Tag Archives: jamaica

Jamaica funeral set for rapper slain in Briarwood drive-by shooting

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/@chinxmusic

A Jamaica church will host the wake and funeral Tuesday for the rapper Chinx, real name Lionel Pickens, who was murdered in a Briarwood drive-by shooting on May 17.

Family members, friends, relatives and colleagues will gather at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral, located at 110-31 Merrick Blvd., on May 26 at 11 a.m. for a brief wake, followed by funeral services set to begin at noon.

Pickens, a Rockaway native who resided in Ozone Park, was gunned down while sitting with a friend inside his Porsche at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 84th Avenue at 4:04 a.m. on May 17. According to police, an unidentified gunman pulled up in another vehicle and opened fire, then sped away from the scene.

Shot multiple times about his body, Pickens died later that morning at Jamaica Hospital. His friend, a 27-year-old man, remains hospitalized in critical condition after sustaining a gunshot wound to his back.

As Chinx, Pickens was considered to be an up-and-coming star in the hip-hop world. His career began with a partnership with the late rapper Stack Bundles, but was sidetracked after being sentenced to prison for a robbery conviction in 2005.

While Pickens was incarcerated, Bundles was himself shot to death. According to the NY Daily News, police are reportedly investigating whether the two murders are connected.

After being released from prison in 2008, Pickens relaunched his rap career with French Montana. Chinx gained a following among hip-hop fans following the 2012 release of his single, “I’m a Coke Boy.” He was slated to release an album later this year titled “Welcome to JFK.”


Identify this place in Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken? Guess by commenting below! The answer will be revealed next week.

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”:  Jamaica, Hillside Avenue and 190th Street looking towards downtown.



Jamaica to welcome artists with free residencies

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning


In keeping with their mission to become a one-stop shop for artists, the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is partnering with Exploring the Metropolis (EtM) to provide free workspace residencies for choreographer-composer duos.

EtM, the only New York City-based nonprofit focused exclusively on workspace issues for the performing arts, has created a new program in partnership with JCAL to address these problems.

“We are extremely excited to partner with EtM in this pilot program for Queens artists,” said Cathy Hung, JCAL’s executive director. “It aligns with JCAL’s founding vision to serve artists, especially emerging Queens artists. This program also expands our residencies program from visual art, dance, to music.”

The EtM Choreographer + Composer Residencies will provide 120 hours of free rehearsal space to four choreographer and composer teams at JCAL, and the winners will also receive a stipend. The teams will have access to three months of free rehearsal space beginning in September 2015.

Though the residencies are for teams collaborating on new work, the application process is also open to choreographers working alone. At the end of the residency, artists will perform a free public program at JCAL or the Jamaica Center for the Performing Arts.

This opportunity is a result of the Queens Workspace Initiative, a project conducted to help ensure that the performing arts offerings in Queens are thriving, according to EtM Executive Director David Johnston.

The nonprofit surveyed performing artists and cultural facilities and held focus groups to gauge the needs of performing artists in Queens and to learn if local facilities were meeting those needs.

“We discovered from the study that Jamaica had a lot of resources that weren’t really being maximized as far as space for artists,” Johnston said.

According to the report, Queens has approximately 96 nonprofit performing arts spaces compared to 274 in Brooklyn and 2,721 in Manhattan. Queens’ city-owned cultural institutions receive the lowest amount of per capita arts funding.

The report found that Jamaica is the best neighborhood in Queens to engage artists because the increased funding in public transportation improvements and underutilized residential spaces provide easy access to performing arts organizations and artists.

Applications are due July 1 and Johnston said that a panel of judges will begin to look over the applications in August. EtM has decided to give preference to Queens artists and is seeking people with a wide range of genres in dance, people with expertise in music and overall artistic merit.

According to Johnston, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation has pledged to provide multiyear funding for this program so that it can continue to exist for at least two rounds.

Applications can be found here.


