SEATTLE -- Seattle's Aviation High School last week moved another step closer to realization of its goal of finding a permanent home on the campus of the Museum of Flight, with the announcement of a $4 million gift from benefactors James and Sherry Raisbeck. The school has occupied temporary accommodations since its inception in 2004.
Aviation HS is a public school that accepts students from the Puget Sound area who wish "to pursue their passion for aviation and aerospace in a learning environment that prepares them for higher education, citizenship, and work."
The gift was announced at a ceremony held last Thursday. "The technical world needs the graduates of Aviation High School to form the basis for future aviation experts in order for the United States to maintain its lead in advancing the application of advanced and ever more complex technologies," says James Raisbeck. "By concentrating on the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Aviation High School is accomplishing what others can only dream about. Sherry is an educator. I am an engineer. We have both worked hard to achieve the means to help here, and we are proud and humbled to do so."
Aerodynamicist and entrepreneur Raisbeck is best known for founding Raisbeck Engineering, a manufacturer of performance-enhancing kits for business and commercial aircraft.
"If I could have had this kind of an environment in high school, I probably would have added 10 years to the time of my ability to make a contribution in aviation," says Raisbeck.
The Museum of Flight, located south of downtown Seattle at the south end of Boeing Field/King County Airport (BFI), invited AHS to be part of the expansion of its campus. The Museum has long had an active partnership with the school, providing robotics classes and free access to the Museum for students.
"Education is central to the vision and mission of The Museum," says President and CEO Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar. "Our mission is well aligned with that of Aviation High School: to help address a state and national crisis in STEM education."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is enthusiastic about the school and the Raisbeck contribution. "It's reassuring in these tough economic times to see a private group stepping up to help our schools," he says. "We need schools that deliver a practical approach to learning, where students can see how to apply their education in real-world situations."
In a statement released last week, AHS Principal Reba Gilman said, "We are seeking a total of $15 million from private, federal, and nonprofit sources and another $15 million from the State legislature. Thanks to the Port of Seattle and Highline Public Schools, we already have $12 million in reserve for this project, and the State legislature has already come through with about $1 million, and we recently received a federal appropriation for about $250,000.
"The total estimated cost of constructing the school is $43.5 million. We will get there because people like our lead donor believe in the mission and vision of Aviation High School and they see strong evidence that our instructional program is making a difference for students, the workforce, and the communities we serve."
In honor of its largest private donors, the new facility will be named Raisbeck Aviation High School.