American Airlines and the CR Smith Museum have joined forces to launch a new education program aimed at inspiring the next generation of aviation professionals. The multi-year Aviation Career Pathways program is tailored for middle and high school students, offering them access to aviation STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and exposure to career opportunities in the aviation industry.
Initially targeting students in seventh to 12th grade within the Dallas Independent School District, the program plans to expand to other schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond over the long term.
This initiative focuses on addressing the challenges associated with introducing students to aviation STEM careers, particularly in underserved communities. Most of the participating schools are Title 1 schools, where students may face obstacles such as limited transportation options. The CR Smith Museum, an independent nonprofit organization located on American Airlines' campus in Fort Worth, has extensively studied these challenges and developed solutions.
Marie Eve Poirier-Harris, Education Director at the CR Smith Museum, explained the three primary challenges they've identified: the need for multiple touch points, providing more than just presentations, and addressing transportation limitations. The Aviation Career Pathways program addresses these challenges by bringing the programming to the classroom, offering multiple hands-on experiences, and creating connections between students and aviation professionals.
To boost students' confidence and inspire them towards aviation careers, the program includes four to seven touch points with hands-on experiences, ranging from classroom interactions to participation in the CR Smith Museum's annual Aviation Career Day. Moreover, students will connect with American Airlines team members who share relatable life stories and can guide students on their path to aviation careers.
Approximately 15 American Airlines team members volunteer to coordinate and execute the Aviation Career Pathways program. Karon Washington, an engineer, plays a crucial role in curriculum development and volunteer outreach. He didn't have a mentor in his immediate circle, so he turned to Google to discover STEM and aviation careers. After earning a spot in an engineering program at The University of South Florida, Karon decided to continue his outreach efforts by joining a local nonprofit and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Karon expressed the importance of early exposure and having relatable role models, stating, "Early exposure makes all the difference." As a professional engineer at American Airlines, he is eager to continue his outreach efforts to inspire the next generation.
Preliminary survey results have already demonstrated the impact of the Aviation Career Pathways program, showing a 32% increase in students' interest in pursuing a career in the airline industry. The program's leaders emphasize the importance of equity, inclusion, and belonging in their organizations and the life-changing potential for students and their families.
While the program is currently limited to serving students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the CR Smith Museum has resources available to students nationwide, including access to student professional organizations and information about career programs.