By Elana Koehler

North Augusta High School’s Aviation Program

North Augusta High School is encouraging their students to fly high with the start up of a new course: Introduction to Aviation. Honors World History teacher and pilot with 20 years of flight experience, Travis Spears, will be instructing the course that implements a curriculum written by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During the class, students will learn the information required to take the Federal Aviation Administration exam, which will put them on the path to obtaining a pilot’s license. Though North Augusta High School does not offer the license exam for students, interested students can register to take it at Aiken Tech. After finishing the course and taking the Federal Aviation Administration exam Spears explains, “…there is an FAA Practical exam including an oral exam given by the FAA Flight Examiner. These classes will also help with those oral exam questions.” In addition to passing the exams, students will need to complete 20 hours of flight with an instructor and 20 hours of solo flight to obtain the license. They will seek these requirements outside the classroom.

The high school course will also offer insight into different jobs in aviation such as pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers. It is aimed toward rising ninth and tenth graders and will be a yearlong course. Spears says that advanced classes will be available for students who have completed the Introduction to Aviation. The class will be taught on campus at North Augusta High School, and although students will not practice flying a real plane, Spears notes that Augusta Aviation has donated a flight simulator that students will use for simulated practice.

Spears feels the importance of introducing this course to students is because of an existing pilot shortage. According to Boeing, “as commercial traffic demand returns in upcoming years, aspiring aviators will have the opportunity to fill open positions created by a combination of personnel retirements and fleet growth.” This makes the opportunity for students to take this course even more valuable. He notes that “people often have this idea that aviation is only for millionaires, but it’s not.” He emphasizes that there are many career opportunities in aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration lists additional career paths to include air traffic control specialists, electricians, engineers, flight attendants, ground crew members, safety inspectors, sales and service representatives and technical operations specialists. The FAA website details many partner programs available for high school students. Some include:

• Build A Plane for which a plane is donated to a high school for students to either assemble or refurbish;

• Academy of Model Aeronautics which promotes model aviation as a hobby and sport;

• The International Aviation Art Contest encourages young artists to enter pieces that engage with aeronautics and aviation.

North Augusta High School is the first local school to offer this type of class. It is providing its students with an interesting academic path, one that schools do not usually highlight in this manner. The class begins in the fall, and the hope is that more schools will follow the precedent by offering introductory courses in new and interesting fields to their students.


Greenbrier High School’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Pathways

Greenbrier High School in Columbia County offers CTAE or the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education program. Their program combines academic courses with hands-on learning experiences. A few of the offered pathways include early childhood education, JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), essentials to healthcare and cybersecurity. By participating in one of these pathways, students will experience academic courses targeted at the career in which they are interested.

The school also has a Work-Based Learning program, allowing CTAE students to receive credit for real work experience. One of its goal is to lessen “the skills gap between employee and job requirements” by “increasing the skill level of potential employees.” A few of the local businesses that are offering Work-Based Learning opportunities for students in a CTAE pathway are Augusta Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Columbia County Board of Education and Georgia Iron Works. The Work-Based Learning program is offered in schools throughout the state of Georgia. To learn more about these opportunities in local schools, visit


Midland Valley High School Early College Program

Another local high school offering an atypical option for its students is Midland Valley High School. Midland Valley offers the Early College program that allows participating students to graduate high school with a diploma and an Associate of Arts or Science degree. Students begin taking the courses required for this program as early as the summer before their sophomore year of high school. Professors from Aiken Technical College teach some courses on campus at Midland Valley, while during the summers the participating students attend Aiken Tech.

To participate in the Early College program, students must have a PSAT score of at least 500 in the reading/writing section, achieve an 80 in the Accuplacer test reading skills section, a 90 in writing skills and partake in an interview. According to the Midland Valley website, the entire Early College curriculum is 61-course hours spread over three years. The program allows students to begin experiencing college courses at an earlier age, as well as save money on future college courses by completing them early through the Early College program. The first class of graduates of the Early College program, which consisted of twelve students, graduated in 2019.


Elana Koehler is a student at Augusta University and Augusta Family’s summer editorial intern.

Feature Photo by Pixabay on Pexels