Students' careers take flight early with Seminole High School's aviation program

All Seminole County students eligible to apply for new program

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SANFORD, Fla. – Students all over Seminole County can now prepare for careers in aviation, thanks to Seminole High School's Aviation Program.

It's one of the county's programs of emphasis, which means any student in Seminole County is eligible to apply.

The program kicked off at the beginning of the school year, and according to instructor Norman Johnson, the idea is to get students ready for in-demand aviation careers, including pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers.

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Johnson said he began his aviation career in the Marines, after seeing his first air show as a child.

"And I ran home and told my mom I want to fly planes. And my mom said to me, 'You know, with our income and what I make, the only way you're going to be able to get even close to an aircraft is to join the military,'" Johnson said.

Now, Johnson says, aviation careers are much more accessible.

The first year of the program focuses on preparing students to earn their private pilot's license. But first, students must work on models to learn aerodynamics.

"And this is what they're getting right now by refurbishing these model airplanes. They're actually seeing how these wings are structured and what it takes to just develop lift in the aircraft design. And it's a very simple design," Johnson said.

Johnson said there is a shortage of women in aviation. That's something freshman Florence Onyiuke hopes to change.

"To be an innovator in that sense, that I'm being a part of a new movement for women to be a part of the aviation industry -- for me, that really sealed the deal," she said.

The program partners with businesses at the Orlando Sanford International Airport.

Johnson said he meets with those partners quarterly for feedback on how best to prepare students for those high-demand jobs.

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