Vol. LII No. 5
May 2017

Fulfilling a dream with help from tribe’s Career Tech program

ROCKLIN, Calif. – Russell “Robby” Graves, a Chickasaw citizen from Rocklin, has loved helicopters since he was eight. Through the Chickasaw Nation Career Technology Program, he went from flying remote control helicopters to being at the controls of a standard helicopter at age 17. “I have always wanted to fly helicopters,” Robby said. “My parents bought me an exploration flight for Christmas when I was fourteen, I got to fly a few months later and started pilot school a few weeks after that.”

Robby, a senior at Whitney High School outside Sacramento, will graduate in June. In addition, he will be testing for his private helicopter license before continuing his training with commercial helicopter pilot license school. He also plans to pursue an aviation mechanic license. “I am hoping to join the Army National Guard in California to train as an aviation engine mechanic and hopefully move into a pilot position with an aviation unit once my training is complete,” he said. “There are also many other career opportunities that I am looking into, such as helicopter tours, flying for the forestry department and flying to oil rigs. My ultimate goal is to fly for a life flight organization and have the opportunity to save lives.”

The Chickasaw Nation Career Technology Program made it possible for Robby to pursue his dream of flying. The funding he received through the Chickasaw Nation has assisted with his tuition when scholarships and other financial aid has not been available. “Since I am not a high school graduate yet and pilot school is not an accredited degree program, I did not qualify for any scholarships or financial aid,” Robby said. “My parents have done what they can to pay for flight school but with the grants that I have received from the Chickasaw Nation, I am able to live my dream.”

The career technology program helps Chickasaw citizens pay for vocational training, trade schools, employment testing and more. Chickasaw citizens of any age, living anywhere, are eligible to receive funding to pursue career training and education. Program benefits include, career technology program grants, exam and licensure assistance grants, textbook and supplies assistance grants and certification completion incentives. Eligibility is not income based.

Robby has completed flight lessons and ground school training at Capitol Helicopters in Sacramento. Robby said his flight instructor was a young pilot as well, making the flying lessons even more enjoyable. “I am honored and grateful for the opportunity the Chickasaw Nation has provided to me,” he said. “I look forward to finding ways that I can help the Chickasaw community and support the preservation of our history and culture. I believe that hard work and persistence are key to obtaining your dreams.”

Robby’s drive and determination are also shown on the field. He plays for two soccer teams and competes in MotoTrials, a specialized motorcycle agility competition. The high school senior also holds a part-time job. He hopes his hard work serves as an example to young Chickasaws. “It is possible to achieve your dreams as long as you work hard and never give up regardless of setbacks,” he said. To learn more about the Chickasaw Nation Career Technology Program, visit www.Chickasaw.net/Careertech or call (580) 421-7711.