Michael Bolton, Billy Ocean to perform in Jamaica this June

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kadellar/Wikimedia Commons

Jamaica residents won’t have to imagine living without Michael Bolton this summer.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is taking the stage on June 28, along with Billy Ocean and a long lineup of other musicians, for the Groovin’ In The Park Concert being held at Roy Wilkins Park, located at the intersection of Merrick and Baisley boulevards.

The family-friendly event, presented by The Door Restaurant in Jamaica, is a daylong celebration of reggae rhythm and blues.

Bolton and Ocean, who won a Grammy in 1985, will join other bands and artists including Cocoa Tea, Luciano, Capleton, Morgan Heritage and Lieutenant Stitchie.

Gates for the annual summer concert, which was started in 2011, open at 11 a.m., three hours prior to the performance.

Previous performers to take the stage at Groovin’ In The Park include Gladys Knight, Jimmy Cliff, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle and more.

Tickets are available here and are $49.99 for early general admission and $149.99 for VIP tickets. Children 12  and under receive free admission.

Tickets can also be purchased at The Door Restaurant at 163-07 Baisley Blvd.; The Smokehouse Restaurant at 200-05 Linden Blvd.; VP Records at 170-21 Jamaica Ave.; and Silver Krust at 1695 President St.


Brooklyn man shot to death in Jamaica

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com


A Brooklyn man was found dead from a gunshot wound to the torso in Jamaica over the weekend, police said.

Officers from the 113th Precinct discovered the 54-year-old victim, identified as James Burnett, at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday near 110th Road and Sutphin Boulevard, authorities said.

EMS rushed Burnett to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

There are currently no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.


5Pointz artists transform August Martin HS in Jamaica

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Over a hundred 5Pointz artists volunteered their time this weekend to make the hallways of a high school in Jamaica shine once again.

August Martin High School was filled with laughter and music on Saturday as 5Pointz curators Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen and Marie Cecile Flageul invited aerosol artists from near and far to cover the interior of the school in one-of-a-kind artwork.

The 5Pointz crew worked together with a team of students of the nonprofit The Future Project Dream Team at the school, who came up with the idea for the project called “Operation Skittles.”

The project — in which artists paint the school’s hallways, staircases and elevator doors — came after the team surveyed 500 students and found out that their fellow classmates unanimously felt the white walls of the school needed to be changed to enhance the atmosphere.

“I still believe that the classrooms should be kind of free of art so you can focus but why not have the hallways awesome. Why not have a school that you can brag about?” Cohen said. “Its cool because [5Pointz is] kind of inside out, it’s almost inverted. The students have a little treasure that not everyone will have.”


On both Saturday and Sunday, over 100 artists are volunteering their time and paint to transform the school, located at 156-01 Baisley Blvd. They have been given the freedom to choose the art that will go on the walls, and each will have an inspirational word.

“Being able to use the power of art to inspire the youth is amazing and I know these kids that go here are looked at as disappointment because of their graduation rate but as time changes so does our methods of getting these kids into school,” Cohen said. “You just have to give them a little bit of inspiration.”

Along with being seen as the “rebirth” of 5Pointz, which saw its Long Island City home be whitewashed in 2013, organizers and school staff also hope this project will give the school which some call “the worst in New York City” a second chance.

“This alone might get [students] to school and create a sense of pride for their school that a lot of them didn’t have before,” said Syreeta Gates, The Future Project Dream Director at August Martin.

According to the school’s principal, Gillian Smith, August Martin is still considered an “out of time school” meaning it hasn’t made any academic progress in recent years and has a 39 percent graduation rate.

However, Smith, who welcomed the idea of the project with open arms, hopes a project such as coming together with 5Pointz artists will help build a sense of pride and push students to do better.

Some artists have offered to participate in future workshops for the students, and the 5Pointz curators also hope to continue being a “part of the family” with the school.


“We want students to be so inspired that they want to stay in school because now they can see that dreams can happen and dreams can come true,” Smith said. “It’s a difficult journey; it’s a lot of work. But I think all of these little steps matter. To see this happen in a weekend all of a sudden makes you feel like, ‘I got it, the world is mine. I can do this.’”

Students involved in the project said they are excited to see their classmates’ reactions on Monday when seeing the hallways.

