MEMPHIS, Tennessee – A local school in Memphis strives to provide its students with an invaluable introductory experience to the world of aviation. East High School, through its T-STEM Academy, provides area students with preliminary flight instruction to help open the doors to a highly lucrative career path.
“Just to give kids the opportunity to get that entry-level flight experience; it’s just amazing,” Principal Newman Robertson said. Robertson runs East High School and tells FOX13 that he’s a veteran who holds 27 years in the Air Force, so he recognizes a quality program when he sees one.
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The academy is also proud to be the second student in the history of the program to earn a Private Pilot License (PPL). The program has existed at East High since 2017.
“It’ll give him so much of a head start on the game in terms of the skill set he would need,” Robertson said, “It’s just the sky the limit for him, no pun intended, but he can do what he wants.”
Principal Robertson is referring to Grade 12 student Stephen Ferreira, who is expected to graduate from T-STEM Aviation Academy this year. Ferreira learned her passion for flying in 8th grade, after a week-long aviation course. He is now looking towards college and the future.
“I hadn’t declared where I’m going yet, but I have a few better choices, just deciding who’s going to give me the most money,” Ferreira said. “I’m just waiting for the financial packages right now.”
Aviation school for pilots is considered a big expense, costing between $70,000 and $100,000, but there are other options in the industry. Kaylyn Webb is an 11th grade drone student. She tells FOX13 that she once had a passion for flying, but is now fully dedicated to learning careers using drone technology.
“Drone licenses are definitely easier to get, although it’s still a rigorous study, you can buy a textbook and you don’t have to apply to different programs to train for your pilot license private,” Webb said. “You don’t need to pass a practical exam, you just hone your own abilities after practicing.”
This program provides the first steps, introducing East High School students to the wide range of options available to them.
“They will find the same material that I teach here at universities across the country that teach aviation,” said Ralph Schirlo.
Schirlo said he enjoys combining his two passions: aviation and teaching; that’s why he took the job at East High School five years ago. The flight instructor has 30 years of experience in the aviation industry as a pilot and says he is confident in the quality of the program and its offerings.
“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the teaching materials we use here are top-notch,” Schirlo said.
In order to be considered for the T-STEM program, students must not score less than a “C” for the semester, students cannot be more than 15 days late or absent, students must score in the 50th percentile in math and ELA, and no report of conduct problems.
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