Thanks to a contribution by a philanthropic Florida couple, almost 100 of the state’s students are getting the chance of a lifetime to spend a week aboard the National Flight Academy’s landlocked virtual aircraft carrier Ambition, where they will live, eat, and experience duties typically encountered on sea-going vessels.
The academy announced April 21 that prominent Pensacola residents Quint and Rishy Studer donated more than $100,000 in scholarships to ensure participation for middle and high school students in three surrounding counties. The six-day summer camp features science, technology, engineering, and math concepts.
“For a week-long program from June 26 through July 1 it will essentially be Studer Week,” said marketing director Malerie Shelton, noting the couple was an early supporter of the academy. “They’re really big into giving back to this community.”
The academy offers a dozen of the Deployment aviation-themed sessions from May through August aboard the 102,000-square-foot simulated ship. Students exploring STEM programs are surrounded by advanced technology, flight simulators, and virtual reality games to “encourage imagination and learning experiences” said Shelton.
Campers sleep in bunk beds, eat in mess halls decorated with international flags, and participate in programs designed to blend the culture and excitement of aviation with twenty-first-century technology.
“They feel the vibrations and hear different sounds like whistles and alerts as if they were on an actual aircraft carrier,” Shelton told AOPA. The academy also offers shorter three-day Cruises and one-day Adventure programs.
One of the program’s campers said the program “made me think about my future. I wish I could stay forever.”
Quint Studer is the founder of Studer Group, a healthcare consulting firm. The couple owns “dozens of acres of downtown real estate,” and they are co-owners of the minor league Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, according to The Pensacola News Journal.
“We are pleased we can offer this great educational experience to deserving local students,” Rishy Studer wrote in the news release. “To combine a great resource with motivated youth is a win-win partnership.”
Superintendents of Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa County School Districts praised the scholarships. More than 30 students from each district will be eligible to apply for financial assistance that will allow them to experience the fully immersive program located literally in the backyard of Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola.
Corporations including Delta, FedEx, and the Boys and Girls Clubs have provided additional donations that help other STEM-minded public, private, and home-schooled students across the region attend the camps.