By Jodie Soulé
Imagine being a 17-year-old student walking the grounds of an international airport! That’s just what 29 seniors from Leesburg High School in Florida encountered on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.
The students were members of the school’s SPARK Club. Introduced at the high school five years ago, students are recommended by their teachers based on leadership qualities and their academic standing.
Each year seniors from Leesburg High School are introduced to Leesburg government, businesses, and major contributors to the economic engine of Lake County via the SPARK program.
This year’s Economic Development/Government Day began at the Civil Air Patrol building at the Leesburg International Airport (KLEE). The group, which were accompanied by teacher Nancy Hunter and coach Mary Bailey, heard from Sandi Moore, executive director of the Leesburg Area Chamber of Commerce, who talked about how students can influence the economic future of the area by getting a good education and getting involved with local businesses, such as the ones they would soon tour at the airport.
Joel Hargis, incoming president of EAA Chapter 534, continued Moore’s enthusiastic encouragement, detailing how aviation-related businesses need qualified employees, adding the industry is facing a shortage of pilots and mechanics.
Following a question and answer session, the SPARK students headed to the Experimental Aircraft Association hangar where Hargis introduced them to the various aircraft projects on the floor and discussed the many career paths offered to aviation enthusiasts.
After checking out what EAA offers, the SPARK group continued their tour of the airport and visited Sunair, Firehawk Helicopters, Wipaire, and Skybolt.
Following lunch, it was on to Leesburg City Hall for a mock commission meeting.
Jodie Soulé is the current president of EAA Chapter 534 and in 2019 she will become a board member and be in charge of the chapter’s Young Eagles Flight Program.