AOPA has awarded $5,000 scholarships to 21 students through the association’s You Can Fly High School Aviation Initiative. The $105,000 in scholarships was awarded to current high school students ages 15 to 18 who intend to earn an initial pilot certificate; the scholarships were made possible by donations to the AOPA Foundation.
The 13 young men and eight young women awarded scholarships were selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants. AOPA’s High School Aviation Initiative is part of You Can Fly, an umbrella program created by AOPA to pursue individual, targeted approaches to building the pilot community.
“Providing flight training scholarships for high school students not only helps them achieve their lifelong dreams of becoming a pilot, it can help build career-ready skills that get them well on their way to their future,” said Cindy Hasselbring, AOPA senior director of the You Can Fly High School Aviation Initiative. “We couldn’t be more pleased with our winners, and these individuals have already demonstrated a strong passion for aviation. Many of them are already involved in giving back to aviation by volunteering or serving at local airports, high school clubs, or in their communities.”
As part of the high school initiative, AOPA is working with Purdue University to build aviation curricula that fit within career and technical education (CTE) pathways that are focused on piloting, aerospace engineering, aviation technology, and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones.
AOPA has hosted two high school aviation science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) symposiums to give teachers and administrators an opportunity to share best practices and conduct networking about aviation education.
The following students were named recipients of scholarships through the High School Flight Training Scholarship Program for 2017.
Scholarship recipient Adriana Armour, a twelfth grader from Nevada, believes that flying allows dreams and imagination to soar. A treasured possession is a signed hat from a Blue Angel—a keepsake of a third-grade field trip. Armour has worked as a volunteer for the Experimental Aircraft Association at Reno’s National Championship Air Races and during Young Eagles events, where she oversaw the safety of event participants. “I love learning and doing hands-on training because it keeps me engaged and it visually puts me in real life situations,” she said.
Nicholas Bhardwaj is an eleventh grader in California who vividly recalls his first flight, in a Beechcraft Bonanza. “Rolling out onto the runway, full throttle, and pulling up for the first time was a feeling I had never felt before and it was clear to me that I wanted to further explore the field of aviation,” he said. Since that flight he has begun working toward his goal, and tries to “involve aviation in every aspect of my life,” including working two jobs to help pay for flight lessons.
A performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds showed Seth Breyfogle, an eleventh grader from Iowa, that he wanted to seek an aviation career. He pursued an aviation merit badge as a Boy Scout, and took a first light-airplane flight. “I can't put into words how it felt to be off the ground in a Cessna 172,” he said. Rides in vintage aircraft and a visit to EAA AirVenture followed. Now an active member of his GA community, his experiences have “allowed my passion to grow without bound,” he said.
Since his first airline flight, Luke Edgerly, an eleventh grader from Michigan, has believed that the view from an aircraft window “is the most beautiful sight I can ever wish to see.” The experience also gave him his goal of becoming a pilot. By age 12, he was reading everything he could about aviation, and soon found a mentor: his local airport manager. Signing up for the West Michigan Flight Academy has made his dream of flight a reality. In 2015 Luke attended the EAA Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Adam Enggasser, a South Carolina twelfth grader, has a hunch that “pilots are born with a special gene.” His parents have nurtured his aviation affinity by taking him to watch aircraft at his local airport. “This is what lit my passion to fly,” he said. Aviation has become “a recurring theme” for him, from attending airshows to flying radio-controlled aircraft, and school projects. Being able to take flight lessons will give him “a unique opportunity” to explore his future goals and become an active member of the aviation community.
Katrina Espinoza, a California tenth grader, had never experienced anything like her first flight in a light airplane. “Right then, at the age of 12, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to fly,” she said. She became an EAA Young Eagle, learned about aviation’s many facets, and was encouraged by pilots she met. She joined the Civil Air Patrol, and had a chance to fly with aerobatic pilot Jacquie Warda. A T-1 flight followed at the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Familiarization Course at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas.
The idea of flight fascinates Christopher Franklin, a Colorado tenth grader. Before his first airline flight, “the pilots let me sit in the cockpit. I asked them all kinds of questions and was totally amazed by all the switches and dials. I thought it would be awesome to be like them someday.” A year later, his sister took the family up in a Cessna 172. Watching her “made me realize that actually becoming a pilot was possible.” Now Franklin's sister flies business jets and is “a huge mentor” to him.
From when she was born until age four, Kaitlyn Gallegos, a California tenth grader, had a student pilot at home—her dad. “I would ask him what he was doing and he would explain,” she said. She got to ride along on several of his flight lessons. Recently, visiting a balloon festival, she picked up a flight-training brochure. Enrolling in a ground school (and scoring 100 on the test) followed. Now she has started to fly. “I love the feeling of responsibility and excitement you get when flying,” she said.
Nothing compares to flying for Rory Gannon, a North Carolina tenth grader who loves the science of aeronautical engineering and hopes to fly throughout his lifetime. A pilot friend of the family introduced him to the Civil Air Patrol. Now he has taken five hours of flight lessons, doing yard work for his grandfather and other chores to help pay for them. Gannon has attended EAA educational activities—sponsored by his local chapter—and he has practiced for an FAA knowledge test. Can his first solo be far off?
