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Unique internships give students a lift
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Nick Colon, 15, radios the control tower “Cessna 2091 Alpha, ready for departure,” as the high school sophomore prepares for takeoff on his first day of in-flight instruction as part of Newpoint Pinellas High School’s aviation pilot internship program.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas high school students are taking to the sky. Newpoint Pinellas High School in Clearwater began offering an aviation pilot training class this fall as part of its nationally acclaimed professional internship program.

The program allows high school students interested in becoming an airplane pilot to become acquainted with the industry and even earn their pilot’s license through the process.

Nick Colon, a 15-year-old sophomore, was understandably nervous as he took the helm of the four-seater Cessna Skylane on Nov. 29 for his first flight. After reviewing the pre-takeoff safety guidelines, Instructor Chip Laskey asked him if he had any questions.

“No. Just keep me safe,” Colon replied.

Laskey, a flight instructor for over 30 years, agreed to teach the course and take the five students under his wing after finding out about the program.

“The class was originally designed for two students, but after interviewing, I decided to take all five. They impressed me so much,” Laskey said.

The flight was exhilarating for Colon and the other four students taking part in the pilot internship. The class meets off-campus at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport for a full day each Friday. The course covers the material necessary to pass the written test required as part of earning a pilot’s license. Students may take flying lessons outside of class to log the 40 hours of flight time necessary to complete the overall licensing requirements.

Patrick Bratli, vice president of Flight Excursions, donated the plane and fuel for the day to allow the interns to have the experience of flying a plane.

The aviator internship is only one of many available to Newpoint Pinellas High School students. Others are actively interning at Largo Medical Center, Bright House Field, SPCA of Largo, Law Office of Bill Demus, LA Fitness and Florida Best Quote Insurance Agency. The school also actively seeks out other intern programs based on student interest.

Newpoint Pinellas High School is a tuition-free charter school in Clearwater serving students in grades 9 through 11. The school opened in Sept. 2011 and currently has just fewer than 100 students enrolled in their program. They are able to accept up to 225 students.

The school stresses academic achievement with college preparatory curriculum and, in addition to their unique internship program, offers a high-tech, computer-based environment in class sizes restricted to 25 students.

Tonya May, a language arts teacher at Newpoint Pinellas, said the teaching model they use stresses the importance of working together to solve problems. This model uses small student groups with peer group tutoring coupled with direct teacher contact and independent learning on the computer.

One result is “we have really well disciplined students,” May said.

John Selover, director of the school, initiated the internship program to provide the opportunity for the teens to find a career that they may want to pursue. It also provides a chance for local professionals to get involved and share their knowledge.

“Even if students try something and they don’t like it, it’s still a successful internship as they found out something that they don’t want to do,” said Selover.

For example, Selover said, one student envisioned becoming a veterinarian and interned at the SPCA but decided that that wasn’t the profession for her.

To be eligible to participate in an internship, students are required to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average, have no disciplinary problems, receive two recommendations from school staff and formally apply and interview with the business or organization offering the internship.

According to Selover, this program teaches the “soft skills” of the real world environment such as “looking an adult in the eye while shaking their hand” as well as the importance of being on time and dealing with conflict in the office.

Ahlohn Wolf, 17, a junior at Newpoint, appreciates the opportunity offered through the internship program.

“It’s something that not everyone gets to do. I can say I had fun in high school and learned how to fly a plane,” Wolf said.

For more information about enrollment at Newpoint Pinellas High School, visit or call 727-475-1256.
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