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Northrop Grumman gifts $70,000 to area schools to enhance STEM opportunities

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Northrop Grumman, the multinational aerospace and defense technology company building the incoming B-21 Raider, presented the Douglas and Rapid Area School districts each with a $35,000 gift for programs in science, technology, engineering and math at an event at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum in Box Elder Thursday afternoon.

While the event was attended by dignitaries such as state Sen. David Johnson, Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, Brig. Gen. Scott Petrik, and Col. Brady Viara, the guests of honor were local fourth-graders.

The floor of the Air & Space Museum was lined with students from the Douglas School District, bused over for the ceremony to represent the innovators of tomorrow.

A series of speakers spoke to the future leaders about South Dakota’s military history and narrated the story of the Doolittle Raid. They spoke of the legacy at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and of the raid — being one of boldness, bravery and innovation.

“I know we’ll talk a lot about our heritage, but I do want to speak a little about the future,” said Vaira, commander of the 28th Mission Support Group at Ellsworth.

A future, he said, that looks an awful lot like the Douglas fourth-graders.

Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Systems sector, told students he hoped the programs utilizing this gift might lead some of them to become engineers and scientists one day.

“[The programs] will enable some of you, like I did when I was your age, to go out and fall in love with science as well,” he said, “and maybe someday you'll be engineers and scientists.”

Jones spoke of the innovation of the B-21 Raider, describing the stealth aircraft to students as a “very large bomber” with the ability to appear nearly “invisible.”

The innovation celebrated in the B-21 Raider is also a homage to the Raiders of the Doolittle Raid, and a spirit of bravery and boldness Jones seeks to encourage by supporting local schools.

“I've had a chance to talk to some of the educators before this,” he said of the Douglas and Rapid City area schools. “They're coming up with some really, really cool programs that you all can go out and start learning about engineering and math.”

Attendees of the event also witnessed a presentation of shadowboxes containing mission-flown American flags presented to Box Elder Mayor Larry Larson and Rhoden.

The Air & Space Museum was a last-minute plan B after the postponement of a Raid '22 event due to mechanical issues and scheduling conflicts. Yet the celebration of the Doolittle Raid and the innovators of tomorrow seemed right at home next to the aviation history of South Dakota.

–Contact Laura Heckmann at lheckmann@rapidcityjournal.com

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