STEM to Naval Academy

STEM to Naval Academy


Rob McClendon: And for some of these students
that education continues at a CareerTech pre-engineering academy. Our Courtney Maye met a U.S. Naval officer
who says it was the academy at Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee that launched
her into a career of flying jets. Courtney Maye: Since she was 8 years old,
Whitney Heer wanted to fly jets. And today, her dream hasn’t changed. Whitney Heer: When I was 8 years old, my mom
took me to OU Sooner Flight Academy, and through that camp you learn all things, everything
associated with flight. Like aerodynamics, how rockets fly, how airplanes
fly, everything like that. And at the end of the week once you’ve learned
all of those things, they take you up in a small aircraft, and you get to fly for probably
about half an hour. Ever since then I’ve wanted to be a pilot,
and I found out that, you know, the military flies jets, so I wanted to join the military
and fly jets. Courtney: Heer found her pathway to the military
while in high school when she joined Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s pre-engineering
program, which gave her the math and science foundation she needed to enter the Naval Academy. Heer: The pre-engineering academy drew me
to Gordon Cooper. So this gave me kind of a solid platform to
stand on as far as physics, chemistry and math. Courtney: Sue Frerichs is a pre-engineering
instructor at Gordon Cooper Technology Center. Frerichs taught Heer while she was in the
pre-engineering academy. And she is still the person Heer calls for
advice today. Sue Frerichs: Whitney was incredibly — gritty
is the word I would use — because she worked hard and she never gave up. She was always willing to come in after class
or to ask questions and just stick with it to get it done, whatever that took. Heer: My instructors kind of just, they kept
me going on the frustrating days of you know, I’m not good at physics, I’m not good at math. And they’re like, well, you want to go to
the Naval Academy so we need to get this figured out. I spent hours after school with Miss Frerichs
doing math for the ACT, just practicing those problems and things. Courtney: As a student at Gordon Cooper, Heer
was involved in SkillsUSA, public speaking and FIRST Robotics, and she spends her spare
time mentoring students in these organizations. Frerichs: It is really important to us to
see our students carry on that tradition of mentoring and reaching out and helping other
people see opportunities that are available in STEM. Heer: Flying is probably the most amazing
experience I’ve ever had, and flying in a jetliner, you know, you hop on Southwest or
something and fly across the country, that’s not the same. Being in the cockpit, being the person that’s
there, it’s like everything that you do is what the airplane’s gonna do – totally different
experience. It’s a little bit scary but amazing at the
same time.

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