Twenty-five youth share common bond – aviation

They came from every region of Idaho: from Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and St. Maries; from Moscow and Grangeville; from Mountain Home, Jerome and Kimberley; from Ucon and Idaho Falls and Preston, and points between. Twenty-five teenagers from a variety of backgrounds with at least one thing in common – an interest in aviation.

The Aviation Career Exploration (ACE) academy, sponsored by ITD and the Division of Aeronautics, attracted one of its largest classes of high school students in recent memory June 20-22, including a record number of girls – seven. During the three-day experience, students explore career opportunities in aviation and tour aeronautics-related sites and organizations in the Treasure Valley. ACE concludes with the popular navigation day in which students plot courses to community and backcountry airstrips in southwest Idaho and join local pilots on flights to an airstrip. Pilots volunteer their time and aircraft to make the experience complete.

This year’s ACE academy was one of the most successful in the 16 years he has been organizing the event, admits ITD safety/education coordinator Frank Lester. He recently announced his intent to retire at the end of the next fiscal year (June 30, 2012), leaving him with only one more ACE academy next June.

Among this year’s high school contingent was Quentin Stepon of Emmett. A senior, he could be the only student to participate four consecutive years, ending with Lester’s swan song next year.

As a result of an evening aviation career forum, this year two girls caught the attention of military recruiters and could be considered for appointments to military academies. Hannah Didier, a sophomore from Grangeville, is a potential Air Force cadet; the Navy is considering Abby Caballero, a senior from Grandview.

Another highlight of this year’s academy was a trip to Greg Poe’s aircraft facility in Nampa. The well-known professional airshow pilot created a motivational program for teens – Elevate Your Life. The program, inspired by his son Ryan J. Poe, encourages youths to overcome peer pressure by setting and pursuing high personal goals.

An accomplished speaker, Poe travels to schools and youth organizations throughout the country, “making a dynamic multimedia presentation of his aerial exploits and showing his example of how a country boy from Idaho has reached the sky and beyond through hard work and dedication to a dream.”

Other stops on the 2011 ACE academy schedule included:

  • Tour of the National Interagency Fire Center
  • The Boise Airport TRACON (air traffic control) tower
  • Warhawk Air Museum, Nampa
  • Mission Aviation Fellowship national headquarters, Nampa
  • Gowen Field (National Guard)
  • Goddard Rockets
  • Boise State University
  • R&M Steel
  • “Life’s the PITTS” (Scotty Crandlmire)

Published 6-24-2011