Elizabeth City State University receives $10k grant to launch aviator academy for women


Aleathia Hudson, a first-year flight student at ECSU

ELIZABETH CITY, Va. (WAVY) — Elizabeth City State University is now the home of the Bessie Coleman Aviator Academy for women thanks to a $10K grant.

ECSU received the grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) with the goal to launch the academy in July 2022.

The program is aiming to provide 21 female students hands-on flight simulation, interactive panel conversations with national aviation organizations, aviation program tours, and more.

Officials say they hope the program will “remedy barriers of access” to aviation sciences for young women from rural areas.

The academy is named after aviator Bessie Coleman who was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license. Coleman earned her license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1921 and was the first African American person to earn an international pilot’s license.

“High school female students are often unaware of the possibilities available to them in the collegiate setting as it relates to careers in the STEM field, particularly aviation,” said Dr. Aresta L. Johnson, ECSU’s Department of Education E.V. Wilkins Endowed Professor. Dr. Johnson will lead the program.

The one-week residential program will begin with a first-day orientation that allows for pre-assessment of each student which will give instructors a baseline for each student’s abilities to monitor throughout the week.

A series of seminars will be held, including a virtual, interactive panel of female aviation professionals. Other sessions will include time in ECSU’s flight simulator lab, and flight model design kits.

ECSU recently announced a partnership with United Airlines Aviate pilot recruitment program. United Airlines plans to hire and train new pilots and says 50 percent of its hiring goal includes women and people of color.

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