By Maria Jose Subiria
Nearly 400 students from Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties stepped into the shoes of employees at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently, as they explored various aviation careers.
Students from M.D. Roberts Middle School, and North Clayton and Riverdale high schools, in Clayton County, Lithonia High School in DeKalb County, and South Atlanta and Tri-Cities high schools, in Fulton County, participated in "One Great Day of Job Shadowing" in honor of Black History Month on Friday at the AirTran Airways hangar.
"I've been doing this for two years, and you are an exciting group of kids who are interested in learning ... the cream of the crop," said John Smith, an airway transportation safety specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Tracy Gilbert, Department of Aviation program manager for Hartsfield-Jackson, has been a coordinator for the job-shadowing event, which is a Partners in Education program, since its creation in 2006.
She said employer participation has grown since the program's inception, as more Delta Air Lines and FAA employees have become involved.
She said workers take the time to explain to students the ins and outs of their particular jobs.
"We want them to have a one-on-one chance to talk to them about their position," Gilbert said. "It gives them a real-world connection of what goes on in the airport."
According to Gilbert, the airport began collaborating with North Clayton High School in 2002 on educational events, because of its proximity to the airport.
Since its creation, the job-shadowing event has been opened to students from more area schools.
"It was very interesting, because I don't have to focus on one area and it allows me to broaden my horizons," Amber Welch, a senior at South Atlanta High School, said of the event.
Students gained access to parts of the airport not normally accessible to the general public. They were divided into five groups, and were allowed to tour different places such as the Hangar Maintenance Department for Delta, a perishables complex and the air traffic control tower, the tallest one in North America.
One student enjoyed the frigid temperatures at the perishables complex during the tour.
"I really liked going into the negative-five-degrees room, because I've never been in that kind of weather before," said Kalyn Crenshaw, a seventh-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School.
There were 13 exhibitors present at the event, including the U.S. Air Force, Department of Aviation Security, Department of Aviation Human Resources, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.
Teachers said the program offers educational and networking benefits to their students.
"I think the world of the executives at the airport," said Judy Nickel, the work-based learning coordinator for North Clayton High School. "They create awareness and exposure to careers in aviation and they inspire leadership qualities in students by connecting them with airport executives."