By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
Students within Collier and Lee County are being able to take advantage of an exciting program during the summer months through a collaboration with Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and the local districts, with the assistance of the NAACP. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Program provides children with an outreach program to widen their educational opportunities and future occupational awareness.
Last week a group of about 60 young men and women were given a tour of the Marco Island Executive Airport. They would also hear from members of the Civil Air Patrol and a local American Airlines captain who gave an overview of the opportunities in military service and commercial aviation.
Throughout the summer they would be given the opportunity to learn more about prospects in the various fields which the STEM Program concentrates within.
One of the advantages of participation in the program and the educational aspects of the offerings is a marked increase in students’ ACT and SAT scorings, which may help them in their applications to advance into college.
Ninety-five percent of students attending find a much closer relationship to the four fields within the STEM Program and tend to have a better application of problem solving moving forward, especially through the application
This is the third year of the summer program, with the first STEM Project being held during the summer of 2014. J. Web Horton, who has been with FGCU for 16 years in various administrative capacities, was one of those accompanying the students on that day. “We really do appreciate the Collier County Airport Authority’s gracious offer to expose the students to an overview of aviation today. This really tends to open their eyes to many of the opportunities they might avail themselves of,” said Horton.
During the day’s activities Justin Lobb, who serves as the Collier County Aviation Authority manager, and Kate Whitson, who is the operations director at the Marco Island Executive Airport, gave the students a tour of the airport, its facilities and the 5,000-foot runway and taxiway. In addition to an overview of the physical plant and the hopeful plans for expansion of the very busy terminal facilities, they also visited with Civil Air Patrol personnel.
During presentations regarding the future of aviation jobs, they were advised in the next five years there will be 95,000 pilot opening within the United States due to retirements both in military, commercial and cargo aviation.
The program involves sophomore, junior and senior students from both the Collier and Lee County School Districts and runs in cooperation with the staff