Campers take flight at the Jim Shaw ACE Academy

Jim Shaw ACE Academy holds annual week-long aviation camp for middle and high schoolers.

Campers take flight at the Jim  Shaw ACE Academy
July 27
05:38 2023

More than a dozen local high school students had the opportunity of a lifetime last week. They got the chance to co-pilot a single-engine airplane and take a flight around the city. 

The 10-minute flights around the city were the culmination of the Jim Shaw Aviation Career Education (ACE) Academy Summer Camp. 

Since 2011, the Jim Shaw ACE Academy, a week-long summer camp for middle and high school students, has introduced local youth to career possibilities in aviation. This year, the camp was held at the Forsyth Tech Maize Woodruff Aviation Technology Lab. Throughout the week campers had the opportunity to fly drones, work on aircrafts, take field trips to aviation-centric businesses, practice in a flight simulator, and fly in a plane with an experienced pilot. Students also attended courses on financial literacy led by Piedmont Credit Union. 

Before taking his flight last Friday, Rachait Chandurkul, a rising freshman who will be attending Atkins High School in the fall, said he found the camp online and after reading more about it, he decided to give it a shot. “Aviation is really cool to me so I just thought it would be a good experience,” he said. 

And he was right. Chandurkul said he enjoyed everything about the camp and already plans to attend next year. He mentioned that most young people are looking for camps that are hands-on, and that’s what sets ACE Academy apart from other camps in the area. 

“I would say out of all the summer camps I’ve been to, this one is the best,” he said.

There are several ACE Academies across the state that are sponsored by the N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation, but there is only one Jim Shaw ACE Academy. Shaw, who served as airport commissioner for several years, started the camp here in Forsyth County to give local youth from low-income households an opportunity to explore career opportunities outside of sports. While other ACE Academies in other parts of the state can cost as much as $350, Jim Shaw ACE Academy has always only cost $150, making it more accessible. And oftentimes, Shaw would hold fundraisers so local children could attend the camp free of charge. 

Shaw was known throughout the community as a businessman, but even more so as a community advocate, and the ACE Academy was his pride and joy. Although Shaw died in 2020, the Jim Shaw ACE Academy is still going strong thanks to the Shaw family and Jim’s close friends. Jim’s granddaughter, Alexandria Shaw, currently serves as president. Before that, Jim’s son, James Shaw Jr., led the camp.

When discussing her grandfather, Alexandria said he was a charismatic person who could do anything he put his mind to. And that’s something they try to instill in the students who attend the camp.

“My dad followed him when he died and now I find myself in the same position. I just want to continue his legacy and keep this thing going for a while and really give these kids an opportunity,” Shaw continued.

“Starting this thing at Ibraham Elementary, we didn’t know what it could be. Now we have great partnerships with the N.C. Department of Transportation and Piedmont Credit Union, and the reason we have those partnerships is because of him.” 

Winston-Salem native Aldeen Smith was one of Jim’s close friends and he has been handling pictures and recording video at the camp since the beginning. He said what keeps him coming back every year is the young people. 

“I just enjoy young folks and trying to get them involved with drones, flying, really any part of aviation because that’s the future,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to get all the middle schoolers and high schoolers to come out to the camp and see what it’s all about because there’s other things besides basketball, baseball, and football.”

For more information on the Jim Shaw ACE Academy visit 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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