With a goal of becoming an astronaut, aerospace engineer, and CEO, Boy Scouts like Nickoli D’Agrella have gained valuable aviation maintenance experience in the Scout Aviation Maintenance Experience (SAME) Program, which provides summer scholarships that offer hands-on training at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport (KOSC) in northeast Michigan. The program has announced applications are open now through March 15, 2021, for young men and women to be selected for this summer’s program.
“Having already started my first semester at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, the experience I’ve gained throughout my years in high school has played an important role in helping me attend the college of my choice, and given me a unique perspective on my career field,” D’Agrella said. “With confidence, I can say that the SAME program was the biggest turning point in preparing me for my future career and providing me with unique opportunities not available to most youth. I accumulated 240 hours’ worth of logged and certified maintenance time at no out-of-pocket cost, learning such things as fabrication, electrical work, engine mechanics, avionics, and airframe maintenance.”
During the upcoming 2021 program, Scouts will be rebuilding a 1965 Cessna 150E that last flew in 1977. When done, it will replace a 1953 Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer that has been used to teach Scouts to fly since 2014. Previously, the program’s participants rebuilt a 1962 Cessna 150B purchased by Elizabeth Himwich, a licensed pilot trained by Program Advisor Dr. Pete Mapes.
Mapes, a retired USAF colonel, chief flight surgeon, and flight instructor, is one of three USAF veterans who started SAME, along with his wife, Nona Mapes, also a retired USAF colonel, and John Veld, a retired USAF sheet metal/composite structure repairman. All three are current private pilots and have built SAME to share their passion for aviation with the next generation of pilots, engineers, and aviation maintenance technicians. A large group of additional FAA-certified technicians assist in the program in various capacities.
“Any registered Scout, Explorer, Venturer, or Sea Scout who has completed the eighth grade or turned 14-years-old can apply for SAME,” Mapes said. “Scouts are responsible for getting to Oscoda, and some limited local hosting is available with Scout families for participants from out of state. It is important to note that the program has had more young women participate in it than young men.”
SAME is primarily funded through the generosity of Pete and Nona Mapes, with a value of approximately $6,000 per scholarship. Mechanics who assist in the program to teach the participants are paid an honorarium as well as given the keys to a guest cabin on Lake Huron for their trouble and expenses.
SAME was a perfect career launchpad for bright young people like D’Agrella who, with his twin sister Natasha, started their own aerospace company at age 12, to embark on a mission which Nickoli feels he was “born to do.” That mission is to build the first spaceship that can go faster than the speed of light. Because of this level of drive, Nickoli has received a handwritten letter from NASA’s director encouraging him to apply to join NASA once he has finished his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering.
To apply for the seven-week 2021 program, interested applicants need to submit an application containing a 200-word statement of why the scholarship is desired, along with their school transcript, Boy Scouts of America Membership number, a Young Eagles Flight Certificate (which can be waived in light of the pandemic this year) and three letters of recommendation to be considered. Upon completing the program, participants become eligible to apply for a yearlong flight training scholarship valued at $22,000 leading to certification as an FAA private pilot. Applicants can email the program at email@example.com or send their application via USPS to 206 East Park Street, Oscoda, MI 48750.