By Nicole DiDonato
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– The West Michigan Aviation Academy is growing, set to graduate its first class next school year. It’s not your typical high school experience. Along with learning math, science and reading, students get to learn how to fly aircraft.
“It’s high academic standards, but with an eye to the sky,” said Dick DeVos, Founder and Chairman of the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
The school, situated on the grounds of Gerald R Ford International Airport, puts students right in the middle of their passion. It’s the dream of philanthropist, businessman and pilot, Dick Devos.
“We’re a high school first,” said DeVos. “We’re about academics and teaching and teaching kids to realize their full potential.”
The charter school attracts students from more than 20 school districts around West Michigan. It’s composed of about 78% male students, but DeVos said more female students are showing interest. Students wear uniforms and learn the importance of character and making good choices.
It started out with just a freshman class of 80. Now, as those freshman become seniors this Fall, the school will grow to nearly 400 students. Freshman wanting to enroll are now on a waiting list, as the school has a self-imposed cap at 125.
“We haven’t graduated any kids, but we expect that we’re going to be seeing engineers and pilots, and I hope aerospace engineers and aircraft controllers and mechanics and folks working in business administration in the airline industry. I hope we see that.”
Student, Anthonia Oyedeji, is from London. She said aviation was never on her radar, until she attended the school’s summer camp.
“Coming here has opened my eyes to a whole lot more things I could do,” said Oyedeji.
She’s planning to go into Medicine and apply that to a career in the aviation industry. She encourages other girls to try out the school.
“There’s a lot better opportunities for girls in the aviation industry.”
The school says they plan to receive a Cessna 172 this Spring, which will allow students a better opportunity to get in some flying time.