High-flying Falcons: West students find success, rewards in unique pursuits

The Cranston Herald ·

On any given afternoon outside of the school day, if you look up, you might see a Cranston High School West Falcon doing something out of the ordinary.

Mikaya Parente, a freshman who hasn’t gotten her driver’s license yet, is working on her pilot’s license. Freshman Rachael Mancini and her cousins Téa and Isabella Conti, a senior and freshman, respectively, practice the sport of Aerial, with acrobatic talent not unlike that on display during a Cirque du Soleil performance.

Each of the students was moved to try something outside the box.

“I had read about [Aerial] in a magazine,” Téa said. “I wanted to try it.”

That was approximately five years ago, and now Téa is skilled enough that she performs at private events such as weddings.

Her cousin Isabella also saw an ad in a magazine and at first didn’t realize that a family member was already involved in the sport.

Now, five years later, they can often be seen performing together, hanging from silks, high up in the air. For Mancini, it was hearing about a friend who had tried it that sparked her interest and once she started, she never stopped.

Although Mikaya didn’t know of anyone else her age trained as a pilot, she decided to go along with her dad when he was looking into it. Once she tried it, she was hooked.

“I went up and flew a little bit, and I liked it,” she said.

Mikaya is currently taking lessons at Air Ventures Flying School in Smithfield after having originally started out at Horizon Aviation.

For each of the students, their unique pursuit has been a life-changing experience.

Mikaya has been able to connect much of her academic learning in a very hands-on way. As she plans her flights, she has used what she’s learned about physics, wind speed and mechanics in both her robotics and engineering studies at CACTC and her science classes at Cranston West, as well as mapping and geography skills from her social studies lessons.

Téa recently completed her college application essays. Much of what she wrote focused on all that she has gained from being a student at Aim High and Arielle Extreme, and how much she’s changed over the five years since beginning her sport.

“I didn’t have any dance background before I went there, which often helps, but I went right into it and it’s helped me very much,” she said. “I used to be very shy and closed off, and I didn’t like talking in front of people. Once I was performing, I found confidence on stage that I couldn’t have learned anywhere. Now, whether it’s four people or 400 people, I can perform.”

Her cousin agrees wholeheartedly.

“At a young age, I was afraid of performing in front of people, but Aerial broke me out of that,” Rachael said.

Rachael feels that a big part of that confidence comes from the coaching received on site during classes and training sessions.

“The coaches really build you up,” she said.

As Mikaya spends several hours each week doing book work and logs many hours in hands-on flying time, she gains a sense of confidence she didn’t have before and looks forward to being able to move from a co-pilot guided flight to a solo flight once she turns 16. Although her dad didn’t end up pursuing flying, Mikaya is proud that she’s stuck with it and enjoys it very much.

“I don’t think that I want to be a pilot for a job, but I definitely want to keep it as a hobby,” she said.


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