Aviation is not always a top career choice for students from underserved communities. The JetBlue Foundation and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) are trying to change that. According to current statistics, less than five percent of pilots in the commercial aviation industry are women and/or people of color.
For the second year in a row, the JetBlue Foundation has partnered with OBAP to host the Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy initiative in select JetBlue cities. This summer, through a grant from JetBlue Foundation, OBAP was able to extend this partnership beyond New York and Orlando to include new initiatives in Los Angeles/Long Beach, Jacksonville, Fla., the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. These week-long series provide high school students with a behind-the-scenes look at the aviation industry as students hear directly from the variety of different departments and people who keep an airline running. Students attending the ACE Academy have career aspirations to become pilot, dispatchers, technicians and air traffic controllers, to name a few.
“Growing up in Queens, I lived minutes away from JFK Airport, yet it was a world away. I remember telling people that I wanted to become a pilot when I grew up. Some folks in my neighborhood didn’t think this was feasible or even within the realm of possibility for me. After fulfilling my dream and becoming a captain, I decided to help mentor the next generation of pilots including those from communities like the one I grew up in to help their dreams become a reality,” said JetBlue Captain Jovan O’Bryant and Director of the OBAP New York ACE Academy.
As part of the ACE Academy, students get hands-on experience to encourage their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). They receive experience flying, a tour an airport control tower and demonstrations from fire and rescue teams. This year, students in the New York program flew a Cirrus SR20/SR22, and split a three-legged cross-country flight between Connecticut’s Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR), Waterbury-Oxford Airport (KOXC) and back to Danbury Municipal Airport (KDXR). Students from the Los Angeles/Long Beach program were able to shadow an Air Traffic Controller in action and learn about careers as pilots and dispatchers. While students in the Orlando program were able to simulate flying at JetBlue’s state-of-the-art training facility – JetBlue University.
First Officer Raghib Taquir and Director of the OBAP Los Angeles/Long Beach ACE Academy said, “Last year, OBAP received a grant from the JetBlue Foundation which allowed OBAP to offer this intensive summer program to even more students. After hearing about the OBAP and JetBlue Foundation programs in Orlando and New York, I volunteered to coordinate the first-ever ACE Academy in my hometown – Long Beach. While becoming a pilot or pursing other careers in aviation are the main focus of this program, our overall mission is to expose these students to opportunities and encourage them to continue and attend college.”
The ACE Academy initiative is in line with the mission of the JetBlue Foundation – to increase awareness of aviation-related careers among students of color and students from underserved areas. The ACE Academies in partnership with the JetBlue Foundation are managed by JetBlue pilots and other industry professionals who volunteer their time. The thoughtful curriculum is developed to encourage students to continue STEM studies.
Admission is offered to high school students, ages 14 to 18 years old that have an interest in learning about aviation. Applicants are competitively ranked based on cumulative GPA and an essay. To apply for an ACE Academy visit http://www.obap.org/project-aerospace/aviation-career-education-ace-academy/.
For more information on the JetBlue Foundation visit https://www.jetblue.com/corporate-social-responsibility/.