CHIPPEWA TWP. — A few years ago, Braden Brunson was treated to a plane ride in a Cessna 172, a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft that flew out of the Beaver County Airport.
Brunson, 18, said he “absolutely loved it” and that set him on an aviation career path.
“I wanted to do something involving planes,” he said.
Brunson, son of Scott and Kimberly Brunson of Chippewa Township, graduated earlier this year from Blackhawk High School. He’s now in his first semester at Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in West Mifflin. The non-profit, career-focused school offers programs in aviation maintenance and electronics at sites in West Mifflin; Youngstown, Ohio; Hagerstown, Md.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
PIA instruction combines real-world experience with classroom instruction.
Brunson also works part time as a line mechanic technician at the Beaver County Airport, where he said he refills, tows and cleans planes.
His industriousness earned him a coveted scholarship created by Mike Rowe, best known as the host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”
Brunson received a 2020 Work Ethic Scholarship from the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation, which awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in skilled trades who demonstrate a commitment to “personal responsibility, a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.”
The foundation, created in 2008, began awarding scholarships four years ago and said it has awarded $4.2 million in educational support to more than 1,000 students.
This year, approximately $1 million in Work Ethic Scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $12,500, was awarded to 223 nationwide applicants in 48 states, the foundation said.
Brunson and Shane Miley of Ijamsville, Md., who is a first-semester student at PIA’s Hagerstown campus, were PIA’s only two scholarship recipients.
“I was thrilled,” Brunson said of his $4,000 scholarship. “I was very happy. It relieved a little bit of weight off my shoulders because I’m paying for my education myself.”
Besides school transcripts and references, applicants had to submit a video and essay explaining why they deserve the scholarship and must commit to Rowe’s “Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo (SWEAT) Pledge,” a 12-point mission statement that affirms hard work.
Brunson said applicants also had to come up with a 13th mission statement of their own.
“I said something along the lines of if I do something, I’m going to do it the best I can because my name is my reputation,” he said.
Suzanne Markle, PIA president and CEO, said seeing two of the school’s students recognized for their “can-do” work ethic is inspiring and reinforces the school’s commitment to training students to take pride in doing hard work well.
“Aviation mechanics is what I have my heart set on,” Brunson said, as to his future plans after graduating from PIA.