Graduates Share Their Experiences

Aviation high school 2011 graduates share their unique and personal experiences about their final years of high school and beginning of college.

Even though Aviation High School is a STEM school, it doesn’t mean that a student’s desired career path has to be STEM or aviation related.  Some graduates decided to follow a career path that’s completely unrelated to aviation, such as the music industry.

There were many student bands, singers, and independent instrument players at AHS. Now that they have graduated, some have continued to pursue a musical career.

Lianda Abraham is a perfect example of someone who loves to do something unrelated to aviation. She’s known for her beautiful singing voice and her outstanding performances in the music group EriAm Sisters.

“My sisters and I started performing four to five years ago. It started at a talent show that nobody but us signed up for. It was one of the worst and greatest moments of my life,” said Abraham, “the beginning half was the terrifying part because it was my dad who forced me from my hiding spot onto the stage with my sisters. The last half was the great part because I felt comfortable and confident, doing something I enjoyed (in front of people) for the first time.”

As her singing career started up, all of AHS became amazed as she and her sisters performed at the school’s talent shows and sung the national anthem at important events like the graduation ceremonies and assemblies.

“My favorite thing about singing is the final product a.k.a.-the performance. The second our last song ends, I’ll mentally run through every bit of the set,” said Abraham, “thinking of any mistakes we could’ve possibly made in the harmonies or choreo [graphy] or whatever! The best part of singing for me is the feeling I get walking off stage and knowing that I tried my best and kicked butt!”

But all of her performances didn’t take place in just school; she has performed at many different incredible places and kept these experiences with her to remember forever.

“The most unique place we’ve performed at would have to be…. at the 2010 gay pride festival in Seattle. I enjoyed it a lot because we got to share the stage with the most gorgeous/entertaining drag queens I’ve ever seen!” said Abraham, “We’ve traveled to East Africa, Eritrea, and performed in front of 40,000 people and the president of the country for the country’s Independence Day. We performed in Africa last summer and again this past May. This summer we had shows in Sweden, Germany and Amsterdam. We got back from Atlanta about two weeks ago and finished recording our first music video. About two years ago we auditioned for America’s Got Talent and made it to the semi-finals.”

Although she has a music career she would love to follow, that’s not the only thing she wants to pursue. Abraham also currently attends college in order to earn a degree that isn’t art or music related.

“I’m attending Bellevue College and going for an associates in Science degree,” said Abraham, “I’m loving the whole college experience and I’m really enjoying the classes, especially psychology.”

Through her musical career she has always had her parents to fall back on and support her and her sisters. This moral support has also led her to achieving great performances and being able to travel to many places.

“My parents have definitely been a huge inspiration. They’ve been putting in just as much work as both my sisters and I have been putting in to this whole performing thing,” said Abraham, “they both left their families and country (Eritrea) in order to lead a successful life here in America and now are putting their heart and souls into making their daughters’ dreams come true.”

On the visually creative side there is Elizabeth Ong, who has inspired people with her incredible art ability and fashion sense.

“I have a passion in art and I believe my skills will take me far. I plan to become a video game artist or animator and hopefully work for Nintendo,” said AHS graduate Elizabeth Ong, “then, in the future, I would also like to have a side job in the fashion industry. I am really excited!”

In addition, attending Aviation High School can benefit a student or graduate because of the unique events AHS allows you to attend. Also, Ong’s experiences reflect a lot on the opportunities she received from attending Aviation high school.

“There are plenty of important and memorable events that I’ve attended. And it’s just one of the things I am really proud of as an AHS Alumni; being able to be apart and experiencing something that other high schoolers may not be able to. The Pathfinder’s Gala, Meeting and talking to VIPs or notable people from the aviation industry,” said Ong, “starting/continuing AHS traditions, AHS social events, SciOly Competitions etc, and overall, just being able to go to school with my peers and teachers that I really love. AHS has grown and accomplished a lot. I am really glad that I was able to apart of that.”

