Duluth institute honors Path to Aviation scholars

June 30, 2014

The Duluth Aviation Institute, a 2013 recipient of an AOPA Foundation “Giving Back” grant, has issued awards to two Minnesota middle school students for academic excellence in aviation.

The institute, based at Sky Harbor Airport in Duluth, Minn., presented Apollo-Gilruth Continuum awards for academic excellence on June 11 to Nikolai Breimon of Lincoln Park Middle School, and Benjamin Harnell of Proctor Jedlicka Middle School for their performance in the Path to Aviation program. The program is an AOPA education initiative to bring aviation to America’s secondary school students. The awards honor Robert R. Gilruth, a Duluth citizen and noted aviation pioneer who became the first director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The AOPA Foundation’s Giving Back program recognizes good work being done in general aviation by nonprofit organizations. The 10 recipient organizations each received a $10,000 grant.

In a news release, the Duluth Aviation Institute reported that it teamed with Lincoln Park and Jedlicka Middle School science teachers to present 11 lessons in aviation science to sixth graders in the just-concluded semester. The two award winners "excelled in all classroom activities, extra credit projects, 11 plane quizzes and the post-test," it said.

In addition, the top 15 percent of students throughout the program got to experience a flight from Sky Harbor Airport, courtesy of the Young Eagles program of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Duluth-Superior Chapter 272, Two Harbors Chapter 1128, and Cloquet Chapter 1221.

Working cooperatively with school districts, the Duluth Aviation Institute has been bringing aviation into the classrooms since 2010, and is presenting the Path to Aviation program at four area middle schools, it said.

Marcel LaFond, the institute’s aviation instructor, worked with science teachers Sandy Pearson, Chad Humpreys, Jill Hansen, Todd Kohorst, Josh Gookins, William Benson, Deb Showalter, and aviation volunteers to present the lessons to 900 sixth grade students during the 2013-2014 academic year.

"We also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Duluth School District, and numerous thank you notes from the Path to Aviation students," said Sandra Ettestad, founder of the Duluth Aviation Institute. "Thank you many times over for your generous support of our program—and it truly is all of ours."

In the Duluth area, the institute says on its website, Path to Aviation lessons "provide an opportunity for students to have a real world educational experience designed to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math."

The program is the institute’s highest priority, and 11 "uniquely Duluth aviation lessons" have been forged by integrating learning material from the Path to Aviation with subject matter from EAA and NASA educational programs.

Other institute programs include The Lark of Duluth: The World’s First Commercial Airliner Preservation Project; and the Lark O' the Lake Festival, a biennial, three-day event by which the institute reaches out to the Duluth-area community.

Financial support for the year’s programs also came from the Monaco Family Charitable Fund, Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, Northland Foundation, Minnesota Power Foundation, and Monaco Air Foundation, the institute said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.