HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command team members not only inspire the future of the Army, but also the future of America.

Soldiers and civilians of USASMDC/ARSTRAT took the opportunity to speak with more than 60 girls at Chapman Middle School Nov. 17 to inform them of opportunities the Army has and to talk about overcoming challenges and what they need to be thinking about to prepare for their futures.

"I talked to the students of Chapman Middle School about considering the military as an option to ensuring success in achieving their goals, such as attending colleges, developing extensive leadership skills and mastering a career that will transcends into the civilian workforce," said SMDC G-1 Sgt. Maj. Wanda Vereen. "Preparation for success in life must start now, and developing good learning habits, being present for school and respecting their leaders and each other sets the standard for success in life.

"I am very humbled and grateful to be a part of such a great event," she added. "We provided the students with a pledge confirming each and every one of them could be all they could be in life with determination, education and dedication."

Another SMDC team member said that it was worthwhile going to the school and speaking with the students.

"When I was first asked to speak at this event, I was informed that these 6th grade students lack motivation and do not have dreams. How heartbreaking?" said Kenya Lynch, SMDC High Energy Laser Division general engineer. "I made it a point to be as transparent as possible so I would be relatable and well-received when I told them that dreams and motivation come from within. I talked about preparation for the future. I provided the girls with some background information about myself including some of the plans I made along my journey to becoming an engineer at SMDC and some of the challenges I've faced along the way.

"I let them know that in order to prepare for the future, you must make plans and be okay with them changing, set goals and to appreciate and enjoy the process of growing and becoming the best version of yourself," she added. "I emphasized that the road may be tough, plans may change, and there may be some setbacks along the way, but the best thing to do is to believe in yourself and strive to be the best you can be."

She then commented on how the students responded to her presentation.

"The feedback I received from the students was overwhelmingly positive," Lynch said. "They appeared to be sincerely engaged while I was speaking. In fact, they were so engaged that I was unable to read my cue cards as I had originally planned and had to speak to them from the heart. Their faces and follow-on questions and comments were confirmation that they were listening to the things I had to say.

"Then, when it was time for them to return back to class, several of the young ladies asked me to sign their papers and notebooks, as if I were some superstar signing autographs," she added. "It made me feel like they truly appreciated me being there and I was genuinely glad that I was able to share with them."

Lynch talked about the visit to Chapman Middle School and said it was very powerful and definitely a good investment in our future leaders of America.

"Some of those 6th grade girls will one day be our doctors, lawyers, architects and engineers, and today we took a moment to share with them and encourage them to start preparing for the future now," Lynch said. "For a group of girls that were described as not having dreams or motivation, I believe each one of them left with a new, positive attitude to be the best they can be."

After the presentation by the guest speakers, students shared what they learned and spoke about how they were inspired.

"Today was pretty good," said 6th Grader Destiny Williams. "All the people came to school today to explain to us about good things that can actually help us during our lives and our careers. It was exciting because I got to learn about all the new things the Army does to help us for the country. I learned that you can do whatever you want if you just try.

"I have thought about joining the Army, but I am keeping my mind focused on being a dentist and becoming Miss America," she added. "I want people to be themselves and don't let anyone bully you or hold you down from chasing your dreams."

Another student agreed and made the point that they did not realize all the opportunities the Army has for women as both Soldiers and civilians.

"I learned that the Army deals with missiles and lots of other cool stuff," said 6th Grader Trinity Hastings. "What I learned and thought was cool is that women actually work with the missiles, rockets, lasers and tanks. It gives me hope for the future. It was pretty exciting to have these ladies come in and talk to us."