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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 3 weeks ago

Ocoee Youth Council offers aerospace initiative

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The program is intended to aid students interested in careers in flying and in the airline industry.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

A new initiative offered through the Ocoee Youth Council is looking to help local students take flight.

The Aerospace Education Initiative is a new program offered through the OYC that will provide scholarships and hands-on learning opportunities to students who are interested in a career in the airline industry. Ocoee Commissioner George Oliver introduced the program to JROTC students at Ocoee High School Tuesday, Oct. 22.

“There are high-school age kids at Ocoee High School, Wekiva (High School), as well as West Orange (High School) that have interest in flight and aerospace engineering but have no means or mechanisms to realize that dream or even get started — they don’t even know where to get started,” Oliver said. “With the help of a few organizations, we were able to introduce that curriculum to Orange County Public Schools to build interest and really introduce that form of education to those kids that are interested in flight.”

Oliver added that the program isn’t just for students who want to become pilots. It’s also open to students who want to pursue other careers in the airline industry.

“Not every kid is interested in becoming a pilot,” Oliver said. “Some kids are interested in becoming engineers — aerospace engineers. Some kids are interested in the mechanics of flight, so we’re able to take that education and wrap it up into this … Aerospace Education (Initiative).” 

The program has been made possible through partnerships with Orange County Public Schools, the Florida Civil Air Patrol, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. Private partnerships through airline companies like JetBlue, Alaskan Airlines, United Airlines and other companies also are part of the program to offer participants hands-on educational opportunities.

“(Students) will have access to actual pilots,” Oliver said. “They will have access to aerospace engineers (and) access to a wealth of aerospace executives at the executive airport, as well as JetBlue University. … This (program) is open to all — to all kids that are interested in the wonders of flight.”

For now, the Aerospace Education Initiative is only available to JROTC students at Ocoee High School, but it could later accommodate other students. Additionally, JROTC students who want to participate in the Aerospace Education Initiative must get involved with and sign up for the OYC. 

“(Students) will have access to actual pilots. They will have access to aerospace engineers (and) access to a wealth of aerospace executives at the executive airport, as well as JetBlue University. …” — Commissioner George Oliver

“We’re introducing through the JROTC with the hopes that we can expand that program beyond JROTC into some of the other classrooms — maybe create our own curriculum in Orange County Public Schools so kids can actually take advantage of those opportunities,” Oliver said.

One of the requirements to join the OYC is that a student must be a resident of Ocoee, but that could soon change.

In an effort to increase participation in the OYC and its programs, Oliver is considering making changes to the OYC bylaws to allow for students who don’t reside in Ocoee to participate.

“(I’m considering) doing an addendum to the ordinance that will allow kids who go to school in the city of Ocoee to be a part of the (OYC) program as well,” Oliver said. “And then, eventually, I would like to extend it to West Orange County to all of the West Orange County high schools and the municipalities which lie in West Orange County. … I want that to be a natural progression of this program. (Starting in) Ocoee was just a way of testing out this type of program, and if it’s successful — which I know it’s been very successful thus far — we want to be able to expand it out to more kids.” 

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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