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You Can Fly’s High School Steering Committee chair honoredYou Can Fly’s High School Steering Committee chair honored

Pat Cwayna named Michigan charter school administrator of the yearPat Cwayna named Michigan charter school administrator of the year

CEO of West Michigan Aviation Academy and Chairman of the AOPA You Can Fly High School Steering Committee Pat Cwayna was named the 2018 Michigan Association of Public School Academies’ Administrator of the Year on May 7.

West Michigan Aviation Academy CEO Pat Cwayna attends the 2017 AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium in Seattle. Photo by David Tulis.
West Michigan Aviation Academy CEO Pat Cwayna attends the 2017 AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium in Seattle. Photo by David Tulis.

Cwayna has logged nearly 45 years as an educator in Michigan, having spent the last eight years as the academy’s CEO. He is credited for helping to build the school from the ground up. And that ground happens to be located at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan—one of only a few schools in the country that calls an airport home.

As a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-focused institution, the academy has encouraged many graduates to attend some of the top engineering universities in the country. Sixty-one students have earned their private pilot certificates in the school’s two Cessna 172s. 

Seeing the countless opportunities in STEM-focused careers and education led AOPA’s You Can Fly program to launch a first-of-its-kind aviation STEM high school curriculum.

AOPA’s curriculum will offer students comprehensive, four-year aviation study options aligned with rigorous math and science standards used in many states nationwide. The program aims to provide students the skills they need for aviation-related careers.

AOPA is developing the courses as part of three career and technical education (CTE) pathways: pilot, unmanned aircraft systems (drones), and aerospace engineering.   

“This will put materials in the hands of teachers to teach the positive benefits of aviation,” said Cwayna. “It will touch thousands of people.”  

Anticipation for the You Can Fly aviation STEM courses is already causing a stir among participating high schools. Christina Howland, program coordinator of aerospace engineering and aviation technology at DuVal High school in Maryland, says she’s looking forward to implementing the program to make her students more marketable for colleges and high-paying careers. 

Before implementing the curriculum, teachers are required to participate in a three-day professional development workshop at AOPA’s You Can Fly Academy in Frederick, Maryland, to gain a deeper understanding of the materials, learn about available resources, and network with other aviation educators.  

The curriculum will be provided to schools at no cost. Donations to the AOPA Foundation fund the development and distribution of the curriculum, as well as other initiatives of the You Can Fly program.

The AOPA aviation STEM curriculum is part of its You Can Fly High School Initiative, which is aimed at growing and implementing aviation STEM programs in high schools across the country. The You Can Fly program, a collection of practical, rigorous, and engaging initiatives, is designed to help build a bigger, stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient pilot community. The mission of You Can Fly is to get people flying and keep them flying.   

To learn more about You Can Fly’s high school aviation STEM curriculum, email the High School Aviation Initiative team. You can also visit AOPA’s You Can Fly website.


Amelia Walsh

Communications Coordinator
AOPA Communications Coordinator Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she comes from a family of pilots and is currently working on her pilot certificate.
Topics: You Can Fly, AOPA, AOPA Foundation

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