Helping Dreams Take Flight

Michael Bouchard (’22) remembers the moment he decided to become a pilot. Now, he’s working to give students in the local community the same opportunity.

Aeronautical Science major Michael Bouchard ('22) stands beside a plane on the Embry-Riddle Flight Line. (Photo: Michael Bouchard / Embry-Riddle)
Bouchard's course blends classroom instruction with hands-on activities and experiences. (Photo: Michael Bouchard)

A friend recommended he take a discovery flight, and the rest was history.

Now, the Aeronautical Science major is heading up a partnership between Embry-Riddle and the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District geared toward teaching young and motivated students about opportunities in aviation.

“Without that friend, my life would be completely different,” he said. “I’m trying my best to be like my friend and change a few people’s lives through education and mentoring.”

Sixteen eighth-grade students from four different schools in the city were selected to participate in a brand new after-school enrichment program, dubbed the Cottonwood-Oak Creek Condors.

Bouchard developed an eight-unit, interactive course covering flight history, basic principles, aircraft systems and maneuvers, weather, communications, career opportunities, drones and more. His course also includes several field trips, guest speakers and a special parents’ night.

The group visited the Prescott Campus to explore the Crash Lab, Riddle Ramp and maintenance hangar. Students even had an opportunity to fly the simulators.

“Cottonwood isn’t a very wealthy area, and a few of the kids come from troubled homes,” he said. “Introducing them to a career that they would love and that would allow them to travel and make a better life for their future families is awesome.”

As a bonus, members of the local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter’s Young Eagles program will host a rally in Cottonwood where the students can take discovery flights of their own.

“I am especially excited to fly a few of them myself this month,” he said.

Having already gained experience as a peer counselor and a campus academic mentor in the College of Aviation, Bouchard’s involvement in the new program has solidified his passion for teaching. He’s more than ready to hit the ground running in his new role as a certified flight instructor at Embry-Riddle.

“I’m super excited to be able to fly every day of the week and I love teaching, so it is going to be a blast,” he said.

Bouchard is a member of the Republic Airways Cadet Program and has already accepted an offer with the airline following his two-year stint as an instructor. Also selected for the Delta Propel Program, he even has a qualified job offer lined up with Delta Air Lines once he completes his regional training.

He looks forward to staying involved with the program as it grows and impacts young aviators for years to come.

“This class is the kind of thing the kids will remember for the rest of their lives,” he said. “All of the work would be totally worth it if just one of them became a pilot.” 

All those involved in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek Condors include Parker Northrup, Dwayne Fernandes, Steve King, Laurie Altringer, Tricia Winters, Claire Giles, Patrick McKinney, Griffin Jeannette and Shaun Shephard.