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FAA grant a major boost for AOPA You Can Fly program

High school classroom program serves thousands

The AOPA Foundation program serving more than 16,000 high school students in the current school year has landed major federal support to help boost this ongoing effort to educate and inspire even more future pilots and aviation professionals.

High school educator Alan Williams helps his teammates Carla Ladner and Chris Eckler wrap four balloons together to simulate a rocket payload during an AOPA teacher training event in 2019. Photo by David Tulis.

AOPA was among 23 organizations and schools that divided among them $10 million in FAA grants awarded to educate the next generation of aviation professionals. The FAA awarded $498,100 to the AOPA Foundation that will enable expansion of the You Can Fly High School initiative, which currently engages more than 16,300 students in 43 states. The centerpiece of this program is an aviation STEM curriculum provided to participating schools with teacher training, a complete syllabus for grades 9 through 12, and related tools and materials that enable high school teachers to bring aviation and STEM together in their classrooms.

AOPA applied for the funding through the FAA Aircraft Pilots Aviation Workforce Development Grants program, designed to “prepare students to become aircraft pilots, aerospace engineers, or unmanned aircraft systems operators, and support the related professional development of teachers.”

The AOPA Foundation’s You Can Fly High School initiative began six years ago, and has involved more than 49,000 students. It has proved to be the catalyst AOPA hoped for: Seventy percent of the first graduates say they are actively pursuing an aviation career. As important, half of the students come from minority backgrounds and one-quarter are female, highlighting the need for aviation to be more inclusive and a true reflection of society.

The grant will be used to train additional educators across the country through in-person sessions, ensuring teachers have access to the high-quality professional development they need to maximize their involvement with the AOPA Foundation High School initiative.

“Leveraging the exciting world of aviation to build a well-designed and engaging curriculum will launch thousands of young adults on the path to a rewarding future,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The FAA’s understanding and appreciation of our award-winning STEM aviation curriculum and the impact it is having on high school students across the country is further validation of our commitment and dedication to introducing and educating young men and women to aviation.”

In addition, a partnership between the AOPA Foundation and the commonwealth of Kentucky was awarded an Aircraft Pilots Workforce Development Grant to support a new initiative to help prepare Kentucky high school students to become pilots or aerospace engineers, or to develop skills in the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. The program will be fueled by the AOPA Foundation’s You Can Fly High School initiative.

“AOPA is thrilled to partner with education leaders in Kentucky to introduce the fulfilling world of aviation to students across the commonwealth,” said Baker. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to help ensure a bright future for Kentucky’s students and aviation. We are also confident that Kentucky’s model can inspire other states to follow suit for their students.”

Two high schools currently using the AOPA Foundation’s You Can Fly High School program were also awarded grants. The School District of Philadelphia was bestowed funds to fuel private pilot and unmanned aircraft training at Frankford High School. The Fulton Leadership Academy in East Point, Georgia, in partnership with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, was awarded an FAA grant to create a dual enrollment aviation maintenance technician program for students.

The You Can Fly program and the Air Safety Institute are funded by charitable donations to the AOPA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization. To be a part of the solution, visit

Alyssa J. Miller
Eric Blinderman
Senior Director of Communications
Eric Blinderman is AOPA’s Senior Director of Communications. Eric joined AOPA in 2020 after several years at leading marketing/communications agencies in New York and is looking forward to putting his newly minted private pilot certificate to work.
Topics: You Can Fly, AOPA Foundation, Advocacy

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