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Interview with Brian J. Kelly of R-MA Private Academy, the Driving Force Behind Recently Awarded FAA Grant

Here at Randolph-Macon Academy, we are always looking to better our academy to provide the best possible experiences for our students. Academic, social, and professional development are all important aspects of our campus life that are nurtured by attentive, caring faculty and staff that will go the extra mile to support our students. 

Thanks to these dedicated faculty and staff members, On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration named Randolph-Macon Academy a recipient for $307,215.90 of supplemental funding as part of the FAA Aircraft Pilots Workforce Development Grant Program. 

The main driving force in the effort for securing this funding was the Director of the Unmanned Systems Lab at R-MA, Brian J. Kelly. We had a chance to talk to him all about the process that underwent securing the grant, and what it means for the future of R-MA. Read on to learn about everything this grant is going to do for R-MA. 

Origins and Implications of this Federal Aviation Grant

We asked Brian how he and others at R-MA became aware of this grant. “In early January of 2021, we got the notification of a funding opportunity to the FAA’s Aircraft Pilots Workforce Development Grant Program. They outlined $5 million in funding with a rigorous selection process which they opened up to high schools across the country, and if you met a certain number of requirements, you could qualify for that opportunity.”

The implications of this potential funding were important for R-MA’s Unmanned Systems program, which Brian Kelly noted: “has been funded by private donations (alumni donations, private benefactors) that saw the benefit of the aviation program.” The Manned Systems program has been in place since 1985, and Brian himself came to R-MA under a private grant to start the Unmanned Systems Program in the fall of 2019. “It was a substantial amount of money,” he says of the funding, “but certainly not enough to sustain us in the long term. So when this opportunity hit, it really got my attention. I thought this was something that could really benefit both the Manned and Unmanned programs for years to come.”

This grant will allow students attending our private academy to see technology updates and potential financial aid opportunities

Biggest Impacts of this Grant for R-MA and the Students of Our Private Academy

With an average student to teacher ratio of 9:1, the small class sizes at R-MA allow students to immerse themselves in our hands-on curriculum that lets them explore their interests and gain a deep understanding of each concept. Students in the aviation program will now have an added level of technology to use to better their education and understanding of aviation.

“We have some pretty interesting technology equipment acquisitions that we will be making over the next year,” Brian told us of the impact the grant will have on the aviation programs. “From the manned side, there will be additional flight simulators so students can get in the classroom and work through flying an airplane with a desktop system,” he said. “In the Unmanned world, we will have drone platforms and payload sensors that we can put on the drones that a lot of universities are going to wish they had.”

Along with major technological advancements, Brian told us that “it’s going to expand that dream of ‘what can we do.’ It’s going to allow students to think beyond the walls of the school.” Additional impacts for our private academy include extensive community partnerships and scholarship opportunities for students.

Students will get next-level education as they navigate the aviation program with advanced technology thanks to the FAA grant

The FAA Grant is Just the Beginning of the Opportunities to Come for R-MA

Not only does this grant work to improve the aviation program for current students, but it will continue to have an effect on the future of R-MA. Brian told us of the wonderful financial aid opportunities this grant will provide for prospective students. “There are about 65 financial aid opportunities that are a part of this grant. We have a number of scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 to pursue that dream of aviation in the manned or unmanned world,” he explained.

Continuous improvements around the programs and facilities at R-MA is what keep us ranked as a leading college prep school. These structured programs and innovative technology, paired with our rich heritage, R-MA is focused on developing the leaders of tomorrow and helping students reach their full potential. We know that this grant will only “continue to raise our profile across the board,” as Brian put it, and spread the word about the great work we are doing for our students at R-MA.

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