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Take flight in a career: Aviation enthusiasts encourage Scott’s Branch students, especially women, to consider the field after graduation

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 1/9/20

Finding the right career path after high school takes time and thought. It's usually not easy, and it can be stressful.

However, with the right foot-in-the-door opportunity, students can take flight and figure out what career they want to pursue …

This item is available in full to subscribers

Take flight in a career: Aviation enthusiasts encourage Scott’s Branch students, especially women, to consider the field after graduation

Posted

Finding the right career path after high school takes time and thought. It's usually not easy, and it can be stressful.

However, with the right foot-in-the-door opportunity, students can take flight and figure out what career they want to pursue with the help of the aviation industry.

Rocket Girls, an educational exhibition highlighting female pilots and astronauts in Summerton, held an appreciation program to honor women in the aviation industry and educate students on the industry at Scott's Branch High School on Wednesday.

The ceremony showcased jobs in the aviation industry that are available for students as well as experiences from the guest speakers, Master Sgt. Jessica Mann and Staff Sgt. Athena Sanchez from Shaw Air Force Base and Col. Christopher Will from The Citadel in Charleston, among others.

Other speakers included Dana Smith and Jason Wolfe from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, who offered information to students on aviation careers and what the school offers, and Leslie Lane and Tiffania Ham Fayall from Women in Aviation International, who talked about their scholarship opportunities for students.

Being a professor himself, The Citadel's Will talked about how students can easily learn how to fly with the help of scholarships and today's technology.

"Education, it's all about changing perspective," Will said. "It's all about the perspective you have on the world and your role in it. Who are you in that world?"

Will brought a virtual reality headset to the program, which allowed students the chance to fly a plane with a game console throttle and yoke. He wanted to give them a sense of what it's like being in the air as a pilot and that they can start flying at just 16 years old.

"Time is everything, and time is better than it's ever been," Will said. "Whatever it is you want to do in the aviation industry, you have tremendous opportunities, but it's up to you to take advantage of it."

Will also mentioned how becoming a part of the military is not only about defending the U.S. Constitution, but also making lifelong friends and learning the real values of the military.

With only five years of experience in the military so far, Shaw's Sanchez agreed with Will and found her opportunity joining the military as a valuable and promising choice in her life.

"In my opinion, it gives you a platform, a really good foundation to start from," Sanchez said. "Even if you don't know what you want to do yet, the military gives you a sense of purpose and guides you in a direction."

Sanchez talked about how she was able to travel and experience different cultures during her time in the military.

"For me, coming straight out of high school, it was a really great opportunity to open so many doors for me," Sanchez said.

One opportunity that Sanchez got to take on was working with other women like Mann, who is also at Shaw.

In her 16-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Mann said she has only worked alongside six women, including Sanchez. She doesn't see many women working in mechanics like she and Sanchez do, but she wants to educate young women the uneven ratio shouldn't stop them.

"There are positions out there for women, regardless of what their interests are now," Mann said. "There are hands-on jobs that are needed to be filled by anybody and everybody. The aviation career field is only going to get bigger and better."

Lucky to have the military opportunities brought to her in high school, Mann has been able to excel in her career in the military while also getting an education in exercise science, which she said she wants to pursue to become an athletic trainer after she retires.

"No one lane is appropriate for anybody," Mann said. "Sometimes one door opens, and sometimes it shuts sooner than you're ready, but that just means there's another opportunity waiting on the other side. Sometimes, it's a blessing in disguise."