AHS Takes Flight as Ground Breaks

In August 23, ground broke for the new Aviation High School. This milestone event, however, is only the beginning, as new opportunities for students start to become realities.

“We have been at this for eight years,” says AHS principal Reba Gilman, “trying to raise the funds from the State of Washington, from the federal government and from private sources, to build the school.”

The fact that this event has finally occurred has left many of those who have been involved in the school happy and excited for the future.

“My first thought was: Finally,” said former Aviation High School student Natalie Nason, “Pure and simple, this crazy thing we helped start is really a reality.”

Other than giving the school an actual home, the goal of having this new and permanent school has been to strengthen the school’s relationship with the Museum of Flight and be located in close proximity to more than 200 aviation-related business that operate around Boeing Field. Being co-located with the Museum will allow the school to develop many new learning opportunities for students at AHS as well as students from across the State who frequent the Museum of Flight.

“To be co-located with the Museum of Flight, there will be some things that, perhaps, will be done differently,” says Gilman, “One of the things that we have talked about with the Museum is how can we develop some programming for our students, where we share facilities, and combine our intellectual and technical expertise to develop a premier model of STEM education that can be modeled throughout the entire country… I think that it will be exciting to figure out what curriculum can look like to prepare you all for education and careers that perhaps we don’t even know about right now.”

The location of the school will open up so many opportunities by placing students right in the middle of the aviation industry.

“Really, think about being located in that area, with the Museum of Flight,” Gilman continued, “just spectacular!”

The actual groundbreaking event was quite large. Nearly 300 people attended, including Bill Boeing, Jr. The ceremony was presided over by AHS principal and CEO Reba Gilman and featured many guest speakers including former Highline School District Superintendent John Welch, Museum of Flight CEO Doug King, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Congressman Adam Smith, Vice President Laura Peterson of Boeing, the school’s major supporters, James and Sherry Raisbeck, and Aviation High School alumni Keiko Hiranaka, Joey Marco, and Natalie Nason.

The school has been stuck without a proper and permanent home since its establishment in 2004. The school started at the Duwamish Campus of South Seattle Community College. The school was able to occupy one building of the campus in addition to several portables.

“Life at SSCC was….an adventure. It was funny, interesting, and definitely out of the ordinary,” says former AHS student Natalie Nason, “It was a little thrown together and not quite perfect. But those ugly orange floors, the concrete classrooms, the trucks and trains roaring past the windows, the ‘Hanger’, the gravel pit, it was all home. It was everything we were at that time.”

The school remained at SSCC until 2007. The school has been at its current campus in Des Moines ever since.

“I know that the students who have graduated, they have provided the legacy for everybody else,” says Gilman, “and for those of you who won’t get to occupy the new school either, the same thing, you have worked hard to do this.”

Aviation still has much to do before the school will be complete, however. “The main thing we have to focus on now, is staying on schedule,” says Gilman. The build location is currently undergoing site prep. Construction hasn’t quite yet begun. The goal is to have the school complete and ready to be used by the fall of 2013.

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