Southwest’s Campus Reach Team identifies and engages future Southwest Employees at an early age to hopefully inspire an interest in a career in aviation. Recently, we had the opportunity to host a special group of students at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston after Houston ABC Channel 13’s Foti Kallergis reached out to us.
Jennifer Duffer’s aerospace engineering students at Montgomery High School, about an hour northwest of Houston, built a flyable airplane provided by Eagle’s Nest Projects with ten mentors. Across the country, Eagle’s Nest Projects are providing high school students with an inspiring and unique STEM education experience of building a modern FAA certified Light Sport aircraft (Van’s Aircraft RV-12).
Back in February, Foti Kallergis, a reporter for Houston’s ABC Channel 13, spotlighted my students on his Foti High Five segment. As he was working on the story, Foti reached out to several airlines telling them about my aerospace engineering students, who were building a plane. Southwest Airlines was the only one to respond. They offered to set up a tour of the Maintenance Hangar at Houston Hobby, but the day turned out to be much more.
We got to meet an explosives-detection dog for the federal Transportation Security Administration assigned to William P. Hobby Airport. We heard from Liliana Rambo, the General Manager at the airport. Southwest’s Campus Reach Team facilitated “the airline game,” which put the students into decision-making roles when faced with typical airline scenarios. Southwest Leaders provided us with a peek at the journey of a checked bag, the concourse from the Employees’ perspective, and the intense logistics that occur in the Command Center. Not only were the students able to see career opportunities in aviation, but they also saw real-world examples of engineering design and robotics that they study in class.
Later in the afternoon, we toured the Southwest Maintenance Hanger. The Leaders showed us around the facility, talking about safety procedures, the tools they use, the importance of aircraft maintenance, and the various issues that can affect the physics of an airline. I was doing a happy dance inside because without knowing it, the maintenance professionals were reinforcing concepts the students learn in class.
Southwest’s Campus Reach Team went above and beyond to make this trip special for us. I did not imagine to be treated like VIPs. My students felt pretty special being escorted around and having their questions answered by, as they would tell you, “crazy intelligent and important” people.
My goal as their teacher is to empower them and provide them with opportunities to find their passion that will develop into a career. I cannot thank the Campus Reach Team enough for helping me give my students an opportunity to find their passion for aviation! And, if you’re wondering, the inaugural flight of our student-built “Bear Force One,” representing 30 weeks of work for my 48 students and 10 mentors, was a huge success!