Morehouse Enrichment Program Students Discover Flight at MGA

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 8:58 PM
Categories: Pressroom | School of Aviation

Macon, GA

One of many things 16-year-old Shantica Kincaide finds intriguing about aviation is that it isn’t nursing.

She means no offense.

“It’s like some people suggest nursing as a career just because I’m female,” said Kincaide, expressing a frustration perhaps common to young women who enjoy science, math and technology. “Nursing is great if that’s what somebody wants to do. But I want to be a pilot. I love the history of aviation, the idea of getting people from one place to another.”

Kincaide settled on aviation as a potential career even before she had been a passenger in a plane, much less seen a cockpit up close. All of that changed on June 29, when she and about 20 other high-schoolers taking part in a summer enrichment program experienced their first flights at Middle Georgia State University’s School of Aviation in Eastman.

Lined up near the airstrip in 91-degree heat, the teenagers took turns climbing into the front passenger seats of the school’s fleet of Piper Archers and Warriors. They donned headphones and felt their insides lurch as MGA flight instructors rotated the noses of the aircraft upward. Each got a go at the controls.

“It felt like my heart dropped,” 18-year-old Trevor Collins said upon his return from a half-hour flight in the skies above south central Georgia. “It was fun.”

Collins, Kincaide and the other high-schoolers are spending five weeks this summer at Morehouse College in Atlanta as part of a residential math and science program put on by TRIO, a federally funded outreach that provides educational services to students from low-income families. The name TRIO is not an acronym; it originated with the initiative’s first three programs - Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services.

The students, who come from seven Southern states, are spending their time doing research projects in physics, aviation, chemistry, engineering or nanobiotechnology, according to Sallie Sanders, manager of the Morehouse Math/Science Southeastern Regional TRIO Program.

“We expose them to different areas in math, science and technology,” said Sanders, who accompanied the students to Eastman. “They all have to complete research projects, including collecting data in the field, and present them.”

The aviation component is relatively new to the Morehouse TRIO program, which began in 2009. Last year, Sanders took the aviation-focused students to visit another flight facility. This year, after doing some research, she got in touch with Gene Behrends, assistant chief pilot for MGA’s School of Aviation. Behrends worked with Sanders to arrange the late June visit, which for the students included a tour of most campus departments, help from instructors on their research projects, complimentary lunch and what the school calls “Discovery Flights.”

“It’s not easy to find aviation programs at the college level willing to spend this much time helping high school students,” Sanders said. “Middle Georgia State is able to provide meaningful opportunities to help these students learn what goes on in the field of aviation. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long-term relationship.”

Behrends is getting adept at introducing young folks to the wonders of aviation. Last summer, he spearheaded a visit to the Eastman Campus by teens participating in the Tuskegee Legacy Flight Academy, a two-week experience for minority students interested in aviation.

“I don’t know if I’m especially good working with kids,” said Behrends, who considers hosting young visitors to the School of Aviation as a way of recruiting future students. “All I know is that I’m so passionate about aviation it rubs off on just about everyone I’m around. I don’t know any pilot who doesn’t love taking somebody up for their first flight.”

His efforts clearly inspired the Morehouse program participants.

“My students are still in a state of disbelief!” Sanders wrote Behrends in an email the day after the campus visit. “Most of them had never been near an airplane and certainly never had the opportunity to ride in one. I assure you that the aviation experience will impact their decisions about future academic endeavors.”

For at least one, it already has.

After her Discovery Flight in Eastman, Kincaide disembarked from the plane even more convinced she wants to become a commercial airline pilot. She begins her junior year of high school in her hometown of Coffeeville, Miss., in a few weeks, but her mind is set on her next trip to Middle Georgia State.

“When I come back,” she said, “it will be as a student.”

Photo: The Morehouse College TRIO students are shown at the School of Aviation along with instructors and current MGA students. In the inset, Shantica Kincaide takes one of MGA's Piper Archers for a (supervised) spin.