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AOPA announces 2019 high school scholarship winners

AOPA has announced the 80 high school students and 20 teachers who have won scholarships of $10,000 each in the 2019 You Can Fly High School Flight Training Scholarship program.

AOPA file photo.

The total of $1 million in scholarships awarded to exceptional, aviation-minded students age 15 to 18, and teachers dedicated to advancing aviation education in their classrooms, was made possible by a grant from the Ray Foundation to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The scholarships, a benefit of AOPA membership, are a component of the AOPA You Can Fly program, a set of initiatives working toward building a larger, more vibrant pilot community. The You Can Fly initiatives are getting and keeping more pilots flying by introducing youth to aviation, improving the flight training experience, supporting flying clubs, and helping lapsed pilots return to the cockpit.

You Can Fly has inspired more than 3,500 high school students through its aviation curriculum, helped launch more than 100 new flying clubs, and made it easier for more than 7,000 formerly inactive pilots to complete their flight reviews.

Scholarship recipients will be able to use the money for direct flight training expenses to pursue a primary pilot certificate. They must also complete a flight training milestone, achieving either solo or earning a primary pilot certificate, within one year of receiving a scholarship.

For two teachers who received scholarships and already love teaching aviation, now they can hardly wait to teach the AOPA aviation science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum as certificated pilots.

For Carla Ladner, a teacher at Hudson High School in Lufkin, Texas, it also means living a dream that she thought would never come true.

Educator Carla Ladner learned she was awarded a flight training scholarship during an AOPA high school curriculum workshop June 7, 2019. Photo by David Tulis.

In a video interview recorded June 7 at a workshop for aviation curriculum teachers at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, Ladner explained that after taking six hours of flight training, she had crunched the numbers at lunch one day and concluded that going further would not be possible. Returning home that day, she broke the news to her aviation-enthusiast husband that her pilot training may have come to an end.

“We were both a bit down about it,” she said.

It was four hours later when she checked her email and found a message from AOPA, congratulating her on being one of the 20 teachers picked to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

“It makes you speechless,” she said, describing the award as “a gift that’s not measurable.”

As the only aviation teacher in her school, it has been up to Ladner to shape the program. Now having AOPA’s high school curriculum as a resource helps her organize and deliver her lessons—a process she hopes to enhance further by eventually earning her flight instructor certificate, she said.

The scholarship has become a great start.

“There are no words to describe the gift that they have given me and my students and our school,” she said.

The Ray Foundation’s founder, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and pilot James C. Ray (1923-2017), believed that aviation plays a formative role in the lives of its devotees and that flight training helps build “character and confidence,” providing participants with tools for success in other areas of their lives.

Educator Donny Pharr learned he was awarded a flight training scholarship during an AOPA high school curriculum workshop June 7, 2019. Photo by David Tulis.

One teacher who plans to continue acting on those values is Donny Pharr of V.R. Eaton High School in Haslet, Texas.  A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who logged 5,000 hours as a flight engineer in Lockheed C–130 Hercules aircraft, Pharr said becoming a pilot has always been a dream that his scholarship award has put within reach.

He said he plans to train as a member of a flying club that AOPA helped establish in the Fort Worth area—and he notes that doing so will allow him to complete “the same process” as several students who are in flight training at various levels.

Pharr is counting on his scholarship award to help him complete his private pilot training and start working on an instrument rating. He looks forward to being able to give introductory flights to young people as a certificated pilot and adds that being a pilot would be “huge” for anyone teaching an aviation curriculum.

High School Scholarship Winners

Alexandra Adams (GA)

Matthew Geib (NC)

Ijahman Morgan (MA)

Hannah Adams (NC)

Jack Gerry (CA)

Tyler Nuckols (VA)

Alexander Amirhamzeh (NY)

Elijah Goldstein (CA)

Corton Olver (GA)

Ruth Anand (OH)

Cheyenne Granahan (VA)

Maalav Pandya (FL)

Andrew Angelo (FL)

Ishmael Guadarrama (CA)

Avery Paton (CA)

Savannah Asher (OK)

Julie Guenther (NY)

Grant/Debbie Penderghast (CA)

Evan Barton (PA)

Patrick Hamilton (CO)

Seiler Rivers (GA)

Ryan Bledsoe (IL)

Emily Hillman (NV)

Rachel Rosenzweig (MD)

David Blumstein (CA)

Avery Hodges (TX)

Mary Ross (KY)

Jillian Bourdage (FL)

Carson Howk (IN)

Colton Runyan (AL)

Tanner Bowman (IN)

Hannah Hughes (OR)

Stephen Ryan (FL)

Jack Broadhead (GA)

Gracie Johnson (ID)

Ian Sands (FL)

Karsten Brown (LA)

GinaMarie Kamicker (PA)

Kate Scheer (NC)

Nicholas Brumage (WV)

Tommy Kepley (SC)

Noah Schwab (WI)

Eleanor Brunsman (VA)

Abby Kienast (MD)

Augustas Senuta (MA)

Francis Bunting (CO)

Cameron Kittle (OH)

Elias Sienkiewicz (NH)

Devyn Bush (FL)

Caden Knutsvig (ND)

Layna Solorzano (OK)

Easton Countryman (WY)

Jake Lammes (OK)

Alexis Spinetta (TX)

Blake Curtner (CA)

Noah Lane (TN)

Victor Thai (CA)

Joseph Debruynkops (CA)

Julianna Ledum (TX)

Shamla Thomas (WI)

Angelica Disanza (NJ)

Michael Llompart (FL)

Byergo Truman (MO)

Cole Dostal (NE)

Grayson Logan (MA)

Andrew Walczak (MI)

John Connor Dubble (AL)

Max Luis Lyles (GA)

Madeline Welin (WA)

Evan Ekstrand (MN)

Matthew Lynn (MD)

Jennifer Wolfe (NC)

Christopher Ewart (NC)

Hannah Miller (GA)

Kaitlyn Wollenzien (FL)

Maya Garcia (WA)

Shepherd Molinari (AR)



Teacher Scholarship Winners

Jason Asman (CA)

Carla Ladner (TX)

Joel Bresler (FL)

Mary Leblanc (TN)

Sabrina Caldwell (TN)

Patti Lindsey (MN)

Kevin Crossett (CA)

Jacob Marshall (CO)

Mark Curtner (OH)

Ryan McLeod (MI)

Thomas Davis (NY)

Jason Neagle (KY)

Scott Hepburn (MA)

Donny Pharr (TX)

Karen Hinkley (FL)

David Purser (TX)

David Hubbell (TN)

Joshua Underwood (KY)

Joseph Konopinski (NJ)


Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: You Can Fly, AOPA Foundation, AOPA

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