CLEARWATER, Fla. - Dabbling in drones was today's assignment at Clearwater High School.
"Flying drones? I was like ‘yes, I have to be in this,'" aeronautic student Destiny White said.
However, it's a lot more than just a cool class. The teenagers could earn their ground pilots license before they even get their automobile drivers license.
"They'll just start to realize that what they do in high school is valuable," explained Clear Water High School Academy Coordinator Mary Roble. "What they learn here is going to help them when they get out of school."
Roble said the school partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to develop the Aeronautics and Space Academy.
"Aerospace is something in need for careers," Roble explained. "Part of this push is to get kids aware of careers that have high need and high incomes."
Sophomore Maria Campos was steering towards a massage therapy career, but now she may chart a new course.
"Once I got to this class I learned about drones, planes, and jets," Campos said. "So I gave it a chance to see if it would change my mind, and now I am studying for aviation."
Roble said female students were the first to express interest in the outer space studies. Right now women pilots represent 6 percent of the total pilot population in the United States, but that number is increasing. Two graduates from this school have already gone on to become astronauts.
"It's about helping students feel like what they do here is relevant to what they want to do with their lives," Roble explained.
Most students will earn college credit after completing the aeronautics courses. The FAA-approved training is free to the students and it could actually save them over $20,000 in college tuition costs.
The latest annual data of 2012, confirms that 73.7% of employed women worked full-time and 26.3% worked part-time, compared to 86.7% and 13.3% of employed men. The three industries with the largest percentage of total employed women were in the Education & Health Services industry, Professional and Business Industry, and Leisure and Hospitality Industry. According to FAA's Aeronautical Center there were 627,588 pilots, of which only 42,218 were females. Women have been involved in aviation since early days but in a very small number.
Among few programs that help women to explore aerospace career is the Aerospace Career Academy Program. It provides high school students with a dual enrollment model to introduce them to careers in aviation and aerospace. Partnering with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University made this possible. All rising 9th-grade students who are prepared to commit to rigorous academic and technology programs are eligible. Freshmen must complete Algebra I in ninth grade which allows them to take higher-level math classes plus chemistry and physics. Students are selected by a lottery. Students have the potential to complete 10 courses, worth 30 credits, while still in high school with no fees for tuition or books.
During the last two decades, the number of women involved in the aviation industry has slowly increased. At the first Annual International Women in Aviation Conference in 1990, participants recognized the need for more women in the industry and for a support group to serve as mentors and advisors for women interested in the aviation field. It is programs such as Aerospace Academy that educate and provide more information on aviation for the young developing minds in the country.
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