Log In

Reset Password

Mancos students attend drone camp, complete 100 career certifications in first year of program

A Mancos student flies a drone at CSU’s drone camp. (Todd Cordrey/Photo Courtesy)
Mancos’ pathway program will add health care and entrepreneurship for the 2023-2024 school year

Earlier this summer, Mancos school district’s Superintendent Todd Cordrey took five of the school’s drone program students up to Colorado State University to attend a drone camp and take their drone commercial license certification test.

The camp taught students the in’s and out’s of drones, while allowing them to stay in the dorms, eat college food and experience college life. Five other schools attended, and they each brought five students. The other schools were Peak Virtual Academy, Fort Lupton High School, Montrose High School and Hinkley High School.

The camp was hosted by CSU’s drone center and Aims Community College, and students attended for free after CSU obtained a grant to cover the cost. Students also received a stipend for spending money while attending the camp.

“During the day,” Cordrey said, “we would get really intensive training, the academic training on how to become a remote drone pilot in preparation for the commercial drone pilot’s license.”

Throughout the week, Cordrey and the students were able to fly a wide variety of drones in the CSU drone center fleet and completed their test for the license at the end of the week. Students were also given a tour of a local airport and were able to witness how air traffic control works firsthand.

The students were even given the chance to fly a plane and were given the controls once the plane got to an altitude of 10,000 feet.

Along with the students, Cordrey also completed his commercial drone pilot’s license.

“They sent us home with a drone so we were able to add a drone to our fleet of about 10 other really cool drones that we have,” he said.

At the beginning of the 2022 school year, the Mancos school district hired CSU to help develop a drone program, and some CSU staff served as instructors for part of the course. They also partnered with Pueblo Community College and Cortez Municipal Airport manager Jeremy Patton.

“He’s been a tremendous support for our aviation program,” Cordrey said of Patton. “He’s been great with supporting us and educating our kids.”

Cordrey noted that the goal of the drone program is to introduce students to the world of aviation, showing them what is possible in a drone career as well as other aspects of aviation.

“Really what we’re doing with this drone aviation program is to introduce our students to the world of aviation and all the careers that are available through aviation,” he said.

The district, with the help of its new grant department, has obtained grants to help with the program’s funding.

One of the grants is an economic development grant, while the other is from the Colorado Department of Education. The program will offer two drone classes a semester for interested students. The first is for students to understand career opportunities with drones and practice flying, and the second is to help them pass their “rigorous” licensing exam. Both are led by teacher Josh Dalley.

He also spoke of some of the careers that are open to licensed drone pilots such as law enforcement, firefighting, search and rescue, journalism, photography, travel, delivery, roofing, real estate, wildlife tracking and more.

Discussions surrounding adding a pathways program to the Mancos schools began in early 2022 with the goal of helping students prepare for a four-year university and while giving them the skills to do a trade or enter the workforce with applicable experience. Students study core classes in the morning and go on to their pathways classes after lunch.

“That way, all of our students stay on track for a four-year university if that’s their path, and then in the afternoon, every student has the opportunity for a pathway in culinary, welding, entrepreneurship, health care or drone aviation,” Cordrey said.

An exciting addition Cordrey shared was the addition of a healthcare pathway under local chiropractor Dr. Travis White, who will teach students about the medical industry.

“It was really quite the coup to get Dr. White on our team,” Cordrey said. “We’re really fortunate to have that level of expertise, teaching our kids on our campus, it’s just phenomenal.”

Another new addition to the pathways program will be the entrepreneurship path led by the president-elect to the Colorado Association of Realtors and a past Mancos graduate who just finished his bachelor’s degree in business.

Students will learn how to build their own businesses from scratch, and at the end of the year, will compete for $3,000 to launch their business.

“The whole purpose of this program is to teach kids how to start real businesses, where they immediately try to get revenue and profits and then they get to keep those businesses forever,” Cordrey said. “It’s a real environment; it’s not a simulated environment. It’s a real business that they’re creating.

Over the course of the past school year, 2022-2023, Mancos students received over 100 career certifications. Many of the pathway programs also have embedded concurrent enrollment opportunities, and Mancos students received over 1,000 credit hours of college classes with the combination of core classes and pathways.