Students learn how to fly drones at high school in Southwest Philadelphia

ELMWOOD PARK - Students at a Philadelphia high school are making money, getting course credit and keeping their school safe all while learning to fly drones.

FOX 29’s Cheyenne Corin spoke to students and faculty about the program.

"I did this last year and the experience honestly has been great, learning to fly, learning about the airspace," said Roosevelt Ballah, senior. "I didn't know about none of that stuff."

Philadelphia School District’s 21st century school model provides students with experience for future career opportunities.

"It’s important to have a 21st century approach to what is modern day schooling," said Brian Johnson, Bartram High School principal. "To be able to bring a program that provides students with an avenue to drone certification is a significant instructional programming shift. As one of three 21st century schools in its inaugural year, we are pleased to partner with a John Bartram alumni to teach our students math, science, aviation and all that comes with being a drone pilot, as well as provide students with a pathway to employment and a career."

The program all began as a way to monitor after school dismissal.

"For the Office of School Safety, supporting the safety of our school, our schools and our students is our number one mission," said Eric Rosa, Bartram High School Office of School Safety Assistant Director. "But aside from that, we try to really give the students alternatives to challenging behaviors."

Bartram High School students who enroll in the program receive course credits for the Aviation Law and FAA regulations class.

Bartram alum Michael Johnson helped the district get the program off the ground and now teaches the course.

"They can go anywhere within the drone industry," said Johnson. "It's like getting the key to the car and the car can take you anywhere you want."

Students can also gain paid internship experience, earning up to $35 per hour if they take the course.

Mohamed Mohamed Ahmed took advantage of the opportunity and spent the previous summer teaching younger students.

"I'm going to college for aviation flight and engineering, then after that I'm going to the military," said Ahmed. "This course really helped me a lot to make those decisions."

Both Ballah and Ahmed deploy the drones during dismissal and at large school events.

Like many other students, Ballah received his FAA certification from the course and will now leave Bartram as a licensed commercial drone pilot.

"I'm just glad I didn't give up and I just kept going," said Ballah.

The school district also is in the process of expanding the program by training more pilots and buying additional drones to monitor even more events.