Scott Vlasek, director of UNO’s Aviation Institute, has spent years helping bring the Boy Scouts of America’s “Exploring” program to new heights. The Exploring program allows youth (from ages 14-20) to explore different career fields in areas like culinary arts, fire/ emergency mangement, law enforcement, photography, health, business, sports management, banking, journalism and Vlasek’s career field, aviation.
The Aviation Exploring program gives youth and scouts the chance to perform hands-on aviation activities. The program allows students to have classroom training and flying Lessons. It also gives them insight to the careers of flight engineers, aircraft mechanics, air traffic controllers and pilots. Participants get the chance to tour Eppley Airfield, spend time on UNO’s flight simulators and even fly a small aircraft with a licensed flight instructor.
On Jan. 11, Vlasek was rewarded with the William H. Spurgeon III Award from the Boy Scouts of America, Mid-America Council for his work with the Aviation Exploring program. The award, which is the highest recognition for contribution to the Exploring program, is given to men and women who show outstanding leadership in the program.
Vlasek, who started as a post counselor for the Aviation Exploring Post in 1997 and is now a post advisor, is a UNO alum and instructor. After graduating from Creighton Preparatory School and graduating UNO with his Masters in Public Administration, he became the Academic Program Coordinator for the Aviation Institute. UNO’s Aviation Institute was awarded “Program of the Year” in 2012 by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association after Vlasek’s first year of being program director. The Aviation Exploring Post has also grown under Vlasek’s influence. Doubling in size this year, the program currently has around 40 students. Vlasek, a former boy scout himself, hopes to continue to see the program grow. With Vlasek’s award-winning leadership, the program is bound to continue being successful.
“He has shown true leadership by engaging in community breakfasts, guiding new staff, assisting in fundraising events and always sharing his knowledge with the program to others,” said Michelle Hurt, who oversees the Exploring program. “He truly enjoys sharing his passion with young kids about this exciting and rewarding career field.”
Vlasek also provides encouragement for students who are considering pursuing aviation careers. “There is no better time than right now to be looking at career opportunities within the aviation industry,” Vlasek said. “There is a demand for pilots, controllers and other industry professionals.”
While it is an honor for Vlasek to receive the William H. Spurgeon III award, he credits a lot of the program’s success to companies that collaborate with them. “I am very honored to have been chosen for this award. There are so many individuals and companies that are a part of this and the award really goes to all of them.” Awards that work with the program include companies like Mutual of Omaha, ConAgra Foods, Delta Airlines, the FAA and others. “They allow us to bring the kids in and showcase what it is they do. Without them, we would not have a program.”
Each year, only one individual or business is awarded with the William H. Spurgeon III award, which saw its inception in the 1970s. “To be honored with this award and to be linked with an individual that did so much for exposing kids to career opportunities is truly amazing, and I cannot thank the Mid America Council and the Boy Scouts enough for this tremendous honor,” Vlasek said.
The Exploring program served 1,500 youth in the community in 2013 through a variety of 39 different career focused organizations. To register for spring programs or to learn more, visit www.omahaexploring.org.