AIMING FOR THE SKY: All-girls school in Phoenix training students for aviation careers

- There aren't many professional fields that are more male-dominated than aviation, and Xavier College Prep, an all-girls Catholic school in Phoenix, is offering aviation school lessons to its students.

During lunchtime at Xavier, some of the students were in for another adventure, in an Aviation Club meeting. Students in this meeting decided to "fly" to Kona, in Hawaii. The flight doesn't actually happen, nor will students get to see the places that make Hawaii famous, but they do walk away with aviation experience.

"It's very empowering to be a young woman in what's considered to be a male-dominated field," said Glen Hestines, who teaches science and aviation at Xavier. "I don't meet a lot of women pilots."

Programs like the one at Xavier are changing the gender make up of the aviation industry, as girls think about being pilots or take on other aviation careers.

"There's a whole list of jobs we've seen come out of here," said Hestines. "Several are going into the military. You've got control towers. You'll get airline pilots and dispatchers for airline pilots, and now, a new wave of drone pilots."

Hestines, who was in Marine Corp aviation but didn't end up being pilot, started the aviation program at Xavier 15 years ago.

"When I was here for about a year, the chairman of the department found out I was a flight instructor, and he was a big aviation buff, and insisted we have an aviation course," said Hestines.

The program took off from there. Students in Xavier's aviation program will complete the "ground school" portion of a pilot's certificate, and some will even get flight hours, like Krista Potenza.

"I'm actually training to get my pilot's license now at Scottsdale Airport," said Potenza.

Programs like these have made the aviation industry less male-dominated. Cpt. Julie Keeney, who graduated from Xavier in 2006, is now with the Alaska National Guard, flying a KC-135 refueling tanker, refueling the tanks of fighter jets, tens of thousands of feet in the air.

"Mid-air refueling to me is interesting," said Cpt. Keeney. "Flying really fast with another airplane, touching middle to middle, transferring fuel."

Not many people have a bird's eye view of the Earth from their desk, and not many have a job that is this important. Cpt. Keeney has flown on lots of different missions around the world, and she can't believe that taking a class she thought would be merely interesting as a high school sophomore would take her to where she is today.

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