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Flying into the Future

Emily Neubauer – RUSD Communications Manager
Mar 11, 2019

RACINE A bright, sunny day is when you can really see them. The clouds don’t block your view and the colors pop against the blue sky.

   Brayden Cespuglio is part of Horlick’s aviation pathway through the
   Academies of Racine. The Academies are designed to ensure students
   are better prepared for college and the regional workforce. 

   Submitted photo 

A young Brayden Cespuglio looks up, his grandfather next to him. One by one, they thunder down the runway, gaining speed until they’re airborne.

“Standing there with him, I knew I wanted to learn more. I wanted to figure out how they work,” Cespuglio explained.


He’s talking about airplanes.

“My grandpa was in the Air Force. When I was younger he used to take me on air bases and we’d watch them take off,” Cespuglio remembers.

Now, the Horlick High School junior isn’t just watching airplanes, he’s building them.

Cespuglio is part of Horlick’s aviation pathway through the Academies of Racine. In fall 2016, Racine Unified launched the Academies of Racine at Case, Horlick and Park High Schools.

The Academies are designed to ensure students are better prepared for college and the regional workforce.

In changing curriculum, developing small learning communities and better connecting with local businesses and organizations, the Academies help students graduate with a plan.

Expanding interest 

Within the Academies are specific pathways, such as culinary arts, engineering, marketing, automotive technology and construction, among other specialty areas based on high-demand careers.

One pathway gaining momentum is aviation. In 2018-2019, roughly 40 students were part of aviation courses. In 2019-2020, that number is projected to jump to roughly 60 students.

“It’s been a great opportunity to learn about what I love in the classroom and then use what I’ve learned in a real-world setting,” Cespuglio said.

Last year, Cespuglio started a youth apprenticeship at DeltaHawk Engines, Inc., a general aviation engine manufacturing company. DeltaHawk is focused on building two-stroke diesel engines designed for small aircrafts.

“We’re in the process of transitioning from a startup company that focused on research and development to manufacturing a product,” Lisa Fiorita, DeltaHawk’s Human Resources Director explained. “We have grown so much in the last 3 ½ years – it’s really exciting.”

Three times a week Cespuglio goes to work at DeltaHawk.

“I have learned so much already. I work on minor projects, basically taking things apart and putting them back together,” Cespuglio said. “It’s great here. They treat me like one of them and it’s an experience I would have never gotten if it weren’t for my aviation class.”

Horlick’s aviation pathway is quite the experience itself. That is in large part thanks to DeltaHawk.


A donated plane 

In 2017, a family in Marinette donated a small two-passenger airplane to Horlick High School as it began its aviation pathway. But, they had nowhere to store it.

So, DeltaHawk offered to donate part of their hanger space at Batten International Airport.

Every week, students in the aviation pathway are transported to Batten where they learn the ins and outs of aviation mechanics including, theories of aircraft physics, aircraft schematics and fuel systems.

“Where has it [the Academies] been all these years? It is absolutely critical that we have these opportunities to bridge academics with the professional world,” Fiorita said. “Students can learn about the curriculum, they can read books, but we can say, ‘come here and actually physically see what we’re doing.’”

“It’s giving me the opportunity to see what a real job in this industry looks like,” Cespuglio added. “It offers me insight into the real world and prepares me for life after high school.”

Cespuglio will graduate in the class of 2020 - the first Academies of Racine graduating class. And while the future can be unknown for some high school students, Cespuglio has his pretty much mapped out.

“I plan to go into the military,” he said. “I leave for basic training this summer.”

And when he gets back, he plans to pick up right where he left off - finishing school, working at DeltaHawk and always looking up – never forgetting the grandfather who first showed him how.

“He’s definitely proud,” Cespuglio said.