Parents, area high school guidance counselors and representatives from area homeschool co-ops are invited to attend an open house at 2 p.m. on Jan. 21 at Grimes Field in Urbana for an up-close look into Ohio Hi-Point (OHP) Career Center’s Aviation Occupations Satellite program.
The open house, originally scheduled for Jan. 12 but rescheduled due to inclement weather, will take place inside the Gecowets Hangar, which serves as the classroom and workshop space for the aviation students.
“The (municipal) airport provides a venue for the program, but all expenses are paid by Hi-Point, which includes a monthly hangar rent,” said Airport Manager Lou Driever.
Driever said he approached OHP officials with the idea of hosting an open house at Grimes Field in hopes of sparking interest in the aviation field.
“We need to keep kids fed into the aviation pipeline, and one way to do that is to make sure parents are aware of aviation programs like this one,” said Driever, who worked for Evergreen International Airlines in Oregon for 24 years before accepting his current role with the city on Feb. 1, 2015. “We need programs like this to help develop the next generation of aviators, air traffic controllers, mechanics and aviation enthusiasts.
“The aviation career field is a lucrative field of endeavor to pursue, and it also offers an exceptional opportunity to travel,” he added.
In the fall of 2006, OHP began offering the Aviation Occupations Satellite program to juniors and seniors attending a school district served by the career center as well as to area home-schoolers interested in learning more about the aviation industry. The aviation occupations course, which takes two years to complete, meets daily for 90 minutes (last two periods of the school day) at Grimes Field and gives high-schoolers the opportunity to earn two credit hours each school year.
Upon completion of the program, students also receive 11 semester credit hours toward a degree from Sinclair Community College in Dayton, which offers a $3,000 scholarship to any student who completes the program, graduates from high school with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and enrolls in a similar course of study at the college.
Since its inception, the local aviation program has been taught by Frank Drain, no stranger to the aviation field having worked 26 years at Honeywell Aerospace (Grimes Manufacturing). A private pilot, Drain works as a volunteer on the B-17 restoration project at the Champaign Aviation Museum and is on the board of directors of several aviation organizations including the Grimes Flying Lab Foundation in Urbana.
Drain said his class isn’t for those who like a structured setting that involves reading from a textbook the majority of the time.
“Everything we do in this course is project-based,” he said. “My students do a little bit of everything here from building parts for aircraft like the B-17 next door (“Champaign Lady” restoration project housed inside the Champaign Aviation Museum) to building our own plane from scratch.”
Drain said enrollment in OHP’s aviation program has averaged between 12 to 15 students over the past nine years. This school year, however, only 11 students are enrolled in the program, down from 14 a year ago.
Recruiting nontraditional high-schoolers
With its 10-year anniversary fast approaching, a push is being made to increase student involvement in the program. To achieve this, more attention is being placed on reaching out to home-schooled students.
“I have had several home-schooled students complete the program,” Drain said. “Most satellite programs are housed inside a traditional high school, so efforts to reach out to home-schooled students have been minimal in the past. We would like to be able to reach out more to home-schooled students in Champaign County for the aviation program, but frankly have struggled with how to do that.”
Driever added, “Currently, no home-schoolers attend the program at the airport, so we’d like to increase its visibility among the parents of those students.”
Area high-schoolers interested in enrolling in the program can speak with their school guidance counselor for more information, while home-schoolers can contact OHP directly by visiting the career center’s web site at www.ohiohipoint.com.
For more information on the Jan. 21 open house at Grimes Field, contact Driever at 937-652-4319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.