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About the High School InitiativeAbout

The mission of AOPA’s High School Aviation Initiative is to help build and sustain aviation STEM programs in high schools in order to provide a quality workforce to the aviation industry. AOPA has developed a database of hundreds of high schools and education programs nationwide that include aviation studies in STEM learning tracks. In the fall of 2015, we collected information from these schools to determine their needs and the challenges they face. As a result, our program will provide high school principals, school superintendents, STEM program leaders, and guidance counselors with the resources they tell us will be most valuable to them in clearing hurdles and getting programs implemented or expanded. This includes a forum to share ideas and best practices, the development of comprehensive aviation STEM curricula, free consultation to schools, scholarship and grant support, and more.

We’ve identified a gap in aviation youth education that no other organization is filling. By working with schools directly, we can expose and engage a more diverse group of students in aviation. And that gives us the opportunity to reach individuals who might otherwise never realize that an aviation career, or avocation, is within their reach.

As the largest aviation organization in the country, AOPA is approaching this program with energy and determination, and is eager to put significant resources into launching a nationwide, successful aviation STEM education initiative. Already we have formed strong partnerships and interest in the program continues to grow. Support from the entire aviation and aerospace communities will be critical to the success of this program and will have a profound effect on ensuring a strong future for aviation and aerospace in America.

Program Leadership

Cindy Hasselbring

Cindy Hasselbring

Sr. Director for AOPA’s High School Aviation Initiative

This initiative is being led by the Sr. Director for AOPA’s Aviation High School Initiative, Cindy Hasselbring.

Cindy came to AOPA with a deep background in education and STEM. She was a high school mathematics teacher by trade in Michigan. She found her way to DC when she became an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow with the National Science Foundation where, among many other tasks, was the teacher representative on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy STEM education committee. As part of that committee, she contributed to the writing and editing of the five-year federal STEM education strategic plan (13 federal agencies and White House collaboration) and Investment Design Principles.

Cindy also worked at the Maryland State Department of Education, Office of the State Superintendent of Schools, where she was the Special Assistant to the State Superintendent. In this role, she led STEM education in Maryland and created a five-year STEM education strategic plan for public schools in the state.

Cindy is a pilot and AOPA member – she is currently working on her instrument rating.

High School Steering Committee

AOPA has also formed an influential steering committee whose members are helping to guide program development. Representing a broad spectrum of aviation and aerospace STEM education and careers, members of this committee include:

Carolina L. Anderson, Ph.D., Aviation (shared seat) Associate Professor of Aeronautical Science, College of Aviation, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL

Jim Brough, National STEM-AVSED Program Manager, Federal Aviation Administration

Colleen Conklin, (shared seat) Director, Gaetz Aerospace Institute, Assistant Professor of Aeronautical Science, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL

Pat Cwayna, Chairman of the Steering Committee, Chief Executive Officer, West Michigan Aviation Academy, Grand Rapids, MI

Stephen DeWitt Deputy Executive Director, Association for Career and Technical Education

Rick Garcia, President, Central Florida Aerospace Academy Foundation, Gulf Coast Avionics Corp.

Reba Gilman, Vice President, Education Museum of Flight, (Founder, Raisbeck Aviation High School) Seattle,WA

Mark Harrell, Engineering Consultant, Director, KYTSA, Kentucky Department of Education

Paula Kedy, Executive Director, Academics and Instruction, Ada City Schools, Ada, OK

Nancy McGee, K-12 STEM Director, Grand Prairie Independent School District, Grand Prairie, TX 

Allison McKay, Vice President, Helicopter Foundation International, Helicopter Association International

Bob Raskey, Captain, United Airlines

Dave Robertson, AOPA Foundation Board of Advisors

Lee Siudzinski, Ed.D., Executive Director, Blue Sky Educational Foundation

Nicole Stott, Retired NASA Astronaut