Recognizing that a love of aviation is best instilled early, Flight Academy is an eight-week STEM program for high school students participating in both Navy and Marine Corps JROTC. The program aims to inspire and encourage high school students to consider a career in aviation. The program is offered at no cost to the student and without any obligation.
The program is a new STEM initiative that has been selected for funding by the Naval STEM Coordination Office – located at the Office of Naval Research – which oversees investments in education, outreach and workforce initiatives STEM.
“STEM education is key to maintaining maritime superiority,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, who heads the Naval Research Enterprise where Naval STEM resides. “Our continued development of young minds will be our decisive advantage in any future conflict.”
According to Cmdr. Chandra Newman, Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Naval Air Forces Underrepresented and underserved communities often lack resources or accessibility to opportunities, and often have limited exposure to a myriad of topics. Naval leaders know it is imperative that untapped talent in all communities is given the opportunity and resources to contribute to the future of the nation.
“Engaging our high school youth in an immersive and challenging program, like the flight academy, ignites a passion for aviation that cannot be extinguished,” Newman said. “The life skills, career skills, and personal growth that cadets gain from this program are extremely valuable to the future of Naval Aviation, the DoD, and industry at large. Their future is limitless.
The competitive Flight Academy program has a selection ratio of 8:1 – there were 160 full applications for the Class of 2022 and 20 outstanding students were selected. Racial and ethnic minority groups made up 65% of the program. The program ended up being a 50/50 male/female split, with 40% women representing minorities.
“Naval STEM has invested in the Flight Academy and partnered with CNAF to provide an educational opportunity that educates students about the role of STEM within Naval Aviation,” said Kathleen Gately Miranda, Deputy Director, Naval STEM Coordinating office. “On the first day, and for eight weeks, high school students fly through the air. Naval STEM opportunities like these remove financial barriers, allowing high-achieving students access to life-changing opportunities.
In 2022, the flight academy program was a runaway triumph for everyone involved. Sixteen of the 20 students completed ground school, their first solo flight, passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Knowledge Test, and received college credit for their achievements. In addition, 13 students obtained their private pilot license.
2022 Flight Academy Graduates
Scott Aflague – Guam (Delaware State University (DSU))*
Rishita Bagga – Richmond, TX (DSU)*
La’Donte Buckhanan – Mandeville, Louisiana (DSU)*
Isaac Carter – Grove City, Ohio (DSU)*
Kennedy Childress – Fort Mill, SC (DSU)*
Jadyn Dixon – Statesville, NC (DSU)*
Bonnie Frazer – Bayboro, NC (DSU)*
Abby Harwick, Bayboro, NC (DSU)*
Blessings Kibet – Mobile, Alabama (Elizabeth City State University (ECSU)
Camden Korsmo – Corpus Christi, Texas (ECSU) *
Alexander Le – St. Paul, Minnesota (DSU)*
Tyler Smolensky – Highlands, New Jersey (DSU)*
Kaitlyn Stake – Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (DSU)*
Henry Stanley – Corpus Christi, TX (DSU) *^
Xitali Vazquez – Phoenix, Arizona (ECSU)
Joshua Ward – Stockton, CA (ECSU)
Bobby Cummings is a contractor for ONR’s Strategic Corporate Communications.