman First Class, A1C, Emily Berg

Call Sign: “Torque”

Year at STARBASE: 2009

Interviewed by: Santi Bromley, STARBASE Instructor & Military Volunteer Engagement

Date: December 12, 2017

Santi: Tell me a little about what you have done since you participated in STARBASE in 2009.

A1C Berg: During my senior year of high school, I enlisted in the Air National Guard as an airplane mechanic, graduated high school with honors, and left for basic training and technical school. I was awarded a Commander’s Coin for my high grade point average in my military training, and since then (February 2017) I have gone on multiple TDYs, and have started to further my education at Winona State University with a major in Nursing.

Santi: How did you decide on your nursing major?

A1C Berg: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a career where I could help people. Going to STARBASE really expanded my perspective that there are many ways to do that, and helped me discover my passion for science. Ultimately, I decided that going into a healthcare field was the right fit for me.

Santi: Tell me what you remember about STARBASE.

A1C Berg: I remember showing up to STARBASE on my first day and being very nervous. But soon after we got started I met one of my fellow students named Elastagirl. She and I got along like two peas in a pod. I had so much fun at STARBASE. After making my rocket, I felt so much more confident and knew I wanted to go back the next year, but unfortunately I was too old.

Santi: In the time shortly after completing the STARBASE program, were you motivated to do any further STEM activities?

A1C Berg: After STARBASE I decided that I wanted to start competing in science fairs. I did projects on metal corrosion, buoyancy, psychology, and many other topics.

Santi: Can you identify anything you learned at STARBASE that you still use today?

A1C Berg: The biggest concepts that I learned at STARBASE were critical thinking and problem solving. These concepts are very important in my career and in everyday life.

Santi: What are your plans after you complete your nursing program?

A1C Berg: I would like to go into either psychiatric nursing or aeromedical evacuation after college. Staying involved in the military is very important to me and I would like to continue to be a part of such a great organization.

Santi: How did you end up choosing to go into the military?

A1C Berg: STARBASE showed me that just because you have never done something before, doesn’t mean you can’t. It boosted my confidence and without that confidence I don’t think that I would have been able to progress to where I am now and be able to make the decision to enlist.

Santi: What is the work you do on Maintenance on the flight line at the 133rd?

A1C Berg: I do a wide variety of tasks on the flight line. I do anything from refueling and servicing different systems on planes, to changing tires and other important parts to inspecting and preparing the planes for the aircrews that get to fly them.

Santi: How has being in the military impacted your life?

A1C Berg: Being in the military has impacted my life a ton. It is the best decision I have ever made. It has let me travel to places I didn’t think I would ever go, taught me not only about planes, but about other people and myself, and given me a supportive community that is always willing to give me a hand when I need it.

Santi: Do you have any advice for current STARBASE students as they complete the program and look to their futures?

A1C Berg: Be creative! Don’t just try to do what everyone else is doing – think outside the box.

We are thrilled by the inspiration that A1C Emily “Torque” Berg found from her experience at STARBASE Minnesota as a student attending in 2009 and we hope that the students who go through the STARBASE program are as equally inspired in their approach to education, training and life.  Thank you, A1C Emily for your service to our country, and for being such an outstanding role model to the thousands of students who participate in our STARBASE now and in the years to come.

Michael Efejuku

photo_Michael EfejukuMichael Efejuku attended STARBASE with Risen Christ Catholic School as a 4th grader in 2006 and 6th grader in 2008.  He has fond memories of building and launching rockets, viewing airplanes, and using the 3D printer. He remembers leaving STARBASE amazed by science and all of its applications.  Michael later attended DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, graduating in 2014. While at DeLaSalle, he continued to build off of his experience at STARBASE, by joining the school’s science club.

Michael is now a student at the University of Saint Thomas studying Mechanical Engineering where he is active in research related to bubble size in sprays. He is also on the school’s Board for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and a member of St. Thomas’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC).  In the future, Michael looks forward to joining the Air Force after college and would like to work in the biomedical field with technologies such as prosthetics.

When asked what advice he has for current STARBASE students as they complete the program and look to their futures, he says “It is a valuable program to be in, the hands-on component is important, embrace it and don’t be afraid to fail.”  This is certainly sage advice for the over 3,500 students who come through STARBASE each academic year.


Houa Moua

Houa-Moua-Head-Shot“In 8th grade I attended Washington Technology Middle School. I signed up for an elective class in engineering and city planning. As the only girl in the class, I was shy and afraid because I viewed my intelligence as something not “up-to-par” with boys. I remember the encouragement that girls can solve “big-world” problems just as equally as boys can.  During this time, I was also an English language learner. There was tremendous stress and pressure for me academically, socially, and culturally.  Trying to learn English and excel in my engineering class took a lot of effort. I wasn’t talented in it naturally like my peers, but I knew that if I worked hard to learn, I could excel in it.  Looking back, I felt that STARBASE helped prepare in me, a heart for learning.”

“Stemming from my exposure to STARBASE and my middle school class, I pursued Urban Studies as my major during my undergrad because I wanted to learn more about the urbanization in America and its systems. When I graduated, I was given the opportunity to work at CAPI USA, first as an AmeriCorps Employment Navigator. Then I moved to a case aide position and finally moved on to becoming an employment counselor. I am now working with a state program called the “Minnesota Family Investment Program”, which is an adaptation of the federal “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” program, also known as TANF. This program is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. What I do and what these programs do are so much more than just words on a piece of paper. At CAPI, I specifically work with refugee and immigrant families. Through my experience working there I got to see how policy-making and economics played a huge role in my community and in people’s lives.”

“Today, I am pursuing education as a graduate student at the University of St. Thomas in their Collaborative Urban Educator program (CUE) to become an English language teacher. During the fall of 2015, I returned to STARBASE as a pre-service teacher. I was so excited to visit the very place that started it all. Through my experiences there, I now have a different view looking at STARBASE from when I was a student. As a student I just wanted to have fun and learn. Now, with the eyes of an educator and community leader, I want to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a program– I want to solve problems and identify them. And from that, I am able to learn and improve my ways too.”


Annie Francis


Annie and her STARBASE instructor, “Viper”.

The second recipient of the Brigadier General Tim Cossalter STARBASE Minnesota Scholarship is Annie Francis. Annie attended STARBASE with St. Bernard’s Elementary School as a 4th grader in 2006 and a 6th grader in 2008.

At the time that Annie attended STARBASE, she found that school was challenging.  She had to work harder than most students because of a learning disability. “STARBASE was an amazing opportunity for me. I have a learning disability that makes it very difficult to read and write. The hands-on learning that happened at STARBASE made learning exciting and fun. I could understand what I was doing because I was actually doing it!”.  While at STARBASE, Annie remembers programming rovers and launching rockets.  She still holds a sense of pride in her rocket design, which went the farthest in her class. She remembers leaving the experience feeling more confident in STEM and a growing interest in science. As a high school student at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Annie shared this interest in science through the school’s science outreach program, a club that allowed her to go to nearby elementary schools to do ten minute demonstrations for students.

After graduating from East Ridge in 2014, Annie attended Winona State University where she majored in Business, but later transferred to the University of Minnesota to study Early Childhood Education, a path that will allow her share what she has learned about perseverance in learning and education. In the future Annie hopes to teach kindergarten in an urban environment.

When asked what advice she has for current STARBASE students, Annie says “Enjoy the experience and look for similar programs, so that you can continue to learn.” These are truly wise words from someone who embodies dedication and perseverance in learning.