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Learning to lead

Student pioneers AOPA Aviation STEM program in Rhode Island

High school senior Campell Gladski’s love of flying has taken her far, from pursuing a career in aviation to sharing the enthusiasm with others through AOPA’s Aviation STEM curriculum at her own high school.
You Can Fly
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High school senior Campell Gladski participates in AOPA’s Aviation STEM curriculum at Westerly High School in Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of Campell Gladski.

Gladski’s story begins like so many—at the flying club at her local airport. Gladski’s father is a member of a flying club at Westerly State Airport (WST) in Westerly, Rhode Island, and would often take her flying to surrounding areas such as Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Her favorite flights were those taken in the beautiful sunset and dusk hours, and she loved flying and was always eager to learn. Even though she hasn’t earned her certificate yet, she’s already learned how to take off in the Cessna 172 and has nearly mastered landings.

When the opportunity arose for her to do an internship during her junior year of high school, she began searching for aviation companies in Westerly where one might be available. One of the companies she discovered was Power Aviation Strategies—an aviation sales and marketing firm at the Westerly airport. Gladski set up a meeting with CEO Jessica Power, and the two hit it off instantly.

“Jessica was such a wonderful person to talk to,” Gladski told AOPA. “She exemplified the power of women in the aviation industry. Her passion for her aviation marketing business got me inspired.”

Power introduced Gladski to the AOPA Foundation High School Aviation STEM Curriculum, which offers free aviation courses for high schools. The program consists of comprehensive, credit-bearing, four-year aviation course pathways, and schools may choose some or all courses to match their needs. Subjects include engineering design, aircraft systems and performance, weather, instrument flight, advanced drone tech, and more, while teachers receive initial training, ongoing support from AOPA, and access to an extensive library of educational resources.

“I was so impressed,” said Gladski. “And of course, I wanted to pursue this project of integrating this program into my high school.”

In August 2022, she spoke to the school committee to advocate for the program. She and Power met with Westerly High’s principal, STEM coordinator, the head of career and technical education pathways, and with program leaders at AOPA who explained the needed details and provided support. Gladski was “grateful to the leaders at AOPA for being so helpful and encouraging,” during the process, and to her delight, the first course, “Introduction to Aviation,” was approved in December 2022.

Gladski’s will present the AOPA Aviation STEM Curriculum to Westerly Middle School with the goal of introducing ninth graders entering high school to the possibilities in aviation. From personal experience, she loves sharing how rewarding it is to be in these careers—or become a pilot.

Now in her senior year at Westerly, Gladski is applying to several colleges to pursue a degree in aviation management. Her dream job would be to work at Boeing or other major aircraft company in the future.

“I am super excited to go to college and study aviation,” she said. “With the integration of the free curriculum into my school, Westerly High School will be the first school in Rhode Island with this program. I cannot wait to share the world of aviation and all it has to offer with my peers.”

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Emma Quedzuweit
Assistant Editor
Assistant Editor Emma Quedzuweit, who joined the AOPA publications staff in 2022, is a private pilot and historical researcher.

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