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AOPA High School Curriculum Student Takes Flight

While most high school students are enjoying the last few weeks of summer vacation by relaxing, one Maryland student and aspiring pilot had the unique opportunity to take her first flight lesson in front of ABC News cameras, while her friend and fellow aspiring pilot came along for the ride.

Victoria Wentt, 16, and Ruth Gebremariam, 15, are both juniors at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland, and have both chosen the pilot pathway of AOPA’s High School Aviation STEM curriculum. The two aspiring pilots were invited to AOPA headquarters to be interviewed by ABC News for a story about diversity in the aviation industry, and to share what it’s like to be young, Black, female, and fascinated with aviation.

Following her first flight lesson, Wentt shared how much aviation has inspired her to earn her private pilot certificate, with the ultimate goal of becoming an airline pilot. She also has some other unique aspirations as well: “Eventually I want to own my own airline and have an animal sanctuary and a zoo,” she continued. Wentt was motivated to pursue a career in aviation following an airshow at Joint Base Andrews that included an aerobatic performance by a female pilot.

Gebremariam, who had previously taken a few flight lessons, joined certificated flight instructor and AOPA Senior Director of Flight Training Education Chris Moser as he guided Wentt through a flight around Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland, and took the scenic route over historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Larger groups like the Sisters of the Skies have highlighted the lack of professional Black women pilots. The Sisters of the Skies website explains how professional Black women pilots “represent less than [half] of 1% of the total professional pilot career field” and that there are fewer than 150 Black women pilots in the United States with airline transport pilot, commercial, military, or certificated flight instructor certificates. Sisters of the Skies’ goal is to “drastically improve these numbers through mentorship, professional development, STEM and outreach and scholarships.”

From the start, AOPA’s High School initiative has focused on improving these statistics and introducing the many opportunities in the aviation industry to a more diverse audience. Students participating in AOPA’s curriculum for the 2019-2020 school year were 22 percent female, more than three times the active female pilot population. Students of color comprised 38 percent of curriculum users, nearly five times the number reflected in the current active pilot population.

Read more about Wentt and Gebremariam taking flight