THERMAL, California — Students from the Desert Mirage High School Aviation Academy accepted the keys to a donated fully operable Gulfstream GII on behalf of the new Jacqueline Cochran Discovery of Flight and Education Center.
In partnership with the airport, the Coachella Valley Unified School District launched the Aviation Academy in 2015 as part of the school district’s Wall-to-Wall Academies and Full STEAM Ahead initiative, which includes career-based programs around disciplines in Science, Technology, Engineering/Education, Arts/Athletics, and Math.
Peni Nelson, Thermal Airport manager for Landmark Aviation, sees collaborating with the Coachella Valley Unified School District as an opportunity to trigger interest in young people.
“The airport is literally in our students’ backyard. The jobs are out there. What an opportunity to introduce them to aviation right here at home through the aviation academy at the school district and now our new Jacqueline Cochran Discovery of Flight and Education Center,” she said.
Two female students from Coachella Valley High School, who aspire to become pilots, also got to take their inaugural flight lessons during the event.
“I’m very grateful that I get this opportunity…there’s [only] a handful of these academies in the United States, I’m grateful to have one in our community; [access to] this airport and new education center is going to open up doors and…motivate other young women and men to pursue their dream and do something in aviation,” said junior Maria Barragan.
Like Coachella Valley Unified, more and more school systems are investing in academy models, as students enrolled in such programs have nearly a 100% graduation rate.
“The board was very adamant about having career academies that students will be able to graduate from with certifications,” said Coachella Valley Unified Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams. “It helps their education go to another level. So, we’re all very proud to see this come to fruition. If we help students find their passion in life, they never have to work a day in their life.”
CVUSD is one of the poorest districts in California, with 100% of its students are on free/reduced lunch.