Following the start of the 2016-2017 school year, the Aeronautical Science Pathway program entices not only RAHS students, but students from other districts as well, to the Museum of Flight after school from 3:45 to 6 pm.
This after school course is for seniors and juniors, like senior Victoria McSmith, who want to go into the aviation industry, particularly those who want to become a pilot, drone pilot, air traffic controller, airline dispatcher, or airport manager.
“It’s a good way to decide whether you want to go into aviation,” said McSmith. “We’ve already done a careers project, so it’s kind of interesting to see the different careers that you can go into from this program or a college that has a four year program for aerospace or aviation.”
Reba Gilman, former principal of RAHS and founder of ASP, supports getting students in the aviation field from a young age to begin to combat the growing market.
“It came to be from knowing that there is a huge demand that is not being met for pilots and airlines operations personnel,” said Gilman. “I serve on a national advisory committee for high school aviation and we’re made very aware of this critical need in the workforce.”
Junior Sameer Romani, who is determined to become a pilot for Emirates, joined this program to get a leg up in his future.
“I want to go to an aviation college,” said Romani, “so with aviation college credits, that gets me into the industry a lot faster.”
Other than following the path to their prospective careers, the college credits turned out to be a major factor in what attracted students to this program.
“I think that by the time I am out of this thing, it should be sixty college credits, since it’s a two year course,” said Romani. “Hopefully then I can start college as a junior and halfway through my Bachelor’s degree.”
Since this is the first year of the program, seniors that joined are only able to participate for one year of the course and gain thirty credits. Even so, these credits play a huge difference in their futures.
“It’s a great help, especially if you’re a junior and you don’t want to send your high school transcript,” said McSmith. “A lot of colleges, after you get thirty college credits, will take college transcripts over high school transcripts.”
For students with big goals, like McSmith, perhaps the most exciting part of gaining college credits is the fact that they are free.
“I want to go to Embry Riddle or Westminster,” said McSmith, “and those are both private colleges, and private colleges are a lot more expensive, especially if you’re trying to do aviation. I’m hoping by having some college credit already that I can transfer those in and I won’t have to spend as much time at college paying tuition.”
With the cost of training and college being so high, students can often become discouraged from joining the aviation industry.
“There’s a lot of young people who would like to go into this field,” said Gilman, “if we can just make it affordable for them.”
While the college credits are tempting, students like Romani are underwhelmed by the overall structure of the new program.
“The only thing I’m a bit disappointed in with the course right now,” said Romani, “is that it’s just sort of lacking structure, so I’m not really learning anything new.”
ASP was approved late, putting Robin Lee, the instructor of the program, and Gilman behind schedule in the creation and organization of the program.
“I know that eventually, we’ll get everything smoothed out,” said Lee, “but right now it is [having] growing pains.”
For potential candidates who want to apply for ASP, Romani recommends standing by until a structure forms in the program.
“I would wait for things to start molding before you enroll,” said Romani. “While it is an honor to be a part of the inaugural class, the price you pay is that you have to wait for people to figure stuff out, and that’s at the expense of your own time.”
Currently, the ASP program is partnered with Green River College to support those who want to enter into the aviation industry. Their hope for the future, however, is to expand this program to different parts of the country and be the leader in this growing program.
“We would be there to mentor those organizations and help them with their programs,” said Lee. “All the pain that we’re currently going through, they will hopefully not have to go through because we’ve already learned all the hard lessons.”