From left are Anabel Flores of RTX, Centennial High Principal Dr. Bobby Walker, CUSD Superintendent Darin Brawley, NAF CEO Lisa Dughi, (back) CUSD Trustee Charles Davis, Compton High Principal Dr. Larry Natividad,  Dominguez High Principal Caleb Oliver, CUSD Trustee Satra Zurita, and CUSD Trustee Board President Micah Ali. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

On Wednesday, September 20, NAF, a national non-profit organization, together with RTX, the aerospace and defense company, and the Compton Unified School District (CUSD), launched a NAF Academy at Centennial High School.

This was just one of three NAF Academies launched in the CUSD to give students a head start into future careers. The $500,000 investment connects NAF, RTX and the CUSD to help create tomorrow’s engineers hailing from South Los Angeles.

“It is so exciting to bring opportunities that NAF is able to foster for students to a school in a district like this, especially when they’re so committed to making sure that their students get all the opportunities that they can,” said NAF CEO Lisa Dughi.

“It feels exciting, it feels fantastic,” said Dr. Bobby Walker, principal of Centennial High School. “It’s going to be a great addition to the academic programs that we have at the school. It’s going to provide our students with more opportunities that they need and deserve moving forward, especially in the field of engineering.”

CUSD Trustee Satra Zurita talks to students at the assembly. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

Centennial joins Compton High School and Dominguez High School, which will see nearly 200 students participate in a career-focused curriculum in computer science (Compton), aerospace (Domiguez) and general engineering (Centennial). CUSD representatives along with NAF and RTX officials gathered at Centennial to speak to students and participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony.

“I’m just honored and grateful that we have these new community partners so that way we can continue to enhance the quality of life for our students here in Compton,” said Satra Zurita, member of the Governing Board of Trustees CUSD.

“Every partnership that we bring that provides a different opportunity means that these kids are that much closer to being successful adults.”

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our students and when you think about the way that the job market has gone in the last 20 years, so everything has become more technological in terms of the applications that students will need to employ,” said Dr. Darin Brawley, CUSD superintendent.

Centennial High NAF Academy students pose for a picture. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

Brawley continued, “We see this as a unique opportunity to the develop kids for STEM related fields, particularly in this case, in the area of engineering and we see this as an opportunity to partner with Raytheon around that, around their efforts, to promote diversity within the workforce.”

“I’ve always believed in the need to engage with our communities and help students learn and grow,” said Anabel Flores, deputy president of Land and Air Defense Systems RTX.

“You never know what activity, what exposure is going to unlock that student’s potential so to be able to connect with Compton USD, with NAF and all of our engineers in the region to help bring all this together, it’s going to be amazing.”

According to NAF, the demand for engineers will be high in the coming years. It’s estimated that nearly 90,000 jobs in engineering will be needed by 2031 in fields like robotics, renewable energy, oil and gas extraction.

NAF and RTX are working together to create equitable opportunities through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in schools. The partnership between NAF, RTX and the CUSD will help bridge gaps, expose students to possibilities and give real world experience.

“As NAF seeks to partner with school districts and win together, corporations with resources to provide access and opportunity to students, who need it the most, and the farthest away from it often, especially in communities of color so, through the visionary leadership of first of all, NAF, Lisa Dughi and our team and our board, and Mr. Greg Hayes of RTX and team are seeking to partner to spread opportunity to students across communities,” said Reedy Wade, vice president of Academy Engagement & Impact for NAF.

“Students enroll from their freshman year throughout for their four years to really get in depth exposure to that field, get mentors, connect with companies providing internships for high school students as well to give them that work experience to understand what it’s like to be an engineer in corporate America in a way that they probably didn’t experience,” said Flores.

“I think it’s just important to know that when people invest in high school students, their futures are dramatically changed and it really can be transformative,” said Dughi.

“So, anybody that does want to get involved in transforming what a student experience can look like, partnering with organizations like NAF that really provide that real world experience for students, while they’re still in high school, enables them to have a whole different view of what their future can be and really does also help them start to build those skills and those competencies, but also that social capital that really can make that happen.”

NAF and RTX officials along with CUSD gave remarks to students, some of which are in the NAF academy on Centennial’s campus. Joined by the principals from Compton and Dominguez, Dr. Larry Natividad and Caleb Oliver respectively, the ribbon was cut on the new tech lab officially launching the beginning of bright futures and a better tomorrow.

For more information on NAF, visit To learn about RTX, visit For details about the CUSD, visit