HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The sky is the limit for students on the Peninsula.

The Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation (YAEF) provides hands-on learning and aviation training.

Sam and his wife Marilyn Billings created YAEF to give kids an opportunity to learn how to apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts to real life activities.

“We wanted to give youth an opportunity to experience flight,” Billings said. “When I was young the opportunity was not there because it costs so much money to become a private pilot.”

After 15 years, hundreds of students have gone through the ‘ground school’ program and 30 now have a private pilot license.

“Youth today have so many opportunities that are out there,” Billings said. “Our program is not just about teaching a kid how to fly an airplane. It’s about letting them follow their dreams. We’re trying to open up as many paths as we can for them to choose.”

He added that “the blessing is inspiring youth to move on and inspire other youth.”

Jahquinn Tookes, a homeschooled high school senior, told 10 On Your Side he started classes with YAEF after a 30-minute aviation discovery flight.

“I came back down wanting to be a commercial pilot,” Tookes said. “So,I enrolled in Mr. Sam’s ground school program for 13 weeks. I learned the foundation. Got a great overview. I ended up studying independently and passing my written knowledge exam on the first try.”

After months of hard work and commitment, he earned his private pilot license. Tookes now volunteers with YAEF teaching the drone classes.

“I can honestly say the drone building was my favorite because I’ve always loved to build Legos,” Tookes said. “I actually got to build the different components of the drone.”

Tookes said YAEF is all about learning new things.

“It’s all about exposure, it’s all about different opportunities,” Tookes said. “At first, I wasn’t interested in aviation but now it’s my life. I’m very happy that I was able to join YAEF.”

More information

The Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation costs $50 for children 15-18. Sign up at YAEFwings.org or email youthaeronautics@gmail.com.