Class of 2014 Success Stories: Focused on Success

Aviation management student sets sights high

aaren-westmoreland

By Julie Carle

Nothing was going to prevent Aaren Westmoreland from earning a college degree.

While the chips may have been stacked against him four years ago, the Dayton native set a goal to be the first in his family to earn a college degree, and on Dec. 19 he will achieve that goal.

Flying fighter jets has been a dream of his since he was a young child.  The faster, the better.  That dream is what landed him at Bowling Green State University’s aviation program in 2010.

He graduated from the competitive aviation maintenance program at Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Dayton. At the time he was unsure if college was right for him. He also considered extending his football career after a successful time as a talented, and speedy, receiver in high school. After analyzing his options, Westmoreland acknowledged that his 5’6” frame was not likely to make him a strong contender to play football in college and that college would be the best stepping stone for his future as a fighter jet pilot.

“It took a lot out of me not to play football, but I had to swallow my pride, and I made the right decision” to focus on aviation, he said.

Westmoreland, better known as “Bear” by his family and friends because he looked like the Golden Crisps’ Sugar Bear as a baby, decided the BGSU aviation program was a good fit.

He started in the flight program, but found the cost for flight lessons to be more than he anticipated, so he enrolled in the BGSU Air Force ROTC program with a plan to get flight training in the Air Force.  He joined the ROTC program and changed his major from Flight Technology and Operations to Aviation Management and Operations, still keeping his focus on aviation.

However, in his junior year, he faced another setback. He was told if he graduated from field training with top recognition in his flight he could get a waiver and continue the ROTC program. At field training he graduated fourth in this flight, just one position from the top of the flight awards.

Once again, he needed to reexamine his plans. Instead of giving up, he opted to finish his degree. He had come too far – from a freshman student with dreadlocks and an attitude to a young man focused on success.

“I’ve learned so much from all of my experiences at BGSU,” Westmoreland said. “Everything has been very positive, from the leadership skills I learned in ROTC to the knowledge I’ve gained in my classes.”

The ROTC experience provided him a sound foundation in leadership. “It was very structured learning with set times for training, leadership lab and group projects,” he said. “I learned the ins and outs of the program, core values and basic skills needed for field training.” He also had the opportunity to be a leader over the younger recruits, and it was a role he valued.

He also credits the support of his family and his academic advisor Sally Walker, who always made time for him when he needed to talk, whether it was about scheduling, classes, or his grades.

“Bear is one of those students who wanted to take his education into his own hands. He doesn’t want to sit back and wait for things to happen.  If he had a question or needed advice he would come talk with me,” Walker stated.  “He kept his appointments, always made a point of stopping by to say ‘hi,’ and we worked out issues together.”

And he always appreciated any help he would get, she added.

“This is something I wanted to do and I’m determined to be one of the best,” Westmoreland said.  “I want to follow in my father’s footsteps; he retired after 20 years in the Army and has always been the type of father, husband and person I want to be.”

He recently joined a startup business with a network marketing company that he and business partners want to expand in Bowling Green. “That seems to be working for me,” he said.

He plans to earn extra income and eventually go to graduate school or move to Florida where he has friends in the music industry or connections in the aviation industry.  Most importantly, he admitted,  “I can’t ever stop learning. I want to set the bar high and prepare myself for success.”