By Greg Gelpi
Through its partnership with North Clayton High School, the world's busiest passenger airport is fostering a passion for flying and training students for careers in aviation.
Several of the students already gain practical work experience, while getting a glimpse into an airport's operation, by serving as volunteers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Since her sophomore year in high school, senior Jennifer Dorsett, 17, has been showing some of the airport's millions of passengers the way to the appropriate concourse and transportation.
"You see a lot of interesting people," Dorsett says.
The experience teaches her how to meet people and how to work with others, she says.
Members of airport management, including General Manager Ben DeCosta, visited North Clayton High School to attract more students to the aviation field.
One such visit persuaded North Clayton senior Qulanda Moore, 18, to join the team of volunteers.
"What I enjoy most is meeting interesting people from all around the world," Moore says.
As a volunteer in Hartsfield-Jackson's terminals, she answers questions for the diverse crowd of international passengers passing through the airport.
Meeting people from around the world makes volunteering worth while, senior Oprah Clayton, 18, says.
"I had a great experience with customer service," Clayton says, adding that the hours at the airport were used for community service hours that she needed for school.
Although North Clayton's volunteers work mainly with customer service, Hartsfield-Jackson offers an array of jobs in an array of areas, DeCosta says.
"Today I hope to whet your appetite about the aviation industry," he says to the students. "There are hundreds and hundreds of jobs that take place at the airport."
Along with the traditional aviation jobs, there are hundreds of other jobs in support of aviation, DeCosta says, citing the roughly 400 jobs in police and fire services alone.
The various careers at Hartsfield-Jackson can accommodate an equally diverse group of workers, backgrounds and education, he says. DeCosta began his career as a "techie," designing atomic clocks and later went to law school and became a lawyer before entering government and the aviation industry and taking the helm at the world's busiest airport.
The key to his success and his ability to adapt has been education and reading, he says.
"If you walk into my bathroom at home, what will you find?" DeCosta asks. "A bookcase."
He attributes his climb to the top to his education in high school and college, but also to his love of books and reading.
To engage high school students in learning and the aviation industry, Hartsfield-Jackson sponsors a writing contest for students to express their thoughts about the most interesting aviation careers.
Naveen Hassin, 15, the winner of this year's contest, points to the pilot as the most interesting profession in aviation, since pilots must adjust to climates as they travel around the world.