Tuskegee NEXT has had an incredible impact on my son, Channing Gray.

The program offered him the opportunity to receive a scholarship and complete a rigorous ground school and flight training program that led to his certification as a pilot!

Channing Photo standing outside at Falcon Field.jpeg

I never imagined that taking my son to see the movie Red Tails would inspire him to say, “Mama, I want to be a fighter pilot.” Fast forward six years and I am pinching myself as I witness his graduation from the Tuskegee NEXT program as a certified pilot.

The Tuskegee Next program gave my son a sense of independence as he lived away from home and in an apartment on a college campus. The ground school curriculum and flight training were very rigorous and required that he demonstrate mastery at each level before progressing to the next level. 

I appreciated the high standards of excellence required by all at Tuskegee NEXT, including: Founder, Mr. Stephen Davis, staff leaders, Illinois Aviation Academy President, Mr. Robert Werderich, and Chief Pilot/Instructor Mr. Scott Malcolm.

The program’s guidelines and requirements gave me a sense of comfort, knowing that my son had to prove he completely comprehended ground school theory, passed his exams, and mastered day and night flights with flight instructors before he could progress to solo flights.

I am also grateful for the guidance of the male and female mentors of the Tuskegee NEXT program. They allowed my son the freedom to resolve challenges without my direct intervention.  Subsequently, Channing matured as a young adult in learning how to implement solutions and excel as a disciplined student and leader. 

The Tuskegee NEXT program exposed my son to various aviation and aerospace events including the Oshkosh EEA AirVenture, the Chicago Air Show, and meeting fighter pilot team members.  During the two months of the program, his schedule kept him busy at the Illinois Aviation Academy, attending events, and participating in recreational activities. More importantly, Channing stepped up and demonstrated leadership skills by helping his fellow cadets. This also helped him mature as a young man.

As a single mom who has encouraged my son to dream big and work to fulfill his career goals as a pilot, I knew my income did not allow me to enroll Channing in a flight training program to earn his pilot’s license like the one offered by Tuskegee NEXT at Illinois Aviation Academy. The Tuskegee Next program exceeded my expectations as a parent and my son’s pilot career pathway goals as a senior in high school by offering him an opportunity to enroll in a flight training program, earn his private pilot’s license, and develop his leadership skills as well.