By Jessie Higgins
COOS BAY — Tucked away in a far corner of Marshfield High School, a group of about 20 students in Jeff Eberwein's fourth-period history class learn about a life of adventure, travel and flight. It's a life, Eberwein tells his students, that could be theirs.
The elective aviation history class takes students from Leonardo Da Vinci's flight machine drawings to the Wright brothers' first flight, through more than 100 years of aviation's advances up to the space program.
"It supplements all other history classes, as the history of flight is inextricably linked to the history of the world," Eberwein said. It also excites students' imaginations. "If you want to do something in life, you have to go out and make it happen," said Mike Martin, one of Eberwein's many guest lecturers, the son of a Tuskegee Airman from World War II. "Right now is the time to get the skills so you can go out and make it happen."
Eberwein remembers one of his students, who was raised in poverty, coming through his class and becoming "absolutely enthralled with flying," he said. "He ended up getting a scholarship to college, and he chose a school where he could become a pilot."
Another of his former students, at Marshfield on exchange from Germany, is now training to be an airline pilot for Lufthansa in Germany.
Eberwein reminds his students you don't have to be a pilot to work in the aviation industry.
Eighteen-year-old McKenzi Seggerman said she spent most of her high school career directionless. Then in the first weeks of this year's aviation history class, the students watched a documentary on the 9/11 terror attacks.
"I saw what the flight attendants did for those people," Seggerman said. The flight attendants remained commendably calm, she said, telling people to call loved ones.
Seggerman now plans to attend the International Air and Hospitality Academy in Vancouver, Wash., to become a flight attendant when she graduates.
Eberwein's aviation history class is in its fourth year. He started it partly to honor his father, partly to honor a close friend, and partly because he loves to fly.
Eberwein's father was a radio operator and signalman on an aircraft carrier during World War II, so Eberwein was introduced to flying early in life. He got his pilot's license as a young man, around the same time he began teaching in Michigan.
He moved to Oregon to be near his close friend, another pilot.
But not long after Eberwein moved here, his friend was killed in a plane crash.
"His death hit me real hard," Eberwein said. "But I stuck it out; I stayed here.
"I started this class to give back, and to honor my friend."
The school has considered dropping the class a few times for budgetary reasons, Eberwein said. He said he hopes it won't come to that. And support from the community, he said, will go a long way to ensure the class stays.