INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The first semester of his freshman year at
Vincennes University’s Aviation Technology Center, Tywain Lockhart was struggling.
An arduous commute on weekdays involved taking two buses and
walking the final two miles to the ATC campus located at Indianapolis
International Airport. He was working as a janitor at night. He was
also grieving the death of his brother.
“My first semester was a struggle,” Lockhart says. “I flunked
Yet the Indianapolis native remained determined to get a degree
in Aviation Maintenance Technology.
His lengthy commute alone would deter most people from forging
ahead, but not Lockhart. He continued working toward his goal and kept
making the pre-dawn trip from his home to ATC for a 7:30 a.m. class,
despite only getting a few hours of sleep.
“I would get off work at 10:30 at night and I had to take the
bus home,” he says. “I’d get home at midnight and have to be up by 3
a.m. to catch the first bus. I’d have to catch a bus at the downtown
terminal by 4:30 a.m. to get here on time.”
Demand for aviation maintenance technicians is high. There is a
need for 189,000 new mechanics in North America through 2037,
according to a Boeing study.
Driven by a love of working with his hands and dead-set on
entering an industry brimming with great job prospects, Lockhart
“My second semester, they put me on academic probation,” he
says. “At first, I had to obtain a 2.8 GPA and if I didn’t they were
going to take all my tuition money away. I didn’t have the money to
pay out of pocket for each semester. Over Christmas break, I said,
“I’m not going to keep failing classes.”
He returned to ATC the second semester driving a car that his
parents purchased for him and with a stronger dedication to his coursework.
“Second semester I passed my first class with an A,” he says.
“I started getting A’s and B’s.”
Lockhart has nearly completed an associate degree in Aviation
Maintenance Technology with a concentration in airframe and
powerplant. He will proudly walk across the stage to accept his degree
at Commencement on May 10 on the ATC campus.
Lockhart credits ATC Director Michael Gehrich and Rick Evans, a
senior faculty member, for seeing his potential and helping him
navigate the program with success.
“I have a good support system behind me, knowing that they are
there,” Lockhart says. “They know you by your name. They ask you,
‘What’s going on? Did you get to class on time?’”
Gehrich says they strive to meet students where they are.
“When a student like Tywain makes it known that they are
interested in being successful and are not currently successful, then
that’s when we really lock on and get them on our radar screen to make
sure we give them as much support as we can,” Gehrich says.
“Unlike some of the other universities that take the approach
that ‘this is college and you either you make or not,’ we don’t take
that approach here. All of us are very passionate about aviation. Most
of us have been here for a very long time. Many of us are VU graduates
and we remember what it was like to be a VU student long before we
were a VU faculty member. We put all those things in place and say,
‘This is a young man or woman who wants to accomplish a goal and
they’re not finding success on their own, so how can we put in a
little more effort with them to help them get across the finish line?’”
Lockhart has reached the finish line.
He has landed a job with a coveted employer: GE Aviation. He
will work at GE’s jet engine assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana.
“We currently have about three job opportunities for every
graduate within the state of Indiana…there’s that much demand,”
Gehrich says. “If a student is interested in going out of state, then
literally they can get a job nearly anywhere in the country.
“GE is so coveted locally because it is the highest paying
company right out of school. The base pay is $30 an hour right out of
school with no experience, and it’s a brand-new facility.”
Continuing his education is also important to Lockhart. He
wants to transfer to Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis. VU and Purdue
Polytechnic Indianapolis offer a joint degree program. Students who
complete an associate degree in aviation flight or maintenance with VU
are eligible to transfer to Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis to earn a
bachelor of science degree in aeronautical technology.
Lockhart has also started the process of earning his pilot’s
license so he can repair and fly his own aircraft.
“Once all the pieces started fitting together for him, it was
really interesting to watch Tywain transform,”’ Gehrich says. “We went
from a student who was not successful at all to a student who is a
cheerleader out in the commons, who is bringing other students
together, and creating study groups. I think once he understood why we
push in the direction that we do - for the student’s benefit and
success - that he wanted to spread the word to the rest of the students.”
VU AVIATION TECHNOLOGY CENTER
The 92,000-square foot facility has two hangars and 15
aircraft, including a fully functional Boeing 737-200, as well as two
full-motion flight simulators and two stationary simulators. Students
can earn a Federal Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant
(A&P) certificate along with an Associate of Science Degree in
Aviation Maintenance Technology in just 20 months. Students training
to become commercial pilots can earn private, instrument, commercial,
and multi-engine ratings along with an Associate Degree in Aviation
Flight. More information is available at www.aviationtechcenter.com
or by calling 317-381-6000.