Forty-Two High School Students Graduate on July 19th ...

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Napalm Explodes behind Cobra Attack Helicopter

Napalm explodes behind a Cobra Attack Helicopter hovering in front of thousands of spectators at an air and ground show at McEntire Army and Air National Guard Base in 2009. (Photo by WSM)

Maggie, Celebrate Freedom Foundation's Cobra Helicopter

Maggie flies over the tree tops and performs a flyover as thousands below cheer at 2012 Celebrate Freedom Festival in Finlay Park, Columbia, S.C. (Photo by WSM)

U.S. Army Demonstration Team Cobra Helicopter

A U.S. Army Demonstration Team Cobra Helicopter roars past thousands of spectators attending an air and ground show at McEntire Army and Air National Guard Base in 2009.  (Photo by WSM)

Black Hawk Helicopter Hovers

As thousands of spectators attending the 2009 Air and Ground Show at McEntire Army and Air National Guard Base, a Black Hawk Helicopter hovers as the pilot demonstrates the aircraft's maneuverability.  (Photo by WSM)

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Forty-Two High Students Graduate on July 19th from Celebrate Freedom Foundation’s
2014 SOaR™ Aviation Science Summer Camp

Graduates of Celebrate Freedom Foundation’s 2014 SOaR™ Aviation Science Summer Camp gather for a group photo shortly after Maggie, CFF’s AH-1F Cobra Helicopter, lands just moments before the graduation ceremony, held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 19.  (Photo by Stuart Morgan)


Graduation Photos


By Stuart Morgan


Dr. Russell “Russ” David
CFF’s SOaR™ Program

Sunshines Solutions of Orangeburg

James Stephens
Interim Director
S.C. Aeronautics Comm.

Lt. Col. Michael Standish
Columbia Recruiting Battalion


Additional Photos


Aiken, S.C. ─ Forty-two high school students graduated on Saturday, July 19 from the Celebrate Freedom Foundation’s 2014 SOaR™ Aviation Science Summer Camp at Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute, Camp Long, in Aiken. Students greeted CFF’s AH-1F Cobra helicopter, Maggie, shortly after she landed approximately 15 minutes before the graduation ceremony began.

CFF’s highly successful SOaR summer camp, now in its third year, emphasizes STEM subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and careers in aviation. The camp is designed to help students understand that there are opportunities available to them in aviation. It is most effective helping a high school student formulate a vision for a future career choice now instead of waiting until he or she graduates from high school.

“Although it’s called an ‘Aviation Science Summer Camp’,” said Dr. Russell “Russ” David, director of CFF’s SOaR Aviation Education Program, “we emphasize the importance of staying in school, seeking additional education and considering a career in aviation. We always provide a broad variety of activities, and visit as many places as possible so students can encounter real world experiences and learn about opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We also let our students actually pilot an airplane, and this is what makes our particular camp unique above all others.

“This year’s summer camp was great, it was very informative and our best so far,” Dr. David added. “We had so many students come this year who absolutely had no idea what they were getting into, and some who had not ever even been close to an airplane, let alone fly one. The students, who graduated this year, will carry back with them stories that other kids will pick-up on, and hopefully, motivate them to attend next year’s SOaR summer camp.”

At this year’s SOaR summer camp, students performed actual maintenance on multi-million dollar aircraft under the direct supervision of FAA-certified airframe and power plant mechanics. They also examined up close mission-ready AH-1F Cobra helicopters. Thanks to the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, they also learned about model rocketry. But many students claimed that the highlight of the camp was flying a Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft on a cross country flight.

“This summer camp really enables high school students to identify what careers — if any — in the field of aeronautics they might be interested in, and helps them understand what STEM courses they’re going to need,” said Joe Rich, President and Owner of Sunshine Solutions in Orangeburg, the summer camp’s keynote speaker on graduation day and one of the camp’s major sponsors. “The camp facilitates careers and opens up doors of opportunity. It really helps students identify courses they’ll need in order to pursue their chosen careers in aviation when they graduate from high school and before they attend college.

“The summer camp is a huge success. It’s unbelievable,” Rich added. “To see the growth of this camp during the past three years just speaks volumes about the success of the camp, and of the students who participated — including the students who came back and attended the camp again this year.  It’s most important to open student’s eyes as to what opportunities are out there, and that their goals are attainable as long as they tailor their class schedules and work schedules. Students need to know what courses they’ll need to take to prepare themselves.”

