LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Hundreds of thousands of people flock to Lakeland to view SUN ‘n FUN’s airshows and expo, and their efforts end up helping hundreds of students in Polk County.
The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is a missionized effort working to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals. Eighty percent of the funds collected from SUN ‘n FUN go toward the Aerospace Center for Excellence.
ACE is a 14-building aerospace STEM facility located on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo campus. The Central Florida Aerospace Academy is on the campus, as well as the Florida Air Museum and Lakeland Air Club.
CFAA is a Polk County public high school career academy. Students have the latest technology helping them learn everything about aviation and aerospace. Students are able to get a full education, which will help them become pilots, airplane mechanics, certified drone pilots, and aerospace engineers.
“I’ve always had a dream of becoming a pilot and coming here really gave me that leg up on achieving that dream,” said CFAA senior, James Chamberland.
Chamberland isn’t only a senior at CFAA, he’s also a private pilot. It’s because of the opportunities he was able to take advantage of as a student at CFAA.
“For seven months, I applied for a scholarship that equals about $11,000 and that’s why I was able to get my private pilot license and soon I’ll get my tailwind license,” Chamberland said.
These scholarships are all thanks to donations and sales from SUN ‘n FUN and the Aerospace Center for Excellence. Every year, ACE gives over $300,000 in scholarships. Scholarship money also goes to students in the Lakeland Air Club.
As a part of this club, students get to build, service, and fly their planes.
“It’s given me something that most people can’t say that they have now at 17 and that’s purpose,” CFAA senior, Aron Yichye said. “I have a purpose now in influencing the youth in aviation, I know that’s something I want to do in my career in the future.”
At just 17, Yichye is also a private pilot. That’s the case for many students at CFAA.
It was 11 years ago when SUN ‘n FUN made ACE its primary mission. Since then, the scholarships have created 121 pilots and 40 more are on their way.
For more details on CFAA, ACE and SUN ‘n FUN, visit the Aerospace Center for Excellence’s website.