It’s back to school time all across the country and some teenagers are finding something new in their curriculum—aviation. As part of the nationwide emphasis on STEM learning—science, technology, engineering, and math—many schools are using aviation as a great learning tool. And AOPA is getting into the classroom with its High School Aviation Initiative.
Starting last fall, AOPA surveyed more than 180 high schools and education programs that include aviation as part of STEM-based learning programs to better understand their needs and the challenges they face. The results showed that high school aviation program leaders struggle with funding, resources, time, awareness, location, and logistics. AOPA formed a steering committee that includes well-respected leaders from a broad spectrum of aviation and aerospace to begin addressing these issues. A consortium of high school principals, program leaders, school superintendents, and guidance counselors will join AOPA in its AOPA High School Aviation Leadership Alliance, which will have its first meeting Nov. 9 in Lakeland, Florida.
AOPA has contracted Pat Cwayna, CEO of the West Michigan Aviation Academy—a five-year-old aviation-focused high school he helped establish—to assist in the implementation of its high school initiative. He will serve as director of the leadership alliance.
“The conference will help us begin the conversation of how to grow GA through the high schools,” Cwayna said. “We want to bring the shortage of GA activity to the attention of principals and school leaders. We need to show them how GA can benefit their students and let them know the massive amount of jobs in aviation.”
In addition to the conference, AOPA will create a national aviation career club and create a booster program to help fund aviation STEM programs. Like Future Farmers of America or Junior Achievement, the career club will be a way for students to gain exposure to the working world of aviation and take part in learning opportunities beyond the classroom. The booster program will help provide start-up grants to launch new aviation study programs in high schools, create scholarship programs, and fund equipment such as flight simulators.
“There’s no magic bullet that will reverse decades of declining pilot numbers, but we’re committed to welcoming more people into aviation,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The AOPA High School Initiative is one more way we’re acting on that commitment.”