Up, Up and Away: Navy and Marine Corps JROTC Academy Takes Flight

US Navy | Sep. 14, 2022

By Bobby Cummings

ARLINGTON, VA.: The Department of the Navy (DON) is setting its sights sky-high through sponsorship of the Navy and Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Flight Academy. The Navy and Marine Corps Academy is managed by the Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), and was established to increase diversity in the field of aviation.

Recognizing that the time to instill a love of aviation is best done early, the Flight Academy is an eight-week STEM program for high school students participating in both Navy and Marine Corps JROTC. The program is intended to inspire and encourage high school students to consider aviation careers. The program is offered at zero cost to the student, and with no obligations.

 The program is a new STEM initiative that was selected for funding by the Naval STEM Coordination Office — located at the Office of Naval Research — which oversees investments in STEM education, outreach and workforce initiatives.

 “STEM education is vital to maintain maritime superiority,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, who leads the Naval Research Enterprise where Naval STEM resides. “Our continued development of young minds will be our decisive edge in any future conflict.”

 According to Cmdr. Chandra Newman, Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Naval Air Forces, underrepresented and underserved communities often lack resources or accessibility to opportunities, and often have limited exposure to a myriad of subjects. Naval leaders know it is imperative that untapped talent across all communities are given the opportunity and resources to contribute to the nation’s future.

 “Engaging our high school youth into an immersive and challenging program, like the flight academy, sparks a passion for aviation that is impossible to extinguish,” said Newman. “The life skills, professional skills and personal growth that the cadets gain from this program are immensely valuable to the future of naval aviation, DoD and industry at-large. Their futures are limitless.”

 The competitive Flight Academy program has an 8:1 selection ratio — there were 160 completed applications for the 2022 Class, and 20 outstanding students were selected. Minority racial and ethnic groups comprised 65% of the program. The program ended up being a 50/50 male/female split, with 40% of minority representation female.

 “Naval STEM invested in the Flight Academy and partnered with CNAF to provide an educational opportunity that increases student awareness of the role of STEM within Naval aviation,” said Kathleen Gately Miranda, Deputy Director, Naval STEM Coordination Office.  “On day one, and for eight weeks, high school students are flying in the air. Naval STEM opportunities like these remove financial barriers, which allow high-performing students access to life-changing opportunities.”

 In 2022, the flight academy program was a soaring triumph for all involved. Sixteen of the 20 students completed ground school, their first solo flight, passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airman Knowledge Test, and received college credit for their achievements. Additionally, 13 students obtained their private pilot license.

 2022 Flight Academy Graduates  

Scott Aflague – Guam (Delaware State University (DSU))*

Rishita Bagga – Richmond, Texas (DSU)*

La’Donte Buckhanan – Mandeville, Lousiana (DSU)*

Isaac Carter – Grove City, Ohio (DSU) *

Kennedy Childress – Fort Mill, South Carolina (DSU) *

Jadyn Dixon – Statesville, North Carolina (DSU) *

Bonnie Frazer – Bayboro, North Carolina (DSU) *

Abby Harwick, Bayboro, North Carolina (DSU) *

Blessings Kibet – Mobile, Alabama (Elizabeth City State University (ECSU)

Camden Korsmo – Corpus Christi, Texas (ECSU) *

Alexander Le – St. Paul, Minnesota (DSU) *

Tyler Smolensky – Highlands, New Jersey (DSU) *

Kaitlyn Stake – Mt. Juliet, Tennessee (DSU) *

Henry Stanley – Corpus Christi, Texas (DSU) * ^

Xitali Vazquez – Phoenix, Arizona (ECSU)

Joshua Ward – Stockton, California (ECSU)