(ABILENE, Texas) – Bristol Poindexter did not realize that a talk with her Clyde High School counselor would lead to a career.
The high school senior is taking dual enrollment classes in Texas State Technical College’s aviation program, with plans to continue her education in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology this fall.
“My counselor told me about the opportunity, and it sounded really interesting,” she said. “We toured the hangar, and it looked so cool that I knew I wanted to be part of it.”
Poindexter said she finds TSTC’s aviation programs to have great potential.
“I knew this was something I could do for college and plan to make it a career,” she said. “I like the hands-on way of working and learning.”
Poindexter credits her father for her interest in working on engines.
“My dad is a race car driver and a truck driver,” she said. “He has a big shop where I am always helping fix things. I have always liked to work on things, so it was easy to make that my career.”
In addition to her course work, Poindexter had an opportunity to try something new.
“I was able to taxi an airplane down the runway,” she said. “I was nervous doing that, but it was something I never experienced before.”
Poindexter said having experienced instructors, including Brian Wilkins, has helped her during the time she is in the hangar.
“The instructors are so awesome,” she said. “I love being around everyone and cannot wait to get started in college.”
Even though Poindexter is still in high school, Wilkins does not cut corners when it comes to curriculum.
“Right now, she is learning the federal aviation regulations, which are all of the laws we have to follow,” he said. “It is a pretty tough course for a high school student, and she is doing well.”
Being the only dual enrollment female student is not a drawback for Poindexter.
“I met one of the female students in the program, so I know I am not alone,” she said. “When I start college, I will have someone I can look up to for help.”
When Poindexter is at her high school, she talks about the things she learns at TSTC with the hope that more students take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities.
“The people I talk to are always interested in what I am learning,” she said. “Many of them have not heard about this program. I hope more of my classmates look at these opportunities.”
Wilkins said the goal for dual enrollment students is to give them a glimpse of the program in hopes that they return.
“You definitely have to come back because the way our certification works is you cannot do it in two years of high school,” he said. “When you take the dual enrollment classes, you are already ahead of the game because you have some of the classes under your belt.”
Shelby Bennett, a TSTC dual enrollment recruitment representative, said Poindexter is a model student.
“She is my first female dual enrollment student to go into this particular program. It is amazing to see females going into trades,” Bennett said. “She is a great example to show other future dual enrollment students that trades are not meant just for the guys. Females can also get into these types of programs to learn the skills of a trade and do just as well as the guys, if not better.”
Poindexter still thanks her counselor for leading her to a career.
“I am still happy my counselor talked to me about this program,” she said. “It has set me up for a good career.”
Bennett said dual enrollment students like Poindexter will have one advantage over many students.
“After this current semester, Bristol will have completed an entire semester’s worth of work in this program,” she said. “That is one of the advantages of students getting into dual enrollment with TSTC. TSTC is partnered with several high schools across the state of Texas to provide premium technical dual enrollment opportunities. These partnerships help get these high school students into programs that give them a head start on their future.”
The need for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in Texas is forecast to grow 8% by 2028, according to onetonline.org. The average salary for a technician in the state is $66,260, the website showed.
TSTC offers Associate of Applied Science degrees and certificates of completion in both Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology at its Abilene, Harlingen and Waco campuses.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.