They also added that they think this project will help change the way people view the high school.

“It’s a sense of hope and pride because people talk so much crap about August Martin, it’s going to change how they look at the school, and students here are going to have so much pride coming here and saying ‘5Pointz did my school.’ Who else can say that?,” said 11th-grader Trivella Osborne.


When asked what they would say to the artists volunteering their time to transform their school the students on the Dream Team burst out in thank yous and cheers.

“They’re making history right now,” said ninth-grader Latoya Mann. “It’s a resurrection of August Martin and 5Pointz.”

The completed project will be revealed to the public on June 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. during an art show at the school. Some artists will also be selling their work on canvas in order to raise money for the high school.


Suspected shooter injures acquaintance behind Jamaica hookah lounge: NYPD

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for the alleged shooter who fired a bullet into a 23-year-old man outside a Jamaica hookah bar late last month.

According to authorities, the shooting took place at about 1:30 a.m. on April 26 in the rear of the H20 Lounge on Hillside Avenue near Parsons Boulevard.

The suspect, who is known to the victim, pushed the man to the ground before shooting him in the left leg and fleeing, police said.

The victim was taken to Jamaica Hospital in stable condition.

Authorities have identified the suspected shooter as Jamel Ethridge, 37, described as black, 6 feet 4 inches tall, 260 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, and carrying a black revolver.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


5Pointz artists to transform hallways of August Martin HS in Jamaica

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo via Instagram/@queensdreamers

The spirit of 5Pointz will be reborn this weekend, as over 150 artists from near and far are expected to come together to bring life to the hallways of one Jamaica high school.

On Saturday and Sunday, a team of students of the nonprofit The Future Project Dream Team at August Martin High School called “Operation Skittles” will team up with 5Pointz curators Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen and Marie Cecile Flageul to cover the hallways, elevator doors and staircases with one-of-a-kind artwork exploding with color.

“To us it’s kind of like making the pass to knowledge attractive and exciting,” Cecile Flageul said.

For the two days, more than 150 aerosol artists, all invited by Cohen, will volunteer their time and paint to transform the interior of the school, located at 156-10 Baisley Blvd.

According to the curators, this project symbolizes a “rebirth” of 5Pointz with a large number of people gathering together to create art pieces that will tell stories.

The Long Island City home of the graffiti mecca was ordered to be whitewashed by the property’s owner in 2013, just days after artists and supporters held rallies looking to save the site and requested the site be landmarked. Since then, the entire building has been demolished.

“It’s really awesome and symbolically it’s in Queens, it’s our initial borough. It’s kind of like a tribute to the spirit of 5Pointz and I don’t think we could have picked a better place than this school,” Cecile Flageul said.

5Pointz curators Marie Cecile Flageul and Jonathan Cohen with August Martin High School Principal Gillian Smith (center). (Photo courtesy of Marie Cecile Flageul)

5Pointz curators Marie Cecile Flageul and Jonathan Cohen with August Martin High School Principal Gillian Smith (center). (Photo courtesy of Marie Cecile Flageul)

She added that the response from participating artists has been intense and positive, with many wanting to continue having a relationship with the school and students even after the project is complete.

“To me it is incredible to be part of this project,” she said. “To be able to connect with those kids, help this school and start this relationship.”

The artists all want to inspire the students, help them achieve their dreams, and bring beauty to a school that some have called “the worst in Queens,” according to Cecile Flageul. Some artists have offered to participate in workshops for the students, and the 5Pointz curators also hope to continue being a “part of the family” with the school.

“Isn’t it ironic that what they call the worst high school in Queens and the so-called vandals of Queens are collaborating for something to better the future of the youth,” Cecile Flageul said.

In addition to the 20 kids from “Operation Skittles,” other students and teachers will also be volunteering their time during the weekend.

Although the painting on both Saturday and Sunday is closed to the public, the completed project will be revealed in June with a large art show.


Elderly Howard Beach resident dies following crash

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

An 88-year-old Howard Beach woman has died from injuries she sustained in a car crash last month, police said Saturday.

Carmela Rutolo of 88th Street was driving north on Cross Bay Boulevard at 7:40 p.m. on April 20, when her vehicle struck a pillar at Liberty Avenue.

Officers from the 106th Precinct and EMS units responded to the scene. Rutolo died of her injuries on April 24 at Jamaica Hospital.

An investigation by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad is ongoing.



Participatory budgeting winners announced for District 27

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning


Councilman I. Daneek Miller announced on Wednesday the winners of participatory budgeting in his district covering parts of Jamaica, St. Albans, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Queens Village and Addisleigh Park.

The ballot included 23 projects, which were proposed, selected and designed by community members in public meetings starting in July of last year.

The top five proposals will receive $1 million in funding between them.

At 1,029 votes, the top vote-getter was a plan to enhance the Roy Wilkins Park outdoor performance space for programming such as readings or small concerts. It is expected to cost $450,000.

The Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC), the performing arts leg of the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) will receive $120,000 for equipment purchases and repairs to upgrade the sound and lighting systems in the 400-seat theater.

Cathy Hung, executive director of JCAL, said she was ecstatic when she heard the news.

“Thank you to a team of artists and students who advocated on JCAL’s behalf and the community members who voted for us,” Hung said. “With this grant, we will be able to bring JPAC to the highest artistic quality that is possible and to present the highest quality programs, whether it’s theater, dance, music or multi-media that we have been planning for the community.”

Residents in the district also voted to provide $400,000 for road resurfacing projects to take place along major thoroughfares in the confines of Community Boards 12 and 13 to protect vehicles and pedestrians.

I.S. 59 in Jamaica received 607 votes and $60,000 to purchase 10 smart boards and an overhead projector.

The last proposal to be funded, with 555 votes, was a technology upgrade to York Early College Academy in Jamaica. The school will receive $94,000 to purchase 13 smart boards with an overhead projector and laptop cart.

Miller said the relationships forged from this 10-month process are greatly valued in the district.

“This has been a tool to engage, empower, and organize our residents,” Miller said. “Regardless of who the final awardees are it is clear that our community has won. We’ve seen people come together — youths and senior and people from all different walks of life — to improve our neighborhoods and collaborate on meaningful projects.”


Thomas Edison High School seeks help to attend national health conference

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Margaret Savitzky


Students at Thomas Edison Career and Technical Education (C.T.E.) High School in Jamaica are hoping to compete at this June’s HOSA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California, and they are asking for help in raising the funds to get there.

Dr. Margaret Savitzky, who has taught at the school since 2002, was looking for ways to expose her students to real-world opportunities within the field and stumbled upon the HOSA (Health Occupational Students of America) National Leadership Conference.

The conference, which will be held from June 24 to June 27, combines workshops to expose students to professionals in the health care field and a national competition where students compete in events such as medical spelling, medical terminology, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and more.

Last year, Savitzky was able to take 25 students to the state conference, where they won 10 medals. The winners were invited to the national conference in Florida but did not place. This year, 20 students attended the state conference in Syracuse and 16 students won either first, second or third place.

State budget cuts have depleted the school’s budget for trips like this one, so Savitzky is asking the community for help.

The registration fee, which is $90, needs to be paid by May 9. Savitzky is looking to take four students and two chaperones to the conference and she will have to raise money for flights, a hotel and food for the trip.

The registration fee is non-refundable, so Savitzky is determined to raise money for the additional costs. She estimates that $5,500 will be the total cost of the trip and has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money.

Interested parties can also send a check to Thomas Edison C.T.E. High School (memo: HOSA) 165-65 84th Ave., Jamaica, NY 11432.

Savitzky said this conference helps her students participate in activities that are tangible and prepare them to pursue a career in the health care field.

“As teachers, we stress the importance of education. We acknowledge the importance of the students participating in ‘real-world’ activities,” Dr. Savitzky said. “The terms ‘career and college ready’ are important goals in education today. My students worked hard to excel at the NYS HOSA conference, applying academic and career-related skills. They now have a chance to prove themselves and demonstrate these goals against peers at the national level.”


Improvements underway at Jamaica’s Rufus King Park

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

NYC Parks/photo by Malcolm Pinckney

Jamaica’s “town square” is about to get a much-needed makeover.

The Parks Department along with local elected officials ceremonially broke ground Monday on a $2.2 million renovation of Rufus King Park located in an area bounded by Jamaica and 89th avenues between 150th and 153rd streets.

At the heart of the project is reconstruction of the park’s gazebo, which will include a new roof, handrails, steps and a brick platform. The gazebo’s electrical system will also be enhanced to better accommodate various events.

The Parks Department will also resurface and reconfigure the green space’s asphalt pathways to improve pedestrian circulation. New trees and shrubs will be planted throughout the park, and the agency will also create a new lawn both for leisure and athletic activity.

Many of those funding the Rufus King Park project, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Rory Lancman, helped Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick and others officially launch the renovation’s start Monday.

“Thanks to the generous funding allocated by the City Council, the Borough President’s office, Jamaica’s residents will be able to enjoy a renovated and revitalized open space with a new gazebo that will serve as a beautiful gathering place for this diverse neighborhood,” Silver said.

“Rufus King Park is like the town square of Jamaica, a central point for anyone of the vibrant and diverse community to enjoy,” Katz added. “The investment of public funds into this neighborhood treasure is very much a part of the Jamaica Now Action plan fully underway, a 21-point strategic plan intended to revitalize Jamaica into a thriving residential neighborhood.”

The 11-acre park was once part of the estate of Rufus King, a colonial lawyer, abolitionist and statesman who was among the signers of the Constitution. The Village of Jamaica purchased King Manor and surrounding land in 1896 for $50,000; the site was subsequently acquired by the City of New York two years later as Jamaica became part of the city.

King Manor stands today not only as a colonial museum, but also for various cultural events attended by thousands of people annually. The house is an official city landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rufus King Park’s last major renovation occurred between 1991 and 1993, when the Parks Department shifted the bandstand, rebuilt the park house, installed new paths and redistributed recreational facilities. Additional work took place in 1996-97 when the city installed a new steel picket fence around King Manor.

The latest renovation is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2016.


Ex-teacher from Forest Hills cops plea in Internet sex sting

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A former high school teacher from Forest Hills admitted in court Friday that he tried to lure someone whom he believed was a teen girl into a sexual tryst but who turned out to be an undercover officer, prosecutors announced.

Monsur Khan, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal sexual act before Queens Criminal Court Judge John Zoll. Khan faces 30 days in jail and 10 years’ probation upon sentencing, which is set for June 16.

“The defendant has now admitted his guilt and will surrender his teaching license and register as a sex offender,” District Attorney Richard Brown said. “Parents must always monitor their children’s activities online to ensure that they are not being lured into dangerous situations.”

Formerly an earth science teacher at the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy in Jamaica, Khan first made contact online with the undercover officer — who was posing as a 14-year-old girl — on Feb. 12, 2014, authorities said. Over the next six weeks, Khan repeatedly sent illicit messages to the undercover agent and indicated his desire for an encounter.

Hillside Arts and Letters Academy is located within the campus of the former Jamaica High School.

On March 26, 2014, Khan showed up at a pre-arranged meeting place in Queens and was subsequently taken into custody.

As part of his sentence, Brown noted, Khan will also be required to complete a sex offender program and forfeit electronic devices that police seized from him.


Cops shoot and kill man suspected of firing gun inside Jamaica bar

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Property Shark/Christopher Bride

Updated Friday, April 24, 9:51 a.m.

Police shot and killed a man Wednesday night after he allegedly fired a gun inside a Jamaica bar and shot at cops as they tried to chase him down, authorities said.

Officers were called to the Irish Hillside Inn, at the corner of 168th Street and Hillside Avenue, at about 9:15 p.m. after they received a report of shots fired inside the bar.

