October 27, 2022

Female aviation maintenance students buck trends

“I believe that if you have skills, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, and the opportunity for that in aviation is better now than it has ever been.”
BY: Paisley Boston

Above: front from left, Jazmyn Perritt of Clinton, Nicole Barrett of Starkville, Tiara Sankar of Trinidad, Mckynzie Nutt of Florence, Joi’Dawn Smith of Jackson; back left, Ward Marsh, Hinds curriculum Coordinator and Instructor.

Hinds Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT) Program has more females enrolled and on track to graduate than it has in the last 10 years.

Five women enrolled in the Hinds program are bucking stereotypes of what many consider the norms for women’s careers. Jazmyn Perritt of Clinton, Mckynzie Nutt of Florence, Nicole Barrett of Starkville, Joi’Dawn Smith of Jackson and Tiara Sankar of Trinidad are breaking glass ceilings in the aviation industry and at the college.

“We haven’t had a female graduate in this program for a very long time,” said Ward Marsh, curriculum coordinator and instructor. “I believe that if you have skills, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, and the opportunity for that in aviation is better now than it has ever been.”

“These five young ladies have the skill and the intellect to be great AMT mechanics. They’re not only going to be female graduates but also certified female aviation technicians,” he added.

Each year, the AMT program accepts a maximum of 18 students. The program prepares students to inspect, repair, service and overhaul aircraft and engine components and systems. It is a four-semester instructional program designed to introduce students to the rewarding profession of aviation maintenance while exposing them to the theories of operation for the various aircraft systems. The program also prepares students for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exams that are necessary to obtain an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) rating as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician.

Upon completion of the program, students receive a Technical Certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology or have the option of obtaining an Associate of Applied Science degree by completing a minimum of 15 academic hours in addition to, or in conjunction with, this program.

Jazmyn Perritt, 17, said her initial day of class was intimidating because she was one of only two females in the first year of the program. But after a few days, those feelings began to dissipate. “It’s just something so powerful about being one of only a few girls in a room full of guys,” she said.

“Before enrolling in this program, people told me not to pursue this and that I should just stick to teaching because no one would hire a woman to do a job like this. But I chose to ignore them. When I set goals for myself, I don’t care what it takes to accomplish them,” she added.

Nicole Barrett of Starkville, 29, a second-year student, had been an auto mechanic for many years and was sure that her career path would remain steady until she read about the AMT program. “I did not realize how much I was going to fall in love with it,” she said. “I was hesitant about applying for the program because I did not think I was smart enough to do something like this.

“Now, I am a single mom of four, divorced, working and in school full time. This is the best program in the world; I work on planes worth millions, all day,” she said.

For 19-year-old, second-year student Mckynzie Nutt of Florence, deciding to enroll in the program was a last-minute decision she made after graduating from high school. “As a kid, I was always interested in airplanes. Four months before interviewing for the program, I didn’t know anything about it. I saw an ad for it on social media, and the rest is history.”

Prior to enrolling in the program, many of the women said they faced scrutiny because of their elected career paths, but according to 22-year-old Tiara Sankar, Ward Marsh has made all the difference. “When I interviewed with Mr. Marsh, I told him my story and how hard it was in the military being an aviation mechanic, and his words were… ‘you are the Navy’s biggest loss and civilian aviation’s biggest win.’ ”

“Without Mr. Marsh, I would have lost my way; because of him, I feel like I have everything I need to succeed in this program and in life,” Sankar added.

First-year student Joi’Dawn Smith, 21, was studying aerospace engineering at Mississippi State University but quickly became discouraged due to the math requirements. She decided to chart a different path at Hinds. “The cost of tuition (at MSU) was ridiculously expensive,” Smith said. “After doing a little research, I learned about this program, and I realized that I enjoyed the mechanical side of aviation rather than the theoretical side of it.”

Although all five women enrolled in the program for different reasons, they all share one common goal: to become the best in the field of AMT.

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