Consequently, after graduates received some unique benefits and opportunities from attending Aviation high school, they move on to college and apply the skills they learned in high school to their college life.

“As of now, I am attending Highline Community College and is working towards my degree in the Arts. I am taking courses that would allow me to easily transfer into the University of Washington DXART program,” said Ong, “I am now in my second week of college and so far, it has been going quite well. I’ve thought of not being to involved with school and just focusing on my school work but in my heart, I dont think I can do that. Haha. I just love being involved (thanks to AHS). I am looking forward to joining the numerous clubs that have here at HCC.”

However, as students go to college and pursue their desired career paths, they never forget their true dreams. Ong shows that she will never forget her passion for fashion.

“I really love fashion. Not just the shopping but more like being able to design and having people wear them and like them. I think clothes can really define a person’s personality,” said Ong, “and I would just love to see people wear my designs and feel confident in them. Unfortunately, I don’t plan on pursuing this career now. Honestly, I don’t think I can really support myself in the future because its a cutting edge industry. But this doesn’t mean I am going to give up on it. I’ll just pursue it later in life.”

As you’re pursuing a career in art, fashion, or anything else, something that is important is your supporters. It’s good to have someone who can stand by you and your passions.

“I guess the person that I really looked up to would be my dad. He was born in Vietnam and moved over here when he was about 18 years old. He has been through a lot of hardships. He started out slow but made his way up to becoming successful. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a year later, he became an employee at Nintendo,” said Ong, “My dad would constantly nag me to study and give 110% in all of my school work. It drives me nuts sometimes! But, I understand why. He had it tough, way tougher than me. Therefore I am motivated to try my very best to become a successful person like him.”

On the other hand, there are some students who do want to follow an aviation related career, one of them being Casey Chandler.

“I am currently attending the University of Washington, and my intended major is Mechanical Engineering,” said AHS grad Casey Chandler, “Mr. Joshi was a big part of the reason I chose to pursue engineering. Joshi’s challenging, but [his] informative calculus course helped me realize how much I loved math!”

As grads slowly turn into adults, they learn to prioritize and put what is more important first. Chandler and many other graduates even had to give up on some past dreams in order to succeed in the present.

“I was interested in photography, but chose not to pursue it for several reasons,” said Chandler, “But never found the time to really get into it.”

Additionally, there are two other graduates that have the chance to experience what it’s like to live in a new city while they go to college.

“Being in a new city is basically what you would expect, just very different,” said NYU freshmen Miranda Sita, “it’s hard to explain really. But for as much as I loved Seattle, I love New York just as much now.”

“Staying in a new city… think of it as an adventure, because it is!” said USC freshmen Jim Stone, “but keep in touch with your friends from back home.”

Everyone becomes explorers on their first day in a new city, because there is so much to learn and see. But sometimes being in a new city will make you miss your hometown, like these two Seattle grads.


“What I honestly miss most about Seattle is probably my dogs,” said Sita,  “But I also really miss the trees, NYU doesn’t have trees! Or at least real trees, just the wimpy ones they planted on the streets to create atmosphere.”

“What I miss about Seattle is honestly the rain,” said Stone, “it’s too damn sunny here (Los Angeles) and of course the people – I miss y’all!”

Overall, even though these graduates have been at college for only a small amount of time, they have learned what can make college great from experiences.

“College can be a good time by having awesome friends!” said Stone, “meet the other people in your dorm and classes and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to random people the first few weeks.”

“I’m not sure I’m qualified to say what really makes a great college experience considering I’m only in my second month of freshman year,” said Sita, “But what I am really finding important right now is making friends. These friends I make are going to become my family over the next four years, and I want to make sure I will find the people that will not only help me succeed, but really enjoy everything that college has to offer.”

AHS Goes Greener

Presentations, guest speakers, conserving energy, and more recycling: efforts are underway, but Aviation High School still has a long road to travel before reaching level 2 of the King County Green School Program.

Waste reduction, recycling, managing hazardous materials and conserving energy are all things that AHS students and teachers are striving towards doing in this 2011-2012 school year. Doing so would earn AHS recognition throughout King County of being a level 2 green school. This program that is sponsored by King County encourages schools of all ages to become greener.

AHS began participating in the green school program in June of 2009; in May of 2011, near the end of the school year, AHS was awarded a banner that reads “We are a King County Green School.” It was also mentioned in a press release issued by King County. AHS’s ecology club has been helping the school ever since it has started four years ago.

To achieve level 2 of the Green School Program, AHS must maintain the level 1 duties, and start to conserve energy, so that they can complete the energy conservation criteria. Doing so would decrease the school’s electricity bill and earn AHS the title of a level 2 green school.

“Clubs this year have just started so we are still in the process of figuring out where we want to go from here. We’ve started brainstorming some fun activities throughout the year.” Explained ecology club’s president Tessa Tweet, “Reaching level one recognition took two years so I know level two will take at least that long.”

Level 1 duties included waste reduction, recycling, and hazardous waste management. Ecology club did this by promoting the idea of recycling by giving class presentations and having school-wide assemblies.

More information about the green schools program is available on the King County website, at

AHS has increased its recycling program rate from 28% to 35% since it started participating in the program. As a result, recycling bins have been added to classrooms, offices, hallways, and the lunchroom.


“We are always teaching students the basics about recycling,” said Tweet, “especially the tricky stuff.”


Every year on earth day, ecology club plans and hosts an assembly to inform students on recycling and helping the earth.


This year, they plan on having a guest speaker from King County to come and talk to the students about how going green is important. They also plan on having recycle-bot, ecology club’s mascot, come and talk to the students and have them do activities about conserving energy and recycling even more things.

“Our main goal in ecology club is to find ways to reach out into the student body.” said Tweet, “Expect a lot from us this year!”

There are many ways the school has changed since the start of ecology club four years ago, especially when it comes to AHS’s recycling program.

Many students don’t know what they can and cannot recycle. So, ecology club decided that they would go around and put lists on the recycling bins with a list of what they could and could not recycle.

“Did you know you can recycle milk cartons?” said Tweet, “Because I am always pulling them out of the garbage. Things like this are important to know and the posters, presentations, and programs we create really help our students get a better understanding.”

In most classrooms, there are bins that have recycled paper in them so that  paper could be used more than once.

“Before the club there were no big recycling bins around the school,” said ecology club vice president Allison Do, “but now, bit by bit, we’re improving and expanding the recycling program.”

Ecology club also went around and collected bottle caps and sent them to Aveda, Aveda would then recycle the caps and turn them into parts of bottles. Not only did doing this help the earth, but it also helped marine animals from eating them. Aveda is a company that makes eco-friendly cosmetics and hair products.

Not only does ecology club help our school, they help others outside of school as well.

“For the past three years,” explained Do, “we’ve done the Duwamish River clean up.”

Escaping the Frontcountry

Two hikers work their way up a steep icy slope, one carrying an ice axe and the other with traction devices called crampons on his shoes, but the other usual ice gear is nowhere to be found. To be honest, one of them is enjoying himself a bit more than the other.

The more optimistic of the two is Peter Keckemet, AHS senior and lover of the backcountry. He and his friend Drew Hidalgo are on what they thought would be a quick hike.

“This summer I took another senior, Drew, one of my best friends, up to the Cascades and we did this hike up to Foggy Basin,” recalled Keckemet. “It’s on an old miner’s trail and we had a heavy winter so there was no trail and we were route finding.”

Just the thought of getting so far away from Facebook and their phones might scare some people off, but for Keckemet there’s nothing else like it.

