The Director of the Houston Airport System’s Aviation Club, Maria Fink, saw firsthand how her efforts are paying off with area high school students as she soared over Houston’s downtown skyline in an aircraft piloted by club member and licensed pilot Ronald Mejia.
The Houston Airport System (HAS) supports future generations of aviation and aerospace leaders through its Aviation Club mentorship program. The program exposes Houston-area students to careers in aviation and aerospace and currently sponsors Ross Sterling Aviation High School and Carnegie Vanguard High School.
Mejia is a junior at Ross Shaw Sterling Aviation High School with goals to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and become a Navy pilot. However, now he is pondering other career fields that he recently learned about from his involvement with the HAS Aviation Club.
“Through the Aviation Club I was able to learn about career fields that help support a pilot, like operations, maintenance and engineering,” said Mejia. “If piloting doesn’t work out, I now know there are a lot of other opportunities for me to secure a career in aviation.”
Mejia was able to obtain his piloting license through his high school program and has already flown over 100 hours. He was excited to take Fink on a solo flight to thank her for the opportunities the HAS Aviation Club has provided him, as well as flaunt his piloting skills.
“It was my first time in a small engine aircraft, but I knew I was in good hands,” said Fink. “Ronald Mejia was one of the first students to enroll in the HAS Aviation Club when it began in 2012, and is one of those kids that not only chases his dreams but achieves them.”
The idea of the program came from Houston Aviation Director Mario Diaz who had a vision to create a mentorship program that would expose future generations to the industry early on and develop a stable pipeline of skilled workers who could help advance the industry and extend Houston’s strong economy.
“The Houston Airport System recognizes the need to get young people interested in STEM-related careers to further stimulate innovation and train the next generation of aviation and aerospace leaders,” said Fink. “The Aviation Club exposes students to the many jobs that exist in the aviation and aerospace industries by actually taking them to the facilities to meet the workers and the executives, so they can get excited about pursuing career paths in our industry.”
To date, over 60 students are currently enrolled in the HAS Aviation Club, and the program has awarded over $70,000 worth of scholarships to graduating seniors.