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Students Get a Hands-On Look at Careers in Aeronautics in Myrtle Beach

January 10, 2024 | Jeffrey Good

Students Get a Hands-On Look at Careers in Aeronautics in Myrtle Beach image

At Carolina Shores Acceleration Academy, the learning opportunities extend beyond reading, writing and arithmetic — all the way into the future college and career paths of students, also known as graduation candidates, working hard to earn their high school diplomas. 

“I want to explore the options of what I might become in life,” says 16-year-old graduation candidate Kevon Cope. 

Two high school students stand in front of an airplane propeller.

Recently, Kevon and some classmates visited the Myrtle Beach campus of the Pittsburg Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) to learn about careers maintaining airplanes and their electronic navigation systems. PIA was founded in 1929 and now includes four campuses around the country that prepare high school grads for high-paying jobs in the aviation industry. 

As part of the Carolina Shores Acceleration Academies career and technical education (CTE) program, graduation candidates were able to learn how an airplane instrument panel is wired, to see big turbines like the ones that propel military and passenger jets, even to explore the inside of a plane that serves as an onsite learning laboratory. 

“Students get all these cool opportunities to get hands-on experience working on airplanes,” says CSAA career and life coach Chica Threadgill, who organized the trip after a new graduation candidate (GC) said during orientation that he was interested in the field. “They were impressed — it was like ‘Wow, there’s something like this in the area.’ ”

Jessica Brown was another GC who enjoyed the trip. Jessica, 15, has always been a strong student — she was in the elite International Baccalaureate program at her previous school — and is eager to explore where her education might lead. 

“I’m someone who likes to explore all options,” says Jessica, who came to CSAA to use the personalized curriculum to graduate early and move on to college and graduate school in forensic science. The scientific and technical orientation of aviation careers appeals to her. “I love science; it’s my absolute favorite subject.” 

Three students stand in a factory.

Math is not Jessica’s favorite subject and she appreciates the help CSAA math coach Amy MacPherson provides as she makes her way through pre-calculus. At the aeronautics school, she was pleased to see that the very math skills she’s building are central to work in the industry. “They had the math I thought I’d never use right on the board!” 

The aeronautics program field trip is just one of the CTE opportunities Threadgill and CSAA are providing to help GCs imagine and plan for their futures.

Other recent events included an Amazon Virtual Career Exploration Trip, in which GCs were able to take a virtual tour inside the shopping and tech giant — learning about not only career options but also gaining such practical knowledge as how to keep data secure. 

They also got to participate in The Reality Check Game: The More You Learn, the More You Earn. Each GC was given a hypothetical checking account with $3,500 in it, and we're challenged to make some hard decisions about how to spend it over the course of a month: Live alone or with a roommate? Rent a fancy apartment or a more basic one? And how about car payments, cable and internet charges, and other day-to-day expenses? 

While $3,500 might at first seem like a huge sum, Threadgill says, the students learned how quickly that cash can disappear. And along the way, they had the chance to reflect on how a high school diploma and trade school or college can dramatically increase their power to earn and afford the choices they would like to make

“I wanted them to have a realistic connection between education and pay,” she says. “It helps them decide, ‘I really want to get this done.’ ” 

The daughter of teachers, Threadgill initially didn’t think she’d build a career in education. But after earning her bachelor’s degree in political science and her master’s in public administration at the University of Akron, she found herself working with at-risk youths and enjoying the challenge. 

After years in public schools, including a long stint as an assistant principal, Threadgill said she loves the fact that Acceleration Academies recognizes that young people often face adult challenges — including economic uncertainty, the need to work to support their families and social anxiety — that can interfere with their academic and life goals. 

“Here we work to help that group of kids that I had to fight to support before,” she says. “We have to make sure that every student matters.” 

Carolina Shores Acceleration Academy is a public charter high school serving Horry and surrounding counties in South Carolina. Located in Myrtle Beach, CSAA enrolls new students on a rolling basis. For more information, check out the academy web page and fill out an online enrollment form.

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