This Grand Rapids high school has students soaring to new levels

Vaughn Springer
Jun 23, 2021 4:45:29 PM

Charter schools across the state of Michigan offer students incredibly unique learning opportunities from environmental sciences and Montessori teaching to college prep and performing arts. One school located in Grand Rapids is helping students soar in an entirely new way. 

West Michigan Aviation Academy (WMAA) opened in 2010 and is located inside the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school provides students with a rigorous STEM curriculum, Advanced Placement course options, and the opportunity to graduate high school with a private pilot's license. When the US News & World Report of best high schools was released this spring, it was no surprise to see this school sitting at number 27 in the state. WMAA is also ranked 903 nationally, meaning it is in the top 5% of all high schools nationwide. 

West Michigan Aviation Academy awarded their first pilot’s license in 2012 and has steadily graduated up to 20 pilots each year. This year they flew past the milestone of 100 pilots bringing their total to 115 licenses granted. These students are getting career and technical education (CTE) credits while flying planes!

We have a lot to be proud of. What makes us different is our students. These kids are interested in aviation in one way or another and they're having fun. We're offering them a program they enjoy and they're getting a fantastic education while they're at it. "

- George Pavey, Dean of Aviation 

For students who are interested in aviation, but not flying, there are plenty of options. Right now, students are building a Carbon Cub EX-2 airplane that will be airworthy next year. Also, students can earn their FAA Small Drone license while participating in the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) course as well as our Lady Aviators Club promoting opportunities in aviation for women. There are endless possibilities here.

Students have so many opportunities outside of aviation that include classes like computer science, cyber security, biomedical engineering, robotics, and even humanities. Every year they have at least one national merit scholar, offer 13 or more Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and administer more than 340 AP exams for college credit to over 200 students. 

These are just some of the reasons that the waiting list extends beyond 100 students every year. Nicole Gasper, CEO, also considers the culture to be a main reason families desire to be at WMAA. 

About one-third of our families choose our school for the culture and atmosphere. [WMAA] really is a perfect pairing of traditional values and innovative ideas. Families appreciate that we want our student to become ladies and gentlemen. Some people may think that’s outdated or old school thinking, but we see it as students being able to carry themselves as global citizens and interact professionally at whatever level when they leave us.”  

- Nicole Gasper, CEO

The student body at West Michigan Aviation Academy comes from all walks of life and from all over the globe - something that is truly celebrated by the staff. This year the students' birth countries are represented by more than 40 different flags and there are countless languages being spoken on their campus every day.

students play on a playground

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