“The first couple hours of any hike or climb or anything, you’re just gonna be asking yourself ‘why did I get off the couch to get outside? I could be at home watching TV right now not having to walk,’” said Keckemet, “but once you really get out there, it’s my favorite place in the entire world, just being outside.”

“I’ve been mountaineering for about a year. I’ve been climbing for about three years in the gym and a bit outside as well,” said Keckemet, “but I’ve been backpacking since I could walk with my parents and I’ve been skiing just as long.”

Hidalgo is also an outdoorsy person, but may have been a bit less prepared for the “quick hike” up Foggy Basin.

“Peter told me that we were going for a three and a half mile hike, two and a half of which was an older miner trail that was fairly steep,” said Hidalgo. “We knew that in the last mile we’d encounter some snow. The snow turned out to be a glacier.”

“He didn’t realize when I said ‘hike’ I meant more of scrambling on your hands and knees up scary snow slopes and he got a bit freaked out,” said Keckemet. “He may or may not have threatened me which was also a little bit scary.”

Mountaineers never stop learning and Keckemet is no exception. He’s looking to get more medical certification so he’ll be ready for anything.

“I have a wilderness first aid certification, but I want to get a bigger one, maybe wilderness first responder or wilderness EMT,” explained Keckemet. “I really want to do an EMT class that could let me get a ski patrol job during college, or potentially I could get work at a guiding company at Mt. Rainier or in the Cascades or something.”

Fortunately for both Hidalgo and himself, Keckemet’s first aid skills were not called for during the pair’s hike together, but they easily could have been.

“It was all good because we spent the night up there and then the next day we came back down and it was a beautiful view,” said Keckemet. “You could see the entire Milky Way, probably one of my favorite parts of spending the night out in the middle of nowhere. And then Drew apologized for threatening me.”

Keckemet wasn’t exactly born with a pack on his back, but like many people who get into the outdoors at a young age, he came close.

“I really got started outdoors from my parents, they started me sailing,” said Keckemet, “we were always hiking and snowshoeing when I was little either on their back or I’d have little kid snowshoes and it just developed from there.”

Sonics Wound Healing

In 2008 when the Sonics were threatening to leave Seattle, the people of the emerald city were going insane over the loss, but three years later, they have moved on.

In 2007, Oklahoma City native Clay Bennett bought the Seattle Sonics for an estimated $350 million dollars from Starbucks CEO and Sonics owner Howard Schultz.  The Sonics head owner was convinced that Bennett was going to keep the team in Seattle.

“I think it’s presumptuous to assume that Clay Bennett and his ownership group won’t own that Seattle team for a long, long time in Seattle or somewhere else,” said Schultz, “it’s presumptuous to assume they’re going to move that franchise to Oklahoma City.”

As time passed Bennett was upset that the local government would not provide an estimated $500 million for an overhaul of Key Arena (the Sonics home court), so the team took flight.

Since the move, the team has flourished. They have posted a win-loss percentage of over .620, gone to the conference finals and posted average attendance numbers of around 18,000 fans per game, selling out nearly every game.  Chesapeake Energy Arena, the new home of the team, boasts upscale restaurants, Kids zone, updated scoring and video from Daktronics, upgraded flooring and new view suites. The whole renovation from the original state of the arena cost $156 million, $350 million less than the proposed cost of Key Arena.

Since that time, the Seattle based company Casual Industries has started manufacturing a line of shirts that features the 1995 Sonics logo featuring the word “Robbed” instead of the usual team name and city. Although it is evident that feeling of deceit and some sorrow is felt when the subject is brought up, the matter has mostly faded to the background for northwest basketball fans.

The Seattle Storm have also been a powerhouse in women’s professional basketball, winning two WNBA finals in the past seven years, accumulating around 8,500 fans per game, only 2,500 fans less than the meager 11,000 fans posted by the Sonics in 2007.

Other sports have also appeared in the spotlight. Last year, the Seahawks went to the second round of the NFL playoffs, and the Mariners have acquired their own TV channel, ROOT sports.

