Photos by Rome City Schools
If you haven’t, look no further than Rome High School.
Aaron Loya, an RHS Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, participated in the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Flight Academy Scholarship program this summer. While there, Loya spent two successful months of training to earn his pilot’s license, a feat not many seniors in high school can boast.
“I applied for the program back in the Fall of 2018 and was informed this spring that I had made the cut,” recalled Cadet Loya. “Basically, the Flight Academy Scholarship program is a two-month long camp where we trained for flight for every day before testing to receive our pilot license.”
Cadet Loya attended the Air Force Flight Academy Scholarship program at Kansas State Polytechnic in Manhattan, Kan.
“Kansas was very flat, but it was a good change of scenery. To be able to get to see another part of the country was incredible,” said Cadet Loya. “What I found most interesting was how close the university is to Wichita, which is one of the founding areas of aviation—so there was a lot of history surrounding the program.”
According to Loya, the program was very intensive. “We flight trained almost every day. During that time, we would go out in the morning and fly, and then we attended a ground school which was basically a classroom setting,” explained Cadet Loya.
“We did get to take a lot of field trips on the weekends,” he continued. “One of the trips I loved the most was getting to see an air show in Kansas City, which was really cool.”
The application process for the Flight Academy Scholarship program was tough, but Loya had the help of his mentors, Col. Seaborn Whatley and MSgt. Keith Thrash at Rome High School.
“Col. Whatley filled out all of the paperwork for the initial application. Then, I had to take a test which is what qualified me for the program,” explained Cadet Loya.
“They want to see you active in the community—whether it is in JROTC, Boy Scouts, etc. You have got to be well-rounded,” added Col. Whatley.
“The fact that you are in ROTC and you learn airmanship (understanding how a plane works, what it looks like in flight), that is a factor that is unmatched in the very competitive and highly selective program. Aaron has done a lot of things; he is our corps commander this year, he was a squadron commander last year… he is just an outstanding guy who deserved this opportunity,” smiled Col. Whatley.
According to the website, the Flight Academy program is designed to grow over the coming years. This year, the Air Force Junior ROTC awarded 120 cadet scholarships. This number could potentially grow in the future, increasing to 250 next year and 500 the year after. There are also plans to open the program to Army, Navy and Marine Junior ROTC programs, as well as Civil Air Patrol cadets by 2020.
Around 120 high school students also earned their private pilot’s license and up to 12 college credits during the Flight Academy Scholarships program. For many students like Loya, this program has opened a career pathway that may have otherwise been unattainable.
“My goal is to go to the Air Force Academy in college and hopefully become a pilot for the Air Force. This was truly a great opportunity for me to gain valuable experience. It also gives me early exposure to aviation so that I know what it’s like, know how to perform and know what the expectations are,” said Cadet Loya.
“The biggest thing is that this opens the door for others here at Rome High to pursue their dreams as well,” said Col. Whatley. “This is great for Aaron, as it moves him down the road. It also validates the work and the training we are doing here at Rome High. But it’s all about us supporting the cadets, so this was something Aaron wanted to do. We were happy to help him get into it.”
“I would most definitely recommend the program to others who are interested in flying,” said Cadet Loya.
The application process for the Summer 2020 program will begin in late August/early September. For more information on the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Flight Academy Scholarship program, visit: http://www.airuniversity.af.mil/Holm-Center/AFJROTC/