Amelia Green, a Georgia eleventh grader, had two pilot grandfathers, and has ridden in many airplanes. “Though, one day recently, it occurred to me that I was always in the back seat. For a girl named after a famous woman aviator, that just seemed illogical.” Next time she requested front seating. An “impromptu flight lesson” followed, and Green was hooked. She pursued aviation before getting a driver’s license, having “pestered” her parents for “official” lessons. Now with nine hours logged, earning good grades in school and flying are Green’s priorities.
Humans were not built for flight, yet some very special humans found the way. “I want to become one of those people,” said Alexander Lam, a New York twelfth grader who is on his way to accomplishing that goal. Fascinated by space flights from an early age, he has logged 21.1 hours in powered flight and soloed gliders. He is a Civil Air Patrol squadron leader and Amelia Earhart Award recipient who expects to solo a Cessna 172 soon. Lam said he has found a “new family” in the aviation community.
Lorena Longoria, a high-school senior from Texas, has wanted to fly since she was a fourth-grader marveling at airshow performers like the Blue Angels. She joined the Civil Air Patrol and has twice gone to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There she attended a Women Soar You Soar camp, meeting aviation professionals who have become mentors. Already Longoria is giving back as a teaching assistant with Engineering for Kids, introducing STEM concepts to young children each week at a local public school to inspire the next generation.
“Aviation is an adventure, embrace it and take it to its limits," is the motto of David Lyon, a twelfth grader from Florida whose passion for flight eclipses other desires. Inspired by the Blue Angels, he discovered the EAA Young Eagles program, learning about general aviation through an eight-week ground course and introductory flight. He helped build an airplane during a school project and joined the Civil Air Patrol. Lyon hopes to be a certificated pilot by May, when he graduates.
Jacinta Richards, a tenth grader from Indiana, loves to fly, and loves to “take things apart and put them back together.” That adds aviation maintenance—especially composites—to her passions. Her first flight came at age 13 in a Cirrus SR22—and she said she wished the Cirrus could have stayed airborne forever. Active in EAA, camps, and programs, she is a student member of Women in Aviation, and was among 14 local youth chosen to participate in the Youth in Aviation Program for the Indianapolis Red Bull Air Race.
From his first ride in a Piper Cub, Eli Robertson, a New York eleventh grader, knew what he wanted to do, so his family began researching the possibilities. Then last February a flight instructor joined the local flying club. “I was finally able to start taking flying lessons using the club plane. After years of saving money and doing research, my opportunity had finally arrived,” he said. Robertson loves every second he spends flying, has soloed, and, “I cannot wait until I have earned my Private Pilot's License,” he said.
A lifelong fascination with flight has led Jonathan Rozendaal, a tenth grader from Colorado, to explore aviation and engineering career tracks through school study, membership in the Civil Air Patrol, and flight training. As of September he had logged 28 hours of instruction received. “I enjoy the systematic approach to flight and safety, with preflight checks and in-flight protocols to follow. Knowing and following checklists ensures safety during flights and that leads to the freedom to enjoy the experience and gives me time to learn new skills,” he said.
Jordan Spicola is a North Carolina twelfth grader whose grandfather was a Grumman aerospace engineer who aided in the designs of the F-14, A6, E2C, and the lunar module. Spicola grew up attending airshows, flying remote-controlled aircraft, visiting Charlotte Douglas International Airport to watch aircraft take off and land, and sometimes just gazing up at contrails in the sky. He was sure that aviation would be his career path, but the 2.5 hours he has logged as a student pilot in a Cessna 172 have “sealed the deal.”
“The sky is the limit when there are no glass ceilings,” said Lauryn Spinetta, a Texas eleventh grader, about learning to fly. It was “very cool” when her dad, an Air Force instructor, taught the first group of young women to fly the F-15 Eagle, she said. “I was cheering for them every step of the way and immediately wanted to follow in their footsteps.” Spinetta aspires to break the flight-training barriers women face, knowing that one person can inspire many over a lifetime. Aerospace engineering is another future goal.
Ryan Thompson, a Georgia twelfth grader, grew up near Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, has toured the nation’s military academies, and has his sights set on a military aviation goal. A nearer-term objective is becoming a private pilot before graduation. A big day came for him on Sept. 21, when he went up for a Discovery Flight, thrilled to be able to take the controls of the Diamond DA-20—“which happens to be the same aircraft used to train” at the Air Force Academy,” he notes.
Andrew Treulich, a high-school senior from New York, “caught the flying bug” in 2014, and by summer 2015 he was working six days a week to be able to afford lessons. By last September he had accumulated 33 hours of flight time, had soloed twice, and was getting ready for cross-countries—having paid for his training all by himself. Now taking college-level courses and preparing college applications, he continues to fly on weekends. A fortunate circumstance is that he lives a short distance from the airport where he trains.
For Emily von Hack, a Florida twelfth grader who has logged 70 hours in gliders, flying provides “an unequaled sense of freedom and stimulation.” A family friend who flies for a major airline has been her mentor and “always encouraged me to follow my dreams and ambitions with vigor.” As an eighth-grader and the only girl in her EAA Young Eagles group, she won a balsa aircraft-design challenge. She continues to fly as her schedule permits. The sky isn’t a limit, she said, but the beginning of her future's promise.