Ed. Note: Aviation High School in New York City is a uniquely specialized, co-educational high school that prepares students for careers in aviation maintenance and the aerospace industry. Students complete both rigorous vocational and academic programs that provide excellent preparation for both college and aviation-related careers. In support of the Summer Jobs+ initiative, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the nation’s largest airline union, expanded its annual mentoring partnership with New York City’s Aviation High School. This April, the IAM flew the group of Aviation High School seniors to Washington, D.C. for a four-day program that also included the students receiving career advice from a major airline’s Vice President of Human Resources, learning the responsibilities of being an aviation technician from a veteran airline mechanic, and a visit to the National Transportation Safety Board. This year’s program also included discussions between 28 seniors and officials from the Department of Education, the National Mediation Board and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Jimmy was one of the students who made the trip.
When I began school, English was my second language. It took me five years, from kindergarten to fourth grade, to move out of the ESL program, and I had to work twice as hard to keep up with my English-speaking classmates.
But in the end, that kind of dedication was an excellent way to prepare for Aviation High School.
Although it wasn’t my first choice of high schools, I have come to learn about all the great opportunities Aviation has to offer. As a sophomore, I saw my school’s hangar for the first time and was amazed by how big it was and the variety of planes it held. I asked my teachers if we would work on them and they replied “Yes of course, someone has to fix those birds.” I was more excited than ever about working in the hangar and set my goals towards that.
Then the notorious junior year arrived, which is a source of anxiety for everyone at Aviation. Not only did I have to do extremely well on my grades for college admissions, but also for my Federal Aviation Administration ranking. The FAA ranking determines who gets accepted into the selective fifth-year program, which allows students to obtain a second license for aviation work. That goal put a lot of pressure on me and the rest of my classmates. None of us wanted to come this far to get half of the grand prize. At the end of the year, we were given our results. I was ranked twenty-two out of my entire graduating class (402)—and had won a space in the fifth-year program.
As a senior, I was given another opportunity I’ll always remember. Like any other day, I was in class when I was suddenly handed a letter. In the past, I’d seen my fellow friends receive the same letters and saw their faces light up in pure happiness, so I had an idea what the note might be about. But I was still honored when I opened it and read, “Congratulations, you have been selected to participate on the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers trip.”
Twenty eight of us made the four-day trip to the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center Facility near Washington, D.C. where were learned about the work done by labor unions and federal agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board, National Mediation Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration. This year, through the Summer Jobs+ program, the IAM expanded its mentoring program by adding an exclusive White House forum with Department of Education officials and a meeting with a vice president of labor relations for a major airline. The IAM trip was an incredible experience for us all. On behalf of Aviation High School, I would like to thank the IAM organization and Summer Jobs+ for all the support they’ve given to us.
At graduation, outstanding students at Aviation High School are presented with awards, and I received the golden ticket— a $2,500 Craftsman toolbox—which only the best of the graduating class receive. That ticket validates all the effort that I’d put into my education, and made me think of a quote from Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Outliers. “It is those who are successful, in other words,” he writes, “who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success.” I strongly believe that I was given these special opportunities that will lead me to success. A chapter of my life has ended, but new ones await.
Jimmy is one of 28 students the IAM flew to Washington, DC in April 2012 as part of its expanded mentoring program under Summer Jobs+. Additionally, the IAM this year provided two scholarships to graduating seniors as well as six of those tool boxes that Jimmy and his classmates treasure.