A century ago, Bessie Coleman, a Langston University student who was of African American and Native American descent, graduated from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale becoming the first African American woman to achieve a pilot’s license. Bessie was billed as “the world’s greatest woman flier.” One hundred years later, Oklahoma has become a national model for aerospace and aviation education, breaking down barriers to ensure young Oklahoma citizens know that a career in aeronautics is not out of their reach.
In the spirit of Coleman, Pearl Carter Scott, Dr. Shannon Lucid, and so many others, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission has turned its undivided attention to guiding young minds toward aerospace and aviation careers. Like Coleman, who was dedicated to the mission of creating more pilots, the Aeronautics Commission has become a driving force behind the state’s investment in aerospace educational programs, vectoring students toward becoming aviators, engineers, mechanics, astronauts, and scientists.
“I am so proud that Oklahoma is equipping students with the training and resources they need to pursue a future in our state’s second largest industry,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “Oklahoma has a rich history in aerospace and aviation, and I am glad to see our continued investments that make us Top Ten in this growing field.”
Fifty-six organizations were awarded Aerospace and Aviation Education Program grants totaling $451,157 at the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s (OAC) August meeting. Grants are for targeted learning programs that have a direct application to aerospace and aviation for primary through post-secondary education. The grant funds are part of the agency’s initiative to give more Oklahoma young people access to STEM careers in the aerospace and aviation industry.
The agency’s Aerospace and Aviation Education Grant Program has been awarding aerospace and aviation education grants for over 30 years. Programs that are supported range from a dedicated 4-year high school curriculum such as the AOPA “You Can Fly” effort, to week-long summer camps offered by our major Universities, a build and fly drone racing competition, Tinker AFB Air and Space Show, a 2-year high school curriculum dedicated to teaching aircraft mechanics, activities and tours at various airports across the system, engineering fairs and many others. These programs along with Commission staff will help foster students’ interest in the industry and encourages them to consider aerospace or aviation as a career. Based on projections, the programs that have been awarded funding will reach nearly 50,000 students across the state. The initiative supports the Oklahoma Works project that aims to address the skills gap and connect students to programs that will help build the workforce of Oklahoma’s second-largest industry.
“We are so excited to see the impact this program is having with getting our youth excited about a career in aviation and aerospace,” said State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies. “Whether it’s Oklahoma’s #1 ranking with 57 schools teaching the AOPA high school curriculum, our education grant program, or the industry partners we have, Oklahoma has never been better positioned to turn today’s students into tomorrow’s aerospace workforce.”
Aviation and aerospace is a significant economic engine in our state providing $44 billion in annual economic activity. For the growth of this industry, a safe, reliable, and accessible aviation system is critical, but having a capable workforce is even more important. “The opportunities that our students have for careers in today’s aerospace and aviation industry is absolutely amazing,” said Paul Kedy, Aerospace Education Manager for the agency. “The Commission is proud to work with entities across the state that are committed to ensuring that students are ready to enter Oklahoma’s growing aviation industry,” Kedy continued.
The program has been recognized twice by the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), enjoying a positive reputation for investing millions in aerospace and aviation education programs statewide. The commission approved grants totaling $451,157 on Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Area Grant Recipients
Chisholm Public Schools – $5,463
Enid Public Schools- $12,500
Press Release provided by Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission