Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Angelica Dickerson, it meant having a teacher who mentored her and provided her with the technical skills, aptitude, and resources she needed to be successful in the aviation industry.
The 2014 Ulster BOCES Aviation graduate’s career path has led her full circle – from being the student to becoming the teacher. In September, she stepped into the role as the instructor of the Ulster BOCES two-year Aviation/Drone program.
She recalls her middle school guidance counselor’s reaction when she told her she wanted to be an aerospace engineer. “They didn’t quite know what to do with me,” the New Paltz High School alumna remembers. Engineering courses in high school and the Ulster BOCES Aviation program were the recommended avenues.
Taking the Ulster BOCES Aviation program made her reevaluate her plans of becoming an aerospace engineer. “I never really considered becoming a pilot until I took this class,” she explains. “Everything [at Ulster BOCES] was so focused. Even going over regulations. My home school was okay, but here everything was practical, and I enjoyed it so much more.”
Dickerson says she was the only junior in the program from her school district, but after her classmates at New Paltz High School saw her in her aviation uniform, they began asking about the program. “They didn’t realize we have an Aviation program, and that I was flying planes on the weekends. They were also surprised I was able to get a private pilot’s license at very little cost to me,” she recounts. The next year, when Dickerson was a senior, three more juniors from New Paltz High School enrolled in the program.
Dickerson says going to school with students from other Ulster County districts was a beneficial experience. “My best friend was from the Onteora School District, and I also have friends who came from Highland and Ellenville,” Dickerson states. Each of them, she says, is working in the aviation industry or pursuing a post-secondary education in the field.
Just five years ago, Dickerson graduated and began pursuing her post-secondary education to become an airline pilot. With the help of her former Ulster BOCES teacher and mentor April Albanese, Dickerson enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with the intention of becoming an airline pilot. She spent her spare time in flight training to obtain the 1,500 flight hours required by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly commercially. When she wasn’t flying, she was working nights at a grocery store.
In a twist of fate, the teaching position for the class she found so inspirational was open and she applied and was offered the position. The first person she called with the news was her friend from Onteora, who is now working as an aerospace engineer. “I called her and we were both crying, and she said, ‘You get to be the next Ms. A. [Albanese]. To be in the same classroom and teaching kids some years later is indescribable,’” she reflects.
Dickerson says that transitioning from pursuing an aviation career to becoming a teacher wasn’t difficult, thanks to having been on the other side of the desk and experiencing the same feelings that her students sometimes do. She says she does know how students can get anxious when it comes to flying. Impediments like a plane being grounded for maintenance or inclement weather can cause their flight training to be rescheduled. “I reassure them that I am working on getting them moving forward,” Dickerson notes. “I can’t control the weather, but I can put them on the schedule more often. I want to give them the tools that are necessary to be successful in the area of the industry they want to be in.”
One of the other rewards she is experiencing now as a teacher is that she is once again a part of the Ulster BOCES community. “Everyone is so supportive, both the administration and the teachers,” emphasizes Dickerson.
“BOCES got me to where I am today, and it gave me my foundation,” she says. “Because of BOCES, I threw away everything I had on engineering and started a five-year course on aviation.”
- Career & Technical Education (CTE)