RDF Sponsors Student Aviation Program at NFL YET College Prep Academy
What did you want to be when you grew up? How were you first introduced to that idea?
When we were children, most of us dreamed of careers we saw in movies and books. Those dreams tend to shift as we approach young adulthood. We gather information from our families, schools, mentors and local communities to determine paths that may seem more attainable for us. Unfortunately, for low-income and underserved communities what may seem “attainable” can be very limiting. That’s why it’s critical to create opportunities to expose our youth to a variety of options for their futures.
In a commitment to our youth and the education community, Raza Development Fund is proud to sponsor a program that will expose students to career opportunities in aviation. With the Student Aviation Program, high school seniors at NFL YET College Prep Academy in South Phoenix can explore becoming a pilot or an aviation engineer as a viable attainable option.
“The goal is to … motivate them and inspire them, that they can achieve anything that they want to do,” says Anastacia Europa, Chief Operating Officer Espiritu Schools. “It’s (the program) exposing them to a world of possibilities, and it exposes them to a new industry.”
Lifting Off “Path to Pilot”
It all started with a trio of pilots Al Timpauer, Philip Green and Brock Booher, who formed Flight Path Vectors Foundation to provide training and webinars to share their dream of aviation. During a nationwide pilot shortage, their mission is now more important than ever.
Together, they decided to bring their passion into schools to teach them basic aviation skills with the use of a VolaR virtual reality simulator flight training device that will allow students to feel what it’s like to fly. Essentially, a virtual reality game that can truly help these students adventure into an opportunity for their futures.
“There has been a misconception that either they don’t know about the possibility of becoming a pilot or they think you got to through the military, so we wanted to develop this program to be able to address that to say here’s a valid opportunity, a valid career can change lives, change the lives of students, change the lives of communities,” says Philip Green, Flight Path Vectors Treasurer & Secretary. “If we can do it, you guys can do it. We have a passion for this, we love aviation.”
Connecting RDF & NFL YET
To help kick this off, Flight Path Vectors introduced the device to key leaders like Tom Espinoza, RDF’s Co-Founder. Right away, Tom knew this would be a perfect fit for NFL YET College Prep Academy.
The RDF Familia has enjoyed a long-standing connection and history of supporting this school that is so aligned with our mission. NFL YET cultivates servant leaders with high performing academics. NFL YET serves a majority low-income and Hispanic student population of 7th – 12th graders from the South Phoenix community.
After RDF, introduced the idea to NFL YET, the school readily agreed.
“We knew it was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up and felt that it was meant to be for NFL YET and for our students,” says Anastacia Europa, Chief Operating Officer of Espiritu Schools. “Many of our students have never flown in a plane, many of our students have never stepped foot in an airport. So, bringing this to them opens to the potential for their futures.”
Ready for Takeoff
With the school selected, RDF provided funding to help the program get ready for takeoff. Over the summer, NFL YET was able to officially unveil the “Path to Pilot” Student Aviation Program in conjunction with Flight Path Vectors, VolaR, Volant Systems, the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation and volunteer certified flight instructors.
As August marked the new school year, NFL YET’s 12th graders now have the opportunity to take this Career Technical Education (CTE) program as a class during their normal school day to learn more about career paths in aviation while developing critical thinking skills. The students will have the opportunity to obtain their student pilot certificate, complete an introductory flight and take their private pilot exam.
In addition to the tools and experience, the students will gain great connections to start their future careers.
“We will be teaching here, but we also will be permanent mentors to help them and guide them along the way, so once they leave NFL YET we will still stay in touch with them,” Philip Green, certified flight instructor and Treasurer/ Secretary of Flight Path Vectors.
The Sky is the Limit
Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the program organizers, educators and students. The excitement that exuded from everyone was wonderful to see. The instructors are so passionate about their field they are like big kids in a playground motivating these young minds. The educators are filled with pride to watch their students grow. And the students have big smiles as they dream of traveling the world and use the simulators to imagine a future flying an airplane to beautiful locations.
The impact of this program goes beyond the students themselves. It’s hope for family and a community. These students will, and already are, motivating their peers and younger classmates. They can go home to teach their younger siblings and later their own kids. It opens the doors to expand the possibilities for our communities across generations.
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