Throughout the 2019–2020 school year, our We Are DOE series will highlight some of the everyday heroes of NYC’s public schools. Featuring a cross-section of the DOE’s 140,000+ employees across the five boroughs, We Are DOE showcases some of the many unsung people who help keep the largest school system in the country running daily.
Today, please welcome Sadia Ahmed, a senior at Aviation High School in Queens.
“I want to do what women don’t usually do,” says Sadia Ahmed, a senior at Aviation High School in Sunnyside, Queens, which features an aviation maintenance technician curriculum. “I come from a very conservative background in a Bengali family and wear a hijab, but I’ve seen my mom step out of her comfort zone and be admired for everything she’s done. So that’s what I want to do, too.”
One of the DOE’s 135 Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools, Aviation began as a multi-purpose trade school in 1925 that branched into aeronautics in the 1930s. As the program became increasingly popular, the school moved in 1958 from Manhattan to its current location, which was designed with a 10,000 square foot hangar and a 15,000 square foot apron to house aircraft for students to work on. The school’s rigorous curriculum is approved by the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) and the school has been nationally recognized as a leader in both aviation maintenance and secondary education.
“When you take classes at school, you kind of wonder if you will every really need these skills in the real world, but it all made sense during my internship. I was able to use a lot of what I had learned in school.”
– Sadia Ahmed, CTE student, Aviation High School
All of that attracted Sadia as she was deciding in the eighth grade at nearby I.S. 5 Walter Crowley where she would like to go to high school. “I had just come back to the U.S. after spending five years away with my family studying in Bangladesh, which my parents wanted me to do to connect to my roots,” Sadia says. “That left me completely lost about what to do next other than that I wanted to do something special. I had some friends who went to Aviation and knew about its great reputation, so I thought, why not?”
During Sadia’s first semester at Aviation, she initially found the school’s challenging new FAA courses to be difficult but gradually gained confidence. “As it went along, I really liked the hands-on work we were doing: putting together batteries, creating your own circuit boards, learning how to use a multimeter, and things like that,” she says. “You learn that there’s a real art to being a technician; it’s actually amazing!”
During the summer after her junior year, Aviation connected Sadia with a paid internship working for Hyundai. That experience gave Sadia even more confidence that she was heading on the right track. She says, “When you take classes at school you kind of wonder if you will ever really need these skills in the real world, but it all made sense during my internship. I was able to use a lot of what I had learned at school.” At Hyundai, Sadia rotated car tires, checked rotors, conducted full inspections, and worked on engines.
While enjoying that manual work, Sadia came to realize that she wanted to push herself to an even higher level by pursuing a mechanical engineering degree in college. “Producing and maintaining cars and planes is great, but I think it would be even more satisfying to come up with ideas for designing and creating. You get to work with computer engineering software and develop something amazing like the Tesla. I actually went to the Tesla showroom the other day and was just mesmerized with how people created something that looks so great and helps the environment.”
While Sadia is waiting to hear back from a number of local schools that she applied to, her parents are thrilled that she will be the first in her family to attend college. After immigrating from Bangladesh when they were teenagers, both her parents worked at odd jobs before starting their own small businesses. Her father now manages real estate and her mother recently started a driving school after working in cosmetology. Their examples of industriousness continue to inspire Sadia.
“I’ve always known that I’m going to work super hard like they did to make them really proud.”
We thank Sadia, Aviation High School, and the hundreds of other DOE staff members who help support and motivate students like Sadia at approximately 300 CTE programs across the five boroughs.
Together, We Are DOE.