Employment: Archives 2014 & Earlier

Military Life Leads to Youth Work Career

De’Janaria Austin

De’Janaria Austin moved from one military youth program to another as his Air Force father moved the family from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where Austin was born, to military bases in Virginia, Georgia, the Philippines and Nevada.

Today, at 32, he’s the sports director for the very program he attended as a child at that last stop: Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. His path there was circuitous.

Austin began playing soccer and football at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at age 5. Three years later, he was at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, where he was a soccer forward and, in sudden death overtimes, the goalie. Then, he says, he “mastered my skills” at the Valdosta base in Georgia as the football team’s star quarterback.

“They had a small youth program there we’d frequent every day. You’d do your homework, buy your snacks, and in the afternoon play youth football and youth soccer.

“You met so many people,” he recalls. “Your coaches were military, so they had the same values. Sportsmanship was big. We weren’t out there taunting people.”

Moving to Nellis when he was in the 10th grade “was like my wake-up,” he says. “Everywhere else I’d been the star, sheltered on the base.” At Rancho High School, in a tough Las Vegas neighborhood, Austin soon learned that the colors of his clothes had gang connotations. The school population was largely African-American (as is Austin) and Hispanic. Tensions were high.

“The Nellis youth program kind of kept me grounded,” he says. “If the school had been my only surroundings, I would’ve wound up like them,” in trouble with the law, unemployed or in a dead-end job. “But I’d go back to Nellis, tell my coach what I’d seen, about somebody getting beat up, and he’d say, ‘You don’t have to be like that.’ Luckily, I had a good head on my shoulders. I had my own gang – Nellis Air Force Base.”

When he turned 18, he aged out of the youth programs. He started at a local college and worked as a dishwasher at the Nellis officers’ club, often swinging by the youth center “to see who was still working there.”

Austin flunked out of college, and turned once again to Nellis – working up to six hours a day, for $8 an hour, in the youth center’s before- and after-school program. He taught basketball as well as arts and crafts, helped youths with homework, showed them how to use a computer and made sure they got on and off the right bus.

In five years, he moved up to floor supervisor, in charge of other youth workers. He earned $13 an hour, full time. Realizing that he’d hit a salary ceiling, Austin returned to school, where he garnered mostly As and Bs, but ran into financial problems and left again.

Nellis came knocking. The sports director for the youth program was leaving. Would he like the job?

Some 1,200 children are enrolled in the Nellis sports programs under Austin’s direction. He is attending the University of Nevada-Las Vegas part time, with 36 credits left, to complete his degree in recreation and sports management.

“Once I get my degree, it opens up,” he says. “I can be youth director, school-age director. But I don’t want to do anything but sports. I want to do some more time here.”



Youth Today is the only independent, internationally distributed digital media publication that is read by thousands of professionals in the youth service field.

Youth Today adheres to high-quality journalistic standards, providing readers with professional news coverage dedicated to examining a wide spectrum of complex issues in the youth services industry from legislation to community-based youth work.


Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue.


We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization. Donors may be quoted, mentioned or featured in our stories. Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions…(read more)

Recent Comments




Kennesaw State University Mountain Logo & Ceneter for Sustainable Journalism Logo
LOGO Institute for Nonprofit News 3 turquoise boxes stacked in "J" shape

Copyright © 2018 Youth Today and MVP Themes --- Published by Center for Sustainable Journalism,
Kennesaw State University, 1200 Chastain Blvd. Suite 310, Kennesaw GA 30144

To Top