Although Key Arena is an arena worthy of R&B singer Usher, the Seattle Thunderbirds and countless other acts and events, the arena is in fact aging. Although it was renovated in 1995, the original structure was built in 1962, two years before ex-Mets ballpark Shea Stadium was built, and it has since been torn down and the New York team has gotten a new field. Why shouldn’t the Sonics get one?

First Commercial Spaceport Nears Completion


In the middle of the New Mexico desert lies a flat piece of land, the ground paved, the infrastructure assembled, and a runway and terminal prepared for spacecraft.

Roughly 45 miles north of Las Cruces, the 18,000 acre site has a two mile long, 200 foot-wide runway.  Spaceport America (originally known as Southwest Regional Spaceport) will be the world’s first commercial spaceport. The are used by the space administration for utility and scientific work in space.

“[New Mexico is] perfect because that means you need less fuel and you get more pay load when you launch,” Chris Anderson , Executive Director of New Mexico Space Authority, told, “plus the predictable weather will assure on-time takeoffs.”

The government of New Mexico has promised that the new spaceport will be a boon to the local economy with  the prospect of tourism on the horizon. Currently there are hard hat tours around the construction site with plans to build a commercial center.

Additional income beside tourism and Virgin Galactic flights will  include launching experiments and satellites into space. The Spaceport has already had twelve launches for commercial clients.

However, some locals are skeptical on whether the spaceport will generate more business or not.

Robert Hanseck, owner of a Truth or Consequences gem store, had a critical opinion of the spaceport’s economic impact.

“It’s for rich people, I guess,” Hanseck said to KVUE news, “the people here aren’t rich and they’re not going to be made rich by this either, I don’t think.”

Happy Belly Deli restaurant, situated in Truth or Consequences, caters to Spaceport America workers.  One of the Deli’s cashiers, Destiny Miller, has expressed has expressed tentative confidence on the spaceport.

“We are a little bit skeptical about it,” said Miller to KVUE news, “but I’ve actually seen firsthand some of the business that it’s generating.”

Like Hanseck there is currently some skepticism as to whether the spaceport is essential or even profitable, taking into consideration the large cost in construction and maintenance as well as civilian and business interest.

Anderson dismissed criticism that the spaceport is too high maintenance.

“I wonder if they said that about the first airport?” Anderson said to, “I just betcha.”

Currently Spaceport America is nearing completion of phase I construction despite being nine months behind schedule. Phase II is already in the planning stages and the phase will include the completion of a vertical launch facility, visitor welcome centers in neighboring towns Hatch and Truth or Consequences, and a visitor area at the spaceport. Phase II is expected to be complete in 2013 around the same time that the spaceport will become fully operational.

Virgin Galactic will make Spaceport America its world headquarters from which they will start flying the spacecraft for space tourists and other travelers. As of now, Virgin Galactic has begun taking its first reservations costing $200,000 per seat. And there are prospects of hotels to accommodate passengers and tourists.

The new facility is billed to be the next step in the commercialization of space. Previously space commercialization was left to larger aerospace companies.

Private Space Companies including SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, Bigelow Aerospace, XCOR and others will join NASA and FAA Representatives in a conference discussing space industry for October 19-20 and will finish with a tour of the Spaceport. on October 17 Richard Branson along with Buzz Aldrin and 150 of the 420 first Virgin Galactic passengers officially opened the Spaceport. Though unfinished, Branson in his speech expressed over his own  company and other companies resolve in space industry.

“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic.” Branson said to Aviation Week.

“We are here with a group of incredible people who are helping us lead the way in creating one of the most important new industrial sectors of the 21st century.

“We’ve never wavered in our commitment to the monumental task of pioneering safe, affordable and clean access to space, or to demonstrate that we mean business at each step along the way.”

Posts navigation

1 2 3 90 91 92 93
Scroll to top