C.E. Murray High School students and others posed on a plane after the SC Aeronautics Commission announced a grant awarded to the district. The grant will provide students at the high school with new laptops and desktop computers and equipment for an aerospace program beginning in the spring.

Photo by Michaele Duke

Opening the world of aeronautics to students is a gift but one that costs money. On October 23, with the Williamsburg Regional Airport as a backdrop, that gift was presented to students who attend C.E. Murray High School. SC Aeronautics Commission Executive Director James Stephens made the presentation of a grant in the amount of $76,800. The funds for the grant came from the State Aviation Fund whose revenue sources include aircraft fuel sales taxes and airline property taxes.

Others in attendance were SC Department of Commerce, Regional Workforce Advisor Eileen Patonay, Williamsburg County School District Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder and C.E. Murray Aerospace teacher Natasha Bryant who said this is the beginning of a new adventure for the students. “I’m pleased to know that our students will be able to compete with the students in neighboring districts in comparison with STEM and all other aspects of college and ready success,” said Bryant, adding. “This is only the beginning.” The grant will provide students with new laptops and desktop computers and equipment.

Wilder said without the grant, the program would not have been possible. “Our goal is to offer the aerospace program at each high school,” she said.

Stephens responded by saying they look forward to working with the district and students that will focus on engineering and how to build and design an aircraft. “Hopefully what you are going to learn through the program is opportunities,” he said.

Damari McKnight and Forrester Carraway, both in eighth grade are excited to be a part of the program. “I’ve always wanted to know about planes and how they work and how they fly in the air,” said McKnight. Carraway recalled participating in an engineering class. “We were designing different things and I wanted to know how airplanes actually work,” said Carraway. The boys will join others when the class begins in the spring.

Williamsburg Regional Airport has an economic impact of $3.1 million annually with $146,000 in annual tax revenues. SC Aeronautics Commission Executive Director James Stephens explained that businesses need that next generation to work in the field. “We’re all connected through the airports. The airports are front doors to communities.”

Regional Workforce Advisor Eileen Patonay encouraged the students to pursue their dreams. “You are preparing for a career in Williamsburg, in our wonderful state of South Carolina and a career internationally,” said Patonay. “You could go anywhere.”