Teens test career options at aviation camp

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Jayden Collier, 16, of Laurel, Md., center, a participant in the Aviation Career Education Academy camp in Dover, leaps off the curb as he tosses his paper plane into flight Wednesday at Cheswold Airport. The campers were competing to see whose plane would fly farthest. The camp, now in its 15th year, is designed to give teens who aspire to working in the aviation industry as pilots, navigators or mechanics a hands-on experience with maintenance and flight time. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

CHESWOLD — A group of teenagers watched in amazement as a helicopter fly-in by the U.S. Coast Guard swooped in at the Delaware Airpark Wednesday afternoon.

All the teens held their cellphones out and were either snapping pictures or taking videos to make sure the experience would be long remembered.

“This is my first time being here,” said Dion Baker, a sophomore at Dover High School. “This is a good experience for me because at the end of the week I get to fly a plane. I’ve never flown in a plane before.”

He was one of 27 teenagers participating in the Aviation Career Education Camp. The camp is sponsored by the Organization of Black Aviation Professionals, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Delaware State University.

Cedric Davis, co-director of the Dover Organization of Black Aviation Professionals’ Aviation Career Education Academy, told his campers Wednesday that community involvement and volunteering their time are keys to a successful life inside Delaware Airpark in Cheswold.

Cedric Davis, co-director of the Dover Organization of Black Aviation Professionals’ Aviation Career Education Academy, told his campers Wednesday that community involvement and volunteering their time are keys to a successful life inside Delaware Airpark in Cheswold.

The program, in its 15th year, is designed to help teens with aspirations of working in the aviation industry as pilots, navigators or mechanics. It provides them practical experience with maintenance and flight time.

With ages ranging from 14 to 18, the young men and women learn about the various careers in aviation.

“The goal is to provide an opportunity for students to receive hands-on experience of learning the history of aviation, fundamentals of aerodynamics, the role of government in aviation, and the many careers available in the aviation industry,” said Gerry Dupree, one of the founders of the program.

“Every aspect of aviation is under represented by minorities. We don’t expect everyone to be pilots, but we want them to have an interest in a career in aviation.

“For every one job as a pilot there are 100 jobs that support us in what we do, such as mechanics, air traffic controlers and meteorologists.”

The camp started Monday and continues through Friday.

During the academy, students participate in educational activities that feature STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — components.

Yoki Johnson, co-director of the program, said every activity is engaging.

“It’s finding a way to tie everything all together,” Ms. Johnson said. “Technology is driving our society and for these groups of teenagers, that’s what they’re going to know.

“Going to the library to take out books is something that they’re not doing anymore. They can go on the Internet and look up what they need to find. For us to have a program like this and give back and physically give them that hands-on experience is great.”

Dion said getting into the field of aviation was one of his last career choices, but the program has sparked his interest.

“It’s on the back burner,” he said. “It is one of my career choices, but after being here I learned a lot and it made me think about it a little bit more.”

Mr. Dupree said that’s the ultimate goal of the program.

Academy campers participate in activities that feature STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) components and have the opportunity to perform actual flights in a general aviation aircraft.

Academy campers participate in activities that feature STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) components and have the opportunity to perform actual flights in a general aviation aircraft.

“Most kids today don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “When we were their age we didn’t know what we wanted to do. But the more they’re exposed to the opportunities they know are out there, the more career options they know they have.

“For all of us, our love is aviation and we just want to share that love with the next generation and that’s why we volunteer for these camps.”

Ms. Johnson shared the same sentiment.

“It’s an opportunity for me to ensure that there is a legacy for African-American students to know about careers in aviation,” she said. “It’s not a topic that you find in your high school or middle schools. When you look at the career opportunities it’s one that is rarely mentioned at all.

“So for us to be able to come back and show students at all ages that you can be a pilot is an empowering feeling.”

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