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Taking flight: Bossier Schools, LA Tech partnership offers historic opportunity

The Airline High School JROTC  is taking flight in a new program that will have cadets soaring amongst the clouds.

A new partnership between Bossier Schools and the Louisiana Tech University Department of Professional Aviation will allow students enrolled in the JROTC program an opportunity to earn dual enrollment college credit in the aviation field, with the end result of earning a private pilots license. This is the first collaboration of its kind in the state of Louisiana.

Ret. Major Greg Kimbrough, head of the JROTC at Airline and a certified flight instructor, said this program will bring aviation full circle in Bossier Schools.

“This partnership with Louisiana Tech will close the gap between high school and higher education,” Kimbrough said. “By the time they are a senior at Airline High School, they will have earned a private pilots license. That will put them leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else coming from high school to [Louisiana Tech] university. Basically, they will be a year ahead of everyone.”

Interested cadets will take ground school courses and attain college credit through Dual Enrollment beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. After completing these courses, cadets will have attained the knowledge needed to pass the written exam required by the Federal Aviation Administration to receive their Private Pilot’s license.

Between their junior and senior years, cadets can complete the required flight hours by attending Louisiana Tech’s Summer Enrichment at Tech (SET) program or from local flight training providers.

Sonja Bailes, Public Relations Liaison for Bossier Schools, said work on this program began many months ago. She added that the project is “whole heartedly endorsed” by the Bossier school system.

Superintendent D.C. Machen said one of the reasons they support the program is because of the role Barksdale Air Force Base plays in the community. He said this program will send a message to the state, nation and the world that Bossier Schools will continue opening doors to advanced opportunities for its students.

“Bossier Parish has led the state in dual enrollment opportunities for our high school students for many years,” Machen said. “We now step into a new challenge, one that truly reflects that the Bossier Parish school system will stay on the cutting edge of innovativeness and creativity to ensure we are providing all of our students an enhanced opportunity to balance their career and technical field of choice so they can be a productive member of society.”

The dual enrollment aviation program will be offered exclusively to cadets at Airline High School. Kimbrough said he hopes this program will get cadets prepared and ready to enter professional aviation much faster. Professional aviation careers include commercial piloting, life rescue piloting, flight instructors and anyone (in general) who makes their career in aviation.

Gary Odom, Department Head of the Louisiana Tech Department of Professional Aviation, praised the work of both institutions and called the partnership “a dream come true.”

“We’ve had our program for 48 years. For the first time in our history, our department will have high school students from Airline completing dual enrollment for college credit in the academic area of aviation,” Odom said.

While students gain hours in the classroom, they will also be able to earn flight hours at Louisiana Tech in Ruston or at the Shreveport Downtown Airport. Tubreaux Aviation provides the flight training.

Jeremy Williams, Chief Pilot at Tubreaux Aviation, said he was initially shocked by Airline’s interest in putting together such a structured program for their high school students. He said they are looking forward to partnering with both schools.

“Everyone remembers their first flight,” Williams said. “We’re hoping that all of these high school students that are coming through will experience this as well.”

“We recognize the importance that our school plays in Bossier Parish with the relationship we have with Barksdale Air Force Base,” said Airline principal Jason Rowland. “We certainly serve a lot of military students and want to embrace them and reach out to them in ways that will allow them to advance in their career choices.”

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