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Program looks to encourage students Roanoke Valley students to explore a career in aviation

The program aims to expand diversity in aviation

A new push in recruiting the next generation of aviators took students to the skies across the Star City on Wednesday.

ROANOKE, Va. – More than 100 students from the Roanoke Valley are getting a firsthand look at a career in the skies.

“We’re trying to build on their career paths before they decide who they want to be because unfortunately, there’s such a lack of diversity in aviation,” Director of Partner Relations and Marketing Shane Combs said.

Dynamic Aviation Nexgen Aviators program allows middle school students across Virginia to get hands-on experience in everything that engineering and aerospace have to offer. Each station features a new challenge or experience those in the field could see every day.

“Most of us when we think of aviation, we tend to think of a pilot, maybe the mechanic, the gate agent, the finance attendant, and there’s so many other career aspects that support aviation that include aviation,” Relations and Engagements Specialist Anthony Whitehead said.

They even let 10 News join a group of students for a quick flight around the star city. But it’s not just about fun for the group, they also hope by introducing students to the variety of options in the industry creates more diversity for women and people of color.

Something Roanoke native Kala Dougan is especially passionate about.

“We’re just excited to show them maybe they have someone that they can look up. They’re like, you know, the big hey, I can do that too,” NexGen Operations Supervisor Kala Dougan said.

Even if the students choose not to follow the footsteps of the program, those running it hope.

“They can continue their mission to open doors for students in the stem field as much as possible. we know that not every station is going to speak to every single student, but we really think that hey, there might be something here that really clicks with one student,” Dougan said.

Thanks to the help of sponsors, Nexgen is able to help students of all backgrounds get a hands-on experience in Aerospace.

About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.