ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two Albuquerque Public Schools high school juniors have earned the Air Force JROTC Flight Academy award. The Flight Academy allows aspiring young aviators to get their Private Pilot’s Certification, at no cost, during an eight-week summer course at partner universities.
Del Norte/NexGen Academy junior Veronica Bearup and Volcano Vista junior Luke Vaughn are among two, of only 230 students worldwide to receive Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy scholarships. Cadets Bearup and Vaughn will attend an accredited aviation university participating in a private pilot license training program this summer. More than 1,340 JROTC cadets applied for the scholarships from Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.
Both students said they grew up in military families, so joining JROTC was a natural fit for them. They each said they’ve learned valuable life skills through the program at their schools. Vaughn said he learned through this experience to not be afraid to take opportunities when he can and challenge himself when he can. “I applied last year and I didn’t get it,” Vaughn said. “I didn’t even think I had a chance this year and I was completely surprised when I got in.”
Bearup said the JROTC program has opened many new opportunities up to her. “It might seem really scary if you’ve never been introduced to anything military before, but it’s such an amazing program especially and Del Norte,” Bearup said. “I’ve been introduced to so many different things and I never even knew I’d have the opportunity to fly a plane before this.”
Major Campbell, Vaughn’s instructor at Volcano Vista said the mission of JROTC is to build better citizens. “Our goal is to give them leadership and make them into a better person and develop a proper citizenship. Those skills that we try to develop can be across any field. We feel like we’re setting them up for success for their future after high school,” Campbell said.
Last year, the program had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Students who were chosen for last year’s event were rolled over into this year’s programming in addition to the new round of students chosen. Colonel Lamb, Bearup’s instructor at Del Norte, said the evaluation process required testing on both physical and mental capabilities. “They had to do a physical training test and they had to take a test called the Aviation Qualification Test,” Lamb said. “That evaluated SAT-like things, as well as their understanding of instrumentations in airplanes.”
The nomination process to even be considered for the program was competitive. “It was stringent criteria. I think we had multiple cadets and people worldwide who wanted to apply but it was limited just to meet that criteria just to be considered for the opportunity,” Campbell said.
Both students said they were grateful they joined JROTC and that it has changed their lives for the better. “There’s so many experiences that I’ve had in just two years that I would’ve never had without the program,” Bearup said. “I’m really happy I joined, I feel like it would be a great experience for everyone.”