I started this program after getting into mentoring teens in the Youth Challenge program here at Ft. Gordon. A kid I had known for some time got in trouble with the wrong crowd and needed a mentor to attend the training. After I volunteered and met the other kids there their story was similar. Each had unique issues but had no one to show them an alternative to their current behavior; a place to focus free time and excess energy. Having tried to learn RC over 15 years ago unsuccessfully, when I finally got around OTHER pilots that were willing to help me learn I progressed faster than I ever could alone. So I started thinking of ways to tie RC flight into teaching life lessons.
After approaching my local RC Club (Rotors and Props) for their FULL commitment to a program, we met with the Youth Challenge Academy and after some extensive convincing gained approval to run a 2 day program with the kids. The kids had a blast and everyone enjoyed the experience. So based on this first run, I started looking more so to an extended engagement for kids.
I partnered with a Non-Profit in the area running a summer camp and taught those that could attend basic RC flight with the simulator during the entire summer break. it was this session that introduced me to Mrs. Margaret Adams of the County Juvenile Courts. The courts were handling numerous juvenile cases where kids got in trouble with the law but wanted to offer them something more than just punishment. They wanted to provide something that challenged their mind, thinking, skills and motivation to be better people AND have fun at the same time. Mrs. Adams and I met over 4 times; discussing the details, the training and even my presentation linking the decision making, precision and control required for flight to the day to day challenges the youth face today in their own decision making as well as the consequences for both good and bad decisions. This led the county to back the program and purchase (2) Trainer planes as well as lipo batteries for each kid in the class. We keep the parents present as well and encourage their interaction within the class as well as their child development. Each child that completes the required classes and simulation time will “graduate” with a 6-minute flight of the very aircraft they built in class with their respective flights recorded for their families to enjoy.
The time spent in the classroom focuses on the building, flight and control of the airplanes but also mutual respect for authority and ultimately responsibility for our actions, both in the air and on the ground. My current class (third cycle) is just days away from their first parent/ student airplane build and we are thrilled that both parent and student find a common middle ground for growth. Many of my students and their parents are invited to fly with us on the weekends (we don’t have an AMA field yet in our area but we are optimistic) as well as to continue mentoring each of them BEYOND the classroom. As future pilots, they are now a part of the family and we check on them as such!
-Written by: Vern Horne