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New program enhances aviation opportunities at Dunbar

Dunbar High School’s football field became an airstrip Wednesday with the landing of a helicopter.

“It’s cool,” said Jasmin Williams, 10, a fifth-grader from Walton Elementary School. “It has … how can I explain. I like the color. I like the way it looks inside.”

Helping students fulfill ambitions in aviation and engineering is the goal of an educational collaboration by the Fort Worth school district, Tarrant County College and Bell Helicopter.

The three are boosting aviation academics/training offered at Dunbar. Their effort was showcased Wednesday with the landing of a Bell 407GX helicopter on the football field.

Superintendent Walter Dansby emphasized the importance of investing in aviation programs after he emerged from the helicopter.

De’Ovion Alexander, 10, another fifth-grader student from Walton Elementary, was inspired by the landing.

“When I retire from football, I am going to be a helicopter pilot,” he said.

Training for the future

Dunbar offers aviation technology, engineering and urban development and business technology as part of the district’s Gold Seal Programs of Choice.

Under the new effort, students will get training to meet current and future industry needs as part of existing aerospace and engineering classes.

The program includes a pathway to jobs through training and a senior project that can help determine whether a student can be recruited by companies such as Bell Helicopter.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” TCC Trustee Gwendolyn Morrison said, adding that students will be able to graduate from high school with a professional certificate. “This program cuts out all the guessing.”

The idea is to let high school students understand how math and science are part of aviation and engineering, said Franklin T. Knight, a Bell technician training manager.

Some students can either get practical training to work on airplanes, and others can study to become the engineers who help create a new generation of helicopters and planes, Knight said.

The collaboration is the latest investment made in Dunbar’s aviation program. The district is also planning to spend an estimated $1.75 million to add a hangar at Dunbar that will store airplanes and other equipment for hands-on training.

The hangar project was included in an estimated $490 million bond package recently approved by voters.

An investment for the community

Althalo Henton, aviation teacher at Dunbar, said the investment in aviation programs will help elevate the school.

“It’s exciting for Dunbar and the Stop Six area,” Henton said. “I think this opportunity is needed in this area to help prepare middle-class workers.”

D’Angelo Brice, 16, a junior at Dunbar who wants to be an aerospace engineer, takes dual-credit classes at TCC so he can be ready for college. The classes may also help him earn professional certification by the time he graduates from high school.

Brice took the helicopter landing as a good sign for Dunbar.

“It’s pretty nice,” Brice said. “It’s big boost to the community altogether, not just Dunbar.”

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