“The summer camp is a huge success. It’s unbelievable. To see the growth of this camp during the past three years just speaks volumes about the success of the camp ... .”

Joe Rich, Keynote Speaker, President and Owner of Sunshines Solutions of Orangeburg

CFF’s 2014 Summer Camp has been one of the Foundation’s most successful summer camps so far, according to James Stephens, Interim Director for the S.C. Aeronautics Commission, who spoke at this year’s graduation ceremony.

“We’re looking forward to many more summer camps and to growing the Celebrate Freedom Foundation’s SOaR summer camp program’s focus,” Stephens said. “This summer camp program is important to the State of South Carolina, because it lets students know what jobs are available to them in the field of aviation here in South Carolina, and what opportunities are on the horizon.

“This summer, students were exposed to flight, mechanics, manufacturing, operations and the military,” he added. “The military is strong in South Carolina, and Boeing — and the infrastructure that’s associated with it — is providing so many growth opportunities to the entire state. Not only is the lower part of the growing in manufacturing, but there’s a lot going on in the upper part of the state as well. This, I believe, is just going to increase throughout the state — from the Upstate to the Lowcountry. We support the Celebrate Freedom Foundation’s SOaR summer camp, because we realize the camp’s importance.”

The U.S. Army sponsors CFF’s SOaR summer camp, because it provides an outstanding opportunity for young men and women to learn about civilian and military STEM careers, according to Lt. Col. Michael Standish, USA, commander of the U.S. Army’s Columbia Recruiting Battalion in Columbia.

“This year’s camp was fantastic,” Lt. Col. Standish said. “We got to see Maggie, CFF’s AH-1 Cobra Helicopter, fly in, and I think this thrilled the crowd.

“At the end of the day, it’s about inspiring these young men and women to think about their future careers,” he added. “And for many of them, aviation is certainly one the careers that appeals to appeals to their dreams. The U.S. Army is interested in STEM subjects, because STEM careers are the basis of everything that we do.”

Lt. Col. Standish should know. After all, in the U.S. Army he serves a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear officer.

“Everything that I do to protect our soldiers on the battlefield is based and rooted in STEM,” he said. “And frankly, if I had had the ability to learn the things I learned in high school or college, I wouldn’t be able to do my job effectively. It’s absolutely fantastic to see these great young Americans out here enjoying themselves, thinking about their futures, and at the end of the day, making good career choices about where they want to go in life.”

Approximately 558 students (eleventh and twelfth graders) applied for only 50 spots available in this year’s summer camp. Students attending the summer camp were divided into four teams:  the Cobras, F-35 Lightning II, Fighting Falcons, and U.S. Army/West Point Eagle.

Student Leaders

Anna Crocker
F-35 Lightning II Team
Senior, Blue Ridge High School, Greenville County

Aaliyah Belk
U.S. Army/West Point Eagles Team
Senior, Gaffney High School, Gaffney


Two of this year’s graduates spoke on graduation day.

Anna Crocker, 17, a senior at Blue Ridge High School in Greenville County and a member of the F-35 Lightning II team, described this year’s summer camp as amazing, and said it helped her figure out that she wanted to become a military pilot.

“The summer camp is an amazing opportunity for high school students, especially if they’re interested in pursuing a career in aviation or if they don’t know what they want to do,” Crocker said. “The camp isn’t just for people who want to become pilots. The camp also shows all of the opportunities that are available within the field of aviation.

“For me, the highlight of this year’s camp was probably having the opportunity to fly a Cessna airplane. It was just an amazing experience,” she added. “I had never been on an airplane before, and never seen airplanes and helicopters up close until I attended the camp this week.”

Aaliyah Belk, 17, a senior at Gaffney High School in Gaffney and a member of the U.S. Army/West Point Eagles team, described this year’s summer camp as fun and inspirational.

“The camp helps you decide what you’re going to do with your life,” Belk said. “The camp provides hands-own experience with so many things, and this helps students figure out exactly what they want to do.

“When I first came here, I was stuck on becoming a pilot and nothing else,” she added. “But when we got hands-own experience working with electrical wiring — as like in mechanic work with the bolts and stuff — I realized that I wanted to become a maintenance test pilot. I figured out what a maintenance test pilot was, and decided that I would love to do that.” 

More Photos by Stuart Morgan
Director of Public Affairs
Celebrate Freedom Foundation


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