Officials from Monterey County Department of Education and Bob Hoover Academy, as well as local students, cut the ribbon in celebration of the program’s newly remodeled learning area at the Salinas Airport on Sept. 13. (Monterey County Office of Education)

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Office of Education (MCOE) and the Bob Hoover Academy recently hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of their new classrooms at the Salinas Airport.

The newly remodeled learning area comprises 2,500 square feet of classroom and office space and 5,000 square feet of hanger space at the airport, located at 30 Mortensen Ave., in Salinas. 

The move to the Salinas Airport consolidates three instructional classrooms, one airplane simulator classroom, an outdoor learning space, a large space where students learn how to build and repair airplanes, four restrooms, and the aircraft that students learn to fly.

Among those in attendance at the Sept. 13 ceremony were Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Deneen Guss, Bob Hoover Academy Co-Founder Sean D. Tucker, members of the Monterey County Board of Education and local students.

“The Bob Hoover Academy at MCOE is a program that was launched several years back and it operated a few miles from here near the airport, but it was a small classroom and it required us to transport the students back and forth from the classroom to the airport,” Guss said. “By locating the program right here at the Salinas Airport, our students now have the opportunity to not only receive their day-to-day academic instruction in a warm and inviting classroom, but they also have the opportunity to see the day-to-day operations at a working airport right next door to employers in the aviation industry, and they have the chance to be around planes all day long.”

Bob Hoover Academy is a free alternative education route to a high school diploma offered through MCOE’s Alternative Education Department for students, including those in the Salinas Valley. It provides opportunities for teens to become more engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) education through various aspects of flight training and maintenance.

“I’m so honored to be a part of this because this is my community,” said Tucker, who is a world champion aviator. “… What’s so magnificent about flight is you take yourself above the earth and you enter the third dimension, and it changes your perspective. You face your fears, honestly, with people guiding you along the way.”

Bob Hoover Academy Co-Founder Sean D. Tucker (left) and Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Deneen Guss celebrate together inside the program’s new hanger space at the Salinas Airport on Sept. 13. (Monterey County Office of Education)

Students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to learn flight skills and aviation mechanics while also completing their high school diploma requirements. 

Aviation opportunities offered to program participants include flight training in a Cessna 152 airplane, flight training in a full-motion Redbird FMX flight simulator, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) high school aviation curriculum, and new this year, introduction to Aviation Maintenance Technology (AMT).

Past academy students have gone on to graduate from college, enlist in the Marine Corps and the Army and even work for FedEx, according to Tucker.

“This is how important this is,” he said. “… All we did is open a door and believed in them, and they did it the rest themselves. I’m so proud of us all coming together as a community to honor these children.”

In addition to learning flight skills, Bob Hoover Academy will offer aviation mechanics this year as part of its innovative curriculum, incorporating a fully operational shop that consists of small engine repair, aircraft and power plant modification, and a variety of other pathways, such as drone building.

“We’re using flight to enable our kids to grow as human beings and become the best versions of themselves and challenging themselves,” Tucker said. “Many of them will solo (flight), some will get their private pilot’s license, but now with the vocational piece, they’re also going to be able to get credits to get their A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) licenses. So these are tools that we’re giving them to thrive at being a young adult and creating the future.”

The academy is open to any Monterey County high school student who wants to enroll fully in the program.

MCOE provides transportation to the school campus for South Monterey County and Peninsula residents, as well as offers Monterey-Salinas Transit bus transportation for Salinas residents.

“This is what our program is all about, giving opportunities to our students to follow their passion, reach their goals and dreams, and surround themselves with adults who care deeply for them and their success,” said Guss, before speaking directly to the students in the room. “… We hope that this space and the adults in this space lift you up, build your confidence, give you a high-quality education and an amazing Career Technical Education experience that leads you on the path to a bright future.”

Interested students may enroll through the MCOE Alternative Education program by calling Laura Amezcua at 831-784-4228, or go to for more information.

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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