According to published reports, the trouble began when 30-year-old Jonathan Efraim, who had been staying with his girlfriend just a few blocks away, walked into the establishment about an hour before cops were called. At one point, he started a conversation with a 72-year-old man, and the bartender, feeling the need the intervene, told the elderly patron that he had a cab waiting.

That’s when Efraim reportedly shouted, “No one’s going anywhere,” and fired a gunshot into the ceiling.

Officers encountered Efraim outside the bar and, when they identified themselves and told him to stop, he took off toward 168th Place and Highland Avenue, authorities said. That’s where he stopped, turned and shot at the officers.

Efraim then continued to flee down 168th Place towards Hillside Avenue, where he again stopped and pointed his weapon in the direction of the officers, police said. Two officers then fired in his direction a total of five times, striking him in the torso.

EMS rushed Efraim to Jamaica Hospital, where he died.

The two officers who discharged their weapons were taken to North Shore Medical Center for treatment of tinnitus. No other injuries were reported.

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A loaded 9-mm Glock 9 handgun that police said belonged to Efraim was recovered at the scene.

Efraim served in the U.S. Marines from 2004 to 2007 and had a lengthy rap sheet, according to published reports. He had 16 prior arrests, and, The New York Times reported, had most recently been arrested in April 2012 in Staten Island and charged with criminal mischief and menacing a police officer. He also had a history of psychiatric issues, including a suicide attempt in 2003, The New York Times reported. According to The Wall Street Journal,  police had responded to five emotional disturbance calls from 1998 to 2014 involving Efraim.

Efraim’s death is reportedly the NYPD’s first fatal police-involved shooting of this year.


Briarwood teacher to fly with NASA

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



A Briarwood teacher is about to get a closer look at the final frontier.

Melissa Aguirre of J.H.S. 217 will take flight as part of a NASA program committed to exposing educators to the scientific research process.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program started as a pilot program in 2011 and flies a group of 28 educators on two 10-hour overnight sessions to observe space through the largest airborne telescope.

Aguirre, a Queens native, was chosen for the highly selective program after a rigorous application process, which included a proposal to describe how she would use her experience to educate students in her home district.

Though Aguirre’s background is in history and English as a second language, the program accepts educators from all backgrounds. Aguirre co-founded a charter school in Washington, D.C., called the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, which prepares returning students ages 16 to 24 to have careers as medical assistants and IT technicians.

Melissa Aguirre 2 (1)

“I was working at a school that has a STEM focus,” Aguirre said. “I really believe that all of us needed to show that interest and that was the primary reason I applied. How do I get young folks interested in these fields, especially women of color … who were the majority of the students I was working with, how do I get them involved in the field when we as educators aren’t involved as well?”

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program was conceived after published research proved that educators who participate in these programs stay in the teaching profession and inspire students to engage with the sciences, according to Director of Education and Public Outreach Dana Backman.

“We’re operating based on published research that educators who get this kind of experience, exposure to science as it’s really done, they’re motivated to stay in the teaching profession because overturn of the teaching profession is a huge problem, especially in the sciences,” Backman said.

Educators selected for the program, which have included museum dossiers and planetarium directors, also have to take a four-month astronomy course from Montana State University before stepping into the plane.

“This course is very challenging but it’s compelling me to think about how I teach,” Aguirre said. “I’m having some of the similar struggles that many of my students have…but then I need to rethink how am I breaking this down for my students and is this working for me now that I am a student as well.”

SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP aircraft, is equipped with a 100-inch, 17-ton telescope and other instruments that allow scientists to gain a deeper understanding of a number of topics including the formation of stars and planets, the Milky Way, planetary science and more.

While on the plane, educators interact with astronomers, airplane technicians, software engineers, bookkeepers and other staff. Backman said this process allows educators to communicate to students that a Ph.D. in astronomy is not necessary to work in and engage with the sciences.

Aguirre is excited to show her students what she has learned through the program and will work with them to discover what they want to learn.

“There will be opportunities to infuse the curriculum with these resources and also develop after-school opportunities for students who are interested in them,” Aguirre said. She also hopes to inspire “students, especially girls who may not see these careers as possibilities, to see that they are possibilities.”