At one point of their tour of Lockheed Martin’s west Fort Worth campus, Brewer High School students could only focus on one thing. Willy Wonka.

A quote from the fictional candymaker — “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams” —  spurred a lively conversation, including a joke about hoping to not fall inside a chocolate river. 

However, the comparison to the famous chocolate factory tour was apt.

About 30 students from White Settlement ISD explored the world of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, one of Fort Worth’s most important and largest employers. They learned how the F-35 is assembled, but more than that they heard from Lockheed employees who encouraged them to pursue careers in science.

The Brewer High students’ visit marked the first community tour of Lockheed’s assembly line since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, according to company officials.

‘A lot of doors’

Senior Jorge Alvarado gazed in amazement at a pair of wings not yet attached to an F-35 Lightning II. His hand shot into the air when tour guide Erin Ferrari, an engineer, asked the group where they thought the jet’s fuel was stored. He confidently said in the wings, the correct answer.

Alvarado is interested in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the field is a big question mark for him. He will be the first person in his family to attend college. 

Alvarado reminded Paulina Gomez, an engineer who works on the F-35, of herself. Like him, Gomez was a first-generation college student. In college, she knew she wanted to be an engineer, but she had no connections. She had to build her network.

Gomez turned to groups, such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, to point her in the right direction. Through those connections, she landed her first internship at Raytheon Technologies. From that point on, she was able to successfully navigate to her career at Lockheed.

“Once you get that first internship, it opens up a lot of doors,” Gomez said.

‘This is the best of the best’

The students touring Lockheed are outstanding, said Tim Matheus, a member of the White Settlement ISD Education Foundation. 

They’re all seniors who are at the top of their class and plan to attend college, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University and University of Pennsylvania. 

“This is the best of the best,” Matheus said. 

Matheus gathered the students inside the front lobby of Brewer High School on a recent Thursday morning. They formed a circle around a statue of a bear, their school mascot, to listen to Matheus’ directions for their field trip.

Lockheed works with the federal government and has many projects in the works, Matheus explained. Because of that, no one on the tour would be allowed to have their cellphones or any electronics. 

He reminded students to be on their best behavior because, after all, they may one day work at Lockheed. 

“They don’t give many tours. This is the first in a while,” he said.

Brewer High School students listen to several engineers ahead of a tour of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II assembly line on Feb. 23, 2023, in Fort Worth. (Courtesy photo | Lockheed Martin)

’They are connected to it’

Billions of dollars worth of jets were in various stages of production on an assembly line inside a more than 3-million-square-foot building. 

Federal government officials and foreign dignitaries from American allies frequently stop by Lockheed to talk and pick up their purchases. 

Two decades ago, the F-35 was born at Lockheed’s Fort Worth assembly line. The plant also has built numerous other military planes since World War II.

All just two miles away from Brewer High School. 

Many students didn’t realize how close this important defense manufacturer was to their school district and neighborhoods until they hopped on a yellow bus for a short 10-minute drive.

Superintendent Frank Molinar pointed out to his students that White Settlement ISD and Lockheed are interlinked. As Lockheed grew, so did the school district.

Lockheed completed building its Air Force Plant 4 in 1943. Between Lockheed and the establishment of a military base, the population of what is now the city of White Settlement grew to 10,000 from 500, according to the White Settlement Historical Museum. In January 1943, enrollment in White Settlement schools grew from 200 to 1,200 in under a year.

Now, the school district has nearly 7,000 students. 

Lockheed has more than 18,000 employees.

Touring Lockheed, of course, was a way to encourage students to pursue a STEM career. However, for Molinar, this was a chance for students to see a company in their backyard that directly impacted their schools. 

“I’m glad the kids have this opportunity to tour Lockheed,” Molinar said. “They are connected to it.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob SanchezEnterprise Reporter

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....