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Oak Hill High School Aeronautics

Innovation is key to success in education and Kim Cortines is spearheading this issue by implementing the Aerospace Engineering Pathway Program at Oak Hill High School. This is the first high school in West Virginia to incorporate this program into their current course offerings. It is a four-year sequence of progressive courses that combines both college and career ready skills along with content standards. The aerospace engineering courses were made possible through grants and support through the Southern Regional Education Board and Fayette County Schools.

In this four year program, students begin focusing on the fundamentals of aerospace technology, which provides the building blocks for students to be successful in the application process of aeronautics engineering. Cortines said, “That’s how the program is built, the ideas and projects become more complex from course 1 to course 2, all the way through the fourth year of the program.” The program has 83 students and she said they learn more in the course than just engineering - they learn skills that help them in life. “This is one of my favorite classes,” said Abigail Ward. “It’s unlike any other class. It’s more hands-on and more than just being on a computer or looking at a piece of paper.” It’s this model that has elevated student engagement through its project-based learning and relevant real-world application. “I like making things,” Heather Williams said. “We get to do that with every project we do. There’s also a great collaborative process that happens too.” Cortines said she enjoys watching her students grow throughout this learning process. “They are growing in their academics, in their maturity level, in their accountability level, and in their confidence level. They are becoming less and less dependent on me for each project, and that is such a joy to watch take place. They give me hope for the future,” Cortines said.

The future of the program looks bright as it gains traction and attention in and around education, as well as within the aerospace industry. Cortines has been working extremely hard marketing the program to industry partners and exposing more opportunities for her students to showcase their aerospace engineering skills. She recently spoke on aerospace education in West Virginia at the 16th annual aviation conference in Bridgeport. Cortines said, “After the presentation, companies and colleges lined up for 45 minutes afterwards to exchange business cards and asked for opportunities to try to snag up my kids. It was a pretty awesome feeling!!” The aerospace program at Oak Hill was recently invited to the Aviation Education and Career Expo in Virginia. This is a great opportunity for students to display their skills they have learned over the past four years to an authentic aviation audience. Cortines said, “Things are looking up for Fayette County kids!”

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