Bessie Coleman After School Aviation Program To Be Field-Tested In Oklahoma

Friday, 12 January 2024 07:56

Bessie Coleman After School Aviation Program To Be Field-Tested In Oklahoma Featured

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With Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics

The Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics Executive Director, Grayson Ardies, and Senator Adam Pugh, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced a partnership with the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars Program, and Gigi Coleman Brooms, President of the Chicago-based aviation education 501 (c)3.  

At its December 2023 meeting, the Commission approved a partnership with the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Star Program to implement an after-school aviation program for 6th and 7th-grade students enrolled in the Weatherford Public Schools, Pryor Public Schools, and Springdale Elementary of the Tulsa Public Schools. The first of its kind in Oklahoma, students enrolled in the aeronautical program will learn about aerospace careers and will participate in hands-on aviation projects that have been designed to create interest in aerospace and aeronautics while celebrating the heritage of Bessie Coleman.

“Aerospace is Oklahoma’s fastest growing industry, and it’s important we provide as many educational opportunities as possible, so our students can learn about the incredible career opportunities available in the various aviation fields right here in our state. The earlier young people are exposed to the world of aeronautics, the more likely they are to take STEM-related classes and gain the tools and knowledge needed to successfully pursue a career in this exciting industry,” Pugh said. “As a former aviator, I’m thrilled this unique after-school aviation program will now be offered in Oklahoma and look forward to hearing how it opens students’ minds to the endless world of possibilities in the aerospace industry.”

During the first week, students will be introduced digitally to Gigi Coleman, Bessie Coleman’s great-niece, an actor-historian of the Bessie Coleman aviation story, where she will reenact her great aunt’s early life telling the story of how she became America’s first black, female pilot in 1921. During the following weeks, students will meet pilot professionals, build airplanes, interact with military aviation professionals, and learn about commercial flight, space travel, advanced air mobility, and drone operations. During the after-school program, Oklahoma educators will follow a curriculum developed by the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Star Program and the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics.

“We have enjoyed an amazing relationship with the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars Program. Gigi accepted the 2022 Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day Woman of the Year award, and our partnership has created this unique aero-education opportunity that will benefit Oklahoma students in communities across the state,” said Ardies.

April 30, 2026, marks the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman’s death and in keeping her legacy alive, their goal is to expand aviation programs throughout the United States, reaching as many students as possible. The curriculum is designed to promote STEM (science, technology engineering, and math), teach the theory of flight (aeronautics) and introduce various careers, pioneers and inventors in aviation. They are a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization where their work is primarily funded by grants and individual donations.

“Aunt Bessie would be proud of the work we are doing in her honor and legacy.  Speaking at schools and churches, she encouraged African Americans’ interest in aviation. She also raised money to found a school to train black aviators. One hundred years later, we are continuing her mission and we are excited to bring the state of Oklahoma into our aeronautical family,” said Coleman-Brooms.


Referred to as "the land of fertility and progress," Oklahoma entered into statehood on November 16, 1907, becoming the country's 46th state. Three years after statehood, Oklahomans witnessed the first mechanically powered flight over the state. Oklahoma has a rich aviation and aerospace history. The Commission was created in 1945 by the Oklahoma Legislature to advance, foster, and assist in the development of aeronautics in Oklahoma, including current and future aircraft, and to encourage the establishment and maintenance of public airports.

As the successor to the Oklahoma Aviation Commission and Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics' mission is to promote aviation and aerospace, this includes ensuring the needs of commerce and communities across the state are met by the Oklahoma Airport System, and ensuring the viability of our aviation and aerospace industry, our state’s second largest industry.

Aviation Education Facts:

  • Oklahoma is ranked #1 in the nation for the number of schools teaching the "You Can Fly" curriculum from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as the Choose Aerospace maintenance curriculum.
  • For the 2023-2024 school year, 87 schools are teaching the AOPA program and 9 schools are teaching the Choose Aerospace program.
  • Some 4,000 high school aged students are currently enrolled in aviation and aerospace education programs statewide.

Industry Facts:

  • The Oklahoma Aviation & Aerospace Industry produces just under $44B in annual economic activity, making it the second-largest economic engine in our state.
  • Three segments account for the $44B total: Military aviation, $19.3B; off-airport aviation and aerospace businesses, $13.9B; and the 108 commercial and general aviation airports, $ 10.6B.
  • Aviation & Aerospace supports 206,000 jobs totaling an $11.7B payroll.
  • The average salary in the industry is $73,300 making it one of the highest average salaries in the state.

About Oklahoma Department of Aerospace and Aeronautics (ODAA):

The mission of the ODAA is to promote aviation, which includes ensuring that the needs of commerce and communities across the state are met by the state’s 108 publicly owned airports that comprise the Oklahoma Airport System and helping ensure the viability of the state’s aerospace industry.


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