Female GTCC students make most of Metallica scholarships in pursuit of careers in aviation industry

Published on: March 7, 2024
Karina Linares and Armani Wallace both have fallen in love with aviation, while taking classes in the GTCC aviation manufacturing quick careers program (AMQCP).
Karina Linares (left) and Armani Wallace both have fallen in love with aviation, while taking classes in the GTCC aviation manufacturing quick careers program (AMQCP).

Karina Linares and Armani Wallace share a few commonalities. They’re both in Guilford Technical Community College’s aviation manufacturing quick careers program (AMQCP). Neither had any knowledge of the aviation industry before enrolling in the class.

And they’re both women excelling in an industry dominated by men.

Wallace recently completed the four-course, six-month aviation structures classes and was the only woman in her classes. Linares graduates in June and is one of four women in her classes.

The duo also share something else: They both received scholarships through the Metallica Scholars Initiative to cover the cost of the six-month program.

“Receiving the Metallica scholarship means a lot to me,” said Linares. “It gave me even more motivation to continue and do well in the program because not many people get the opportunity to go to school for free. It lifted a weight off my shoulders to not worry about debt or overwork myself to be able to afford the materials I need for school or just the courses in general.”

Pursuing the aviation curriculum was truly a “leap of faith” for both Linares and Wallace. Neither had any mechanical experience, much less experience working on airplanes.

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“When I went into the course, I knew nothing about anything (in the class). Learning all of this was totally different. It was a lot,” said 24-year-old Wallace.

“The first course I took was an intro course, and I knew nothing about any of that, nothing about the tools or anything. My teacher told me to stick with it and it would make sense, and it did.”

Linares just finished her first course, and like Wallace everything quickly fell into place for her.

“I’ve never done mechanical or any hands-on work, but I found this was definitely in my zone,” said Linares. “Honestly, it’s like second nature to me.

“My goal when I came into the program … I wanted to see if I liked it. Now I love it. I want to continue to work in aviation.”

Wallace said it was in her second course, structures assembly, when her “aha moment” arrived.

“We were in the course when you get hands-on with metal, drilling holes, and riveting things. It was like a light bulb went off. You get into that zone when you are doing something totally different,” said Wallace. “You have to experience it to understand, like reading your favorite book or watching your favorite TV show. It’s just very comfortable.”

Even though Wallace and Linares were both outnumbered by men in the classes – it was never a problem for either.

“Working in a male-dominated industry gives me more confidence and motivation to continue to pursue and grow into this career path,” said Linares. “As someone who didn’t know a thing about tools and how an aircraft is made, it gives me motivation to really grasp what I am learning and put it into my work, so I can show other women that it is possible to step into a male-dominated industry and be successful if you give it a chance.”

With six months of classwork behind her, Wallace is eager to begin her career in the aviation industry.

“It was a lot to take in over a short period of time,” Wallace said of the program. “I’m excited to get out there and get a job. I feel very comfortable and confident.”

The Metallica Scholars Initiative (MSI) was launched in 2019 by Metallica's foundation, All Within My Hands (AWMH), in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). MSI directly supports 42 community colleges across 33 states. By the end of this year, it will have assisted more than 6,000 students pursuing trade careers. Metallica and AWMH have invested over $6 million in the American workforce.

Through the Metallica Scholars Initiative, GTCC provided scholarships during the 2022-23 academic year to 90 GTCC students in programs identified as generating workforce for in-demand, well-paying jobs in the region. Because many GTCC students have financial barriers beyond tuition, some of the grant money was used to cover the cost of supplies and materials, books, and credential testing.

Forty-two scholarships were awarded to students in GTCC's aviation manufacturing quick careers program, 32 went to construction and skilled trades students, and 16 were provided in truck driver training.

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