Zachary: The Syracuse City School District is on the forefront of new trends in technology, as it prepares students for careers in in-demand, highly-technical fields. I visited one high school in the city’s west side that is leading the way with its drone technology program.
Zachary: At PSLA at Fowler High School, these students are ready to take flight. High above the City of Syracuse, as they learn to pilot DJI Phantom drones. And, at the helm of this experience is Quindell Williams, a longtime news photojournalist turned drone pilot, turned teacher. The PSLA program in the Syracuse City School District allows students the chance to specialize in and learn the ins and outs of a professional field of their choosing, before even going to college. Drone technology is one of the newer offerings, and Quindell Williams is a first year teacher, ready to get hands on in educating his students.
Quindell: I look back and I always say, wow, I wish I had this while I was going to high school, or even younger, because I’d probably be much further along in the things that I know and the things that I’m into right now.
Zachary: Quindell’s students are learning everything about drones, and will receive their certification by graduation. These juniors are running the show, taking on their own initiative to learn, using online videos and self-teaching.
Belal: From freshman year, we started from zero. We knew nothing. So, at first, we started to learn about Part 107, which is unmanned aircraft that are less than 55 pounds. And, we kind of grew up from there.
Zachary: That was Belal Hamad, who came in with high aspirations as, mind you, only a high schooler.
Belal: I got into drone technology just because it’s more of like, aerospace. I’m thinking about being an aerospace engineer or a pilot. It kind of provides both, being a pilot and an aerospace engineer.
Zachary: Quindell Williams attributes his ability to effectively teach this class, to the resources he has been provided with by the school district. And hopes to get even more tools in the near future.
Quindell: Just having the ability to have hands-on experience while in high school. It’s phenomenal.
Zachary: Coming from broadcast news, he didn’t take a traditional path into teaching, nor did he ever think he’d be a teacher.
Quindell: I’m from Syracuse, I grew up in the Syracuse City School District. I graduated from Nottingham, so for me it was just a way of giving back. I might not know everything about drones, this is my first year, but as I’m teaching the kids, they’re also teaching me.
Zachary: So as you saw there, students selected for this program are in it for all four years of their high school career, and their teacher, Mr. Williams, is actually certified as an adjunct professor at Mohawk Valley Community College. So as these students get later into their time in the program, they are actually taking what are considered college-level classes.