Student athletes from Albuquerque High School’s football, boys basketball, girls basketball, and volleyball teams recently met with Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Dayanghirang to hear about her experiences in the U.S. Air Force and the opportunities that come with a career in the military.

“I think it is important for high school students of all genders to see as many post-high school options as possible,” said Chad Jones, athletic director at Albuquerque High School in Albuquerque, N.M. “Knowing that the Air Force presenters would be female, I made sure that I invited boys’ teams as well. I think it’s important for the male students to see women in leadership roles too.”

Dayanghirang’s presentation was part of a leadership initiative facilitated by DistrictWON, a U.S. Air Force partner for marketing and local engagement. She spoke to students openly about her experience as a child immigrating to the United States from the Philippines as well as her connection between her military involvement and her high school athletic experiences.

“Having partnerships with schools will help the current challenge of underrepresentation of women in the Air Force by having that direct engagement of women in service with the students,” Dayanghirang said, noting that integration and diversity in the military promotes innovation and productivity through different talents, backgrounds, and experiences.

Dayanghirang shared with the students that the Air Force is not one-size-fits-all and that there are avenues of interest for every personal and professional goal.

“We offer careers in aviation, medical, cops, firefighters, aircraft mechanics, cyber, intel, linguist, etc. You can even be a plumber in the Air Force. We will provide you the education and training you need for the career you are pursuing for free. While doing so, you could also be traveling around the world,” she said.

For those interested in the Air Force, Dayanghirang always recommends doing the research.

“Doubts are normal,” she said. “Be comfortable to use resources around you, such as recruiters, current or prior military members, teachers, counselors, friends and family members to ask them questions before making the decision of joining.”

Jones, whose father and uncle served in the Marine Corp and father-in-law served in the Army, agreed, adding that he is thankful for their military service and the opportunities that their service provided for him and his wife growing up.

“Consider as many options as possible and find the one that you think it right for you,” he tells his students. “No decision is permanent and all experiences are beneficial as learning experiences.”