May 4, 2016

Not every high school has a Concord, a 787 Dreamliner and F-14 Tomcat in its backyard, but Raisbeck Aviation High School (RAHS) in Tukwila, WA does.

This is a school where 430 students push the boundaries of education on their way to careers in aviation and aerospace, and Raisbeck has been named the number one public high school in all of Washington by U.S. News & World Report. The magazine also ranked Raisbeck High as 132nd best in nation.

“One big part of that is programs like this,” said Principal Bruce Kelly, pointing around a room where 32 freshmen and sophomores were working on a plan to build and launch a small satellite. The “cube-sat” is scheduled to be rocketed into space by NASA as part of a University of Washington payload during the third quarter of next year.

“It’s with programs like this you forever transform a young person’s life, confirm this is the future they want to pursue, connect them with powerful industry mentors and community partners,” he said. “This is where you give them something they’ll always remember.”

Part of the reason for the success of students at RAHS is mentors like Ray Fletcher, a satellite programming expert now retired from Boeing.

“It’s fun to watch the kids grow,” he said. “You don’t want to tell them everything, you want them to learn for themselves. So you don’t hand them stuff on a silver platter.”

Members of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) serve as mentors as well, contributing to students’ success. “That’s what can turn a student experience into a career. It’s vital to the student and to the business aviation industry,” said NBAA Northwest Regional Representative Kristi Ivey.

Also, the Pacific Northwest Business Aviation Association (PNBAA) offers scholarships for RAHS students. Each year, Raisbeck seniors can apply for one of two PNBAA scholarships worth thousands of dollars each.

Students at Raisbeck intern with charter operators, FBOs, aviation manufacturers and some of the most prestigious aerospace companies in the Pacific Northwest. The U.S. News & World Report ranking took into account internships and college placement upon graduation. Raisbeck has never before been ranked this high by the magazine, Kelly said, so he recently threw a gala dinner for faculty, staff and mentors – one he called a rare celebration of excellence.

“I don’t celebrate enough,” Kelly said. “We need to do that more, and now we have a reason.”

Learn more about Raisbeck Aviation High School.