Student pilot pic

McAllen ISD’s new aviation program for high school seniors took flight last fall and now the course of study will be expanding, with more classes added, starting next school year.

 Starting in the fall, students will be able to take additional courses over a two-year period to give them in-depth training and more flying time as they earn a private pilot license and remote drone license through McAllen ISD.

 Twelve students are on course to do just that this year. It is a move that will save students an estimated $15,000-$20,000 if they were to study for their private pilot license on their own. McAllen ISD is believed to be the only public school district offering a course in aviation south of San Antonio.

 “This is a whopper of a good opportunity for the students because they get to get a Federal Aviation Administration Certification which is recognized world-wide, basically for free,” Hector Zuniga, the program’s instructor, said.

 Mr. Zuniga’s students are taking Practicum in Transportation (focusing on Aviation). It was the only Aviation course open to students this school year. It is a two-hour block course where students can earn their Private Pilot License plus the FFA Remote Drone 107 License by the end of May.

 The Rio Grande Valley is a region which needs more high-wage, high-skill and in-demand careers, research shows. McAllen ISD submitted an application containing labor-market data that backed this up and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) agreed. 

 Additional research revealed a rising global demand for more pilots.

 TEA’s letter of approval arrived earlier this month. Called a Regional Program of Study in Aviation, it will be in place for the next four years, starting with the 2023-24 school year.  It will allow McAllen ISD to expand from one course to a more robust three-course program that will be offered in the fall.  

 McAllen ISD Aviation Program of Study 2023-24:

  • 11th Grade-Introduction to Aerospace and Aviation
  • 11th Grade-Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Flight
  • 12th Grade-Practicum in Transportation

The Practicum in Transportation course will also expand from a two-hour to a three-hour class to allow for more flight time during school hours. The entire program is under the Career Technical Education umbrella in McAllen ISD. 

Students in this year’s Aviation Program are excited about the opportunity.

 “My dad was a pilot for a long time so I knew that if I had this opportunity I wanted to jump on it,” Memorial High senior Jonathan Hopkins said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot here. I like it a lot.”

 When McAllen High student Aries-Mia Astudillo heard about it, she asked if actual flying was involved. Yes, she was told.

 “I was like ‘I have to take it’,” she said. “Right then and there I asked for an application. I fell in love with it ever since.”

 McAllen ISD partnered with the McAllen Flight Academy to offer the initial course this school year.

 McAllen ISD's CTE Program offers more than four college certification opportunities through dual enrollment credit, more than 30 professional licenses and certification opportunities and more than 20 programs of study, all aligned to 13 Career Clusters.

 McAllen ISD does accept out-of-district transfers. Contact the office of Student Outreach at 956-687-MISD (6473) for more information.

Jazlynn Flores, a senior at McAllen ISD’s Memorial High School, sits in the cockpit of a single-engine aircraft in the fall of 2022. She is one of 12 students taking the course where she can earn a Private Pilot License and a Remote Drone License by May of this year.

See story from KRGV-TV Channel 5 below: