Okaloosa Aerospace Academy Partner Recognized Among Best in Nation

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) recently recognized ERAU-Worldwide’s Fort Walton Beach Campus as one of the Campuses of the Year and recognized Ron Garriga, Campus Director, as the Staff Member of the Year with the announcement of their annual Latitude Awards. 

ERAU-Worldwide has partnered with the Okaloosa County School District to provide students with a dual enrollment aerospace program through the Okaloosa Aerospace Academy which offers college credit, weighted high school credit, FAA training, and early admissions to ERAU.  Formerly known as the Aviation Institute, this exciting program has been completely redesigned and is currently being offered at Choctawhatchee and Crestview High Schools.

“I am very confident to say the work our team has done to revamp the Okaloosa Aerospace Academy gave us the ERAU recognition,” said Garriga.  “We have hired some phenomenal faculty members that are subject matter experts and they are stellar in their field of study.  For example, we have the Marine pilot for the F-35s teaching our Basic Ground School program.”

The Okaloosa Aerospace Academy is open to high school students in grades 9–12.  While the 9th grade class is for high school credit only, 10th through 12th grade students will earn college credit.  Students can also earn a certification if they successfully pass the Basic Ground School exam.

“One of our goals with Embry Riddle is to prepare them to pass the certification test,” said Garriga.  “We are educating them daily on what they should know to be successful.”

Every student enrolled in the Okaloosa Aerospace Academy will enroll in the Aviation Track that consists of one or two classes each year (10th, 11th and 12th grade).  Optional tracks available to students include Aviation Maintenance Technology that may be taken concurrently with other Aviation courses.  This program will prepare students for advanced training in: Air Traffic Management, Aviation Maintenance, Aeronautical Engineering, Flight, Meteorology/Weather, or Unmanned Aerial Systems.

“Working so closely with Ron in the past several months makes me realize how fortunate our district is to have him and his team helping us build our new ERAU program with Okaloosa County Schools,” said Patti Bonezzi, Okaloosa County School District CHOICE & CTE Director.  “I know how tough the competition is at the level of ERAU and to know we have the ‘best in the nation’ working with us gives me impressive bragging rights!”

“We are proud of what the Aerospace Academies at Choctaw and Crestview have accomplished,” said School Board Member Cindy Frakes.  “To be recognized by ERAU-W as the model for future secondary aviation programs within the Worldwide operation is indeed an honor. Ron Garriga and his staff are doing amazing things with our aerospace students. Next semester we will offer Unmanned Aerial Systems, a high interest course for high schoolers. This program continues to engage our students as it provides a rigorous and challenging curriculum.”

About Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide’s Fort Walton Beach Campus

ERAU-Worldwide’s Fort Walton Beach Campus has affiliations with Crestview Bob Sikes Airport, Eglin AFB Aero Club, Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Association, Okaloosa County School District, Economic Development Council, TeCMEN, Northwest Florida Regional Airport, Destin Airport, and the Okaloosa County School District’s Okaloosa Aerospace Academy.  Local ERAU-Worldwide team members include Fort Walton Beach Campus Director, Ron Garriga; Assistant Campus Directors: Chris Harrison, Dawn Hitt, Erica Williams, and Tricia Bethea; and Associate Campus Directors: Amanda Adams, Ashley McCallum, and Mellany Stone.

Ron Garriga was given the ERAU Staff Member of the Year award which recognizes an individual who has performed above and beyond the call of duty to achieve accomplishments considered extraordinary that have contributed to the success of the ERAU-Worldwide organization and achievement of its mission.

The Fort Walton Beach Area Campuses of ERAU was recognized as one of the Top 5 Campuses of the year Award, out of 150 Worldwide.  This award is given to campuses that have demonstrated solid performance in the following categories: academics, enrollment, industry, community, military involvement, and service to students. 

For more information on the Okaloosa Aerospace Academy or to apply for enrollment, please contact Chris Harrison at Chris.Harrison@mail.okaloosa.k12.fl.us or call the Okaloosa Aerospace Academy at Choctawhatchee High School at 850-833-3614 or Crestview High School at 850-689-7177.

For more information on ERAU-Worldwide, please visit their website at: www.worldwide.erau.edu/fortwaltonbeach.