Alpha Academy, a K-12th grade charter school, is providing free drone training to high school students.
“This academy is preparing the next workforce generation,” Jeffries Epps, CEO of STEMERALD City LLC, said.
Students can now earn a drone operator license through the academy’s Drone Remote Pilot Institute. Alpha Academy has partnered with STEMERALD City and Nine Ten Drones LLC to provide the training for staff and students.
“That is a certification that is given to them by the Federal Aviation Administration, which basically permits them to commercially fly drones and charge for their services,” Epps said.
“The final phase now is certification,” Epps said. “We’ve taught them to think like drone pilots, we’ve taught them to build drones, now we are going to teach them the rules and regulations to be certified professional pilots.”
In order to receive certification, students must be at least 16 years of age. A payment of $180 is required for students to take the FAA test, but once students receive certification, they are certified for life, Epps said.
Students in the Drone Remote Pilot Institute spend hours after school and on the weekends training to be drone pilots. Students like Marcus Bell, a 17-year-old high school junior, who said he dreams of working at Apple or Google after he graduates from college.
Yvette Bell, the mother of Marcus, said Alpha Academy has kept her son academically motivated.
“He’s always ecstatic when he does something that exceeds his expectations,” Bell said. “After he came here — everything changed, his grades improved dramatically, his attention to detail improved and his determination.”
Bell said her son plans to pursue a career in information technology.
“I think my favorite part would have to be starting an action, completing it and actually seeing it come through,” Marcus said about the drone program. “I think that’s pretty cool.”
Marcus, who joined the academy in seventh grade, said his favorite school subjects are math and science.
“The teachers are great,” he said.
Epps gave praise to the four students in the drone program for all of the hours they’ve spent training to become drone pilots.
“One of the things that I want to highlight — these kids did this during the pandemic,” Epps said. “They took time out from their Saturdays to come learn this — during the pandemic — and they religiously showed up to this program.”
Moving forward, Alpha Academy’s STEM Director Christopher Stinson said, all students will be required to take and pass a computer science curriculum at the academy’s Katherine G. Johnson S.T.E.M. Institute before being accepted into the Drone Remote Pilot Institute.
“This summer students will have the opportunity to take the computer science prerequisite course first,” Stinson said.
The four trained drone program students will be mentors during summer school for the middle school students who attend the computer science prerequisite course, Epps said about Stinson’s summer curriculum.
For more information on how to enroll your student into Alpha Academy, email [email protected] or call 910-223-7711.
Health and education writer Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3561.
Support local journalism with a subscription to The Fayetteville Observer. Click the “subscribe” link at the top of this article.