Aberdeen High School JROTC cadet Lydia Turner poses in front of a plane during Flight Academy in Florida this summer. Her accomplishments, coupled with national exposure through Microsoft, are among those being highlighted by the program. 

ABERDEEN – From the Aberdeen High School JROTC’s ongoing national exposure through Microsoft and a cadet’s ongoing steps towards obtaining her private pilot’s license, program instructor Maj. Allen Williams is proud of the vision taking shape.

The JROTC program was recently the subject of a short video and article featured through Microsoft Education, with another facet currently in the works.

Williams said the school’s inclusion in the CS for All computer science initiative led to an eventual connection with a Microsoft representative. Aberdeen’s JROTC program is among 30 high schools across the nation included in the computer science initiative.

He was asked to speak at an advisory meeting through CS for All about the program’s vision for computer science and challenges the school faced.

“There was an advisory member who was at the time with Intel. Long story short, we were able to solicit a grant request through Intel that ended up garnering 26 Windows-based Dell laptops. The lady, Paige Johnson, ended up leaving Intel and resurfaced with Microsoft,” Williams said.

Johnson is now with Microsoft Education and asked Williams to speak with some of her colleagues about the program’s journey, which led to more interest. A film crew followed Williams and the JROTC program for a day to be shown at a Microsoft-hosted educational symposium held earlier this month.

“In the events leading up to that filming, another side of Microsoft Education got wind of it and decided to do the article that was recently released,” Williams said. “Yet another division of Microsoft Education has reached out about what they’re describing as a case study.”

He hopes the continued interest will lead to even more opportunities for Aberdeen High School.

“I think the more nationwide exposure we get, I hope is an encouragement to our kids to keep pushing the envelope to what they’re capable of,” Williams said.

Flying high

One cadet pushing the envelope already is senior Lydia Turner, who not only completed three weeks of Flight Academy in Milton, Florida this summer but is taking flying lessons in Starkville in hopes of earning her private pilot’s license by graduation.

At 17, she already has her student pilot’s license.

Through Flight Academy, she learned the fundamentals of flight through STEM training, grounds school and actually flying a Cessna 172. Each class was three hours long per day.

“It was a really awesome experience. It was really fun being in the air everyday and flying. I think the program helped me get a step closer to my dream of flying,” she said.

Aberdeen’s JROTC program has flight simulators, which helped her prepare for actually flying.

“In the air space we were in, we could sometimes go up to about 3,000 feet. Other times, depending on the area we were in, we could be no higher than 1,200 feet,” she said, adding she was terrified the first time going up in the air. “I was in the back of the aircraft and was thinking, ‘Do I really want to do this?’”

By the second day, she was prepared and ready to go back up in the plane.

“The first time I flew it completely by myself was the third day. They just let the controls go and said, ‘Okay, this is your aircraft.’ I think it helps you learn faster by actually doing it yourself. Going to ground school and having to apply it in the aircraft helps you learn faster,” she said.

Turner has been accepted into Texas Southern University for flight school.

“With becoming a pilot, it’s a lot of tests, and the first test is soloing, then it’s the private pilot’s test. The private pilot’s test is the hardest because it’s the first actual real test to becoming a pilot. I think me passing this test and actually getting the license will speak for itself when I go to college and ROTC and start flying as a pilot,” Turner said.

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