Note: This article was featured in the February 2022 edition of the CCEE Connection. Read it here!
Monterey County Office of Education’s Alternative Education Program is working to create unique pathways for students that build skill sets that will help students reach their college and career goals. One example is the SAFE Flight Program that enrolls at-promise students that leave the streets to enter the classroom and ultimately into the sky. The SAFE Program is a career technical education program that utilizes the AOPA themed curriculum to teach required coursework. The county office partners with the Bob Hoover Academy (BHA), a non-profit that funds the ground school instructor and the flight instructors that support the students to earn their commercial pilot’s license. The public private partnership has been a strong partnership since 2016. While the program’s theme is aviation, it is not about making pilots. It is about providing the students with inspiration, success, hope and opportunity through flight.
The program’s academic instructors are funded through the Monterey County Office of Education while flight instructors are funded through the Bob Hoover Academy nonprofit organization. The partnership is a great example of the public and private sectors coming together to provide opportunities for students who need them the most. BHA is the brainchild of aviation legend and virtuoso air show performer, Sean D. Tucker, who is best known for his airshow performances in the Oracle Challenger. The aerobatic specialist named the program and his nonprofit after his mentor and aviation great, R. A. “Bob” Hoover, who valued education, humility, dignity and optimism.
Students are provided with computers, social and emotional support, internship opportunities, hands-on courses and more. On a typical day, students are provided both traditional coursework in English, math, history and science as well as advanced flight training. Students hop from a traditional desk to a cockpit in a training simulator. Once there, aviation mentors demonstrate flight controls and aviation concepts to prepare students for their eventual move into the BHA plane for their flight lessons. With each milestone, students find out more about themselves and what they can achieve with practice and commitment. The program is in the process of expanding to include aviation mechanics where students will learn how to build and repair aircraft.
Students who graduate from the program have the opportunity to continue these pathways at Gavilan College.
Dr. Deneen Guss, Superintendent, Monterey County Office of Education