As a longtime pilot with thousands of hours in the air, and perhaps the most sought-after member of Congress regarding aviation issues, U.S. Representative Sam Graves can appreciate the opportunity for high school students to begin learning aviation in the classroom.

The Republican congressman, whose Missouri 6th District stretches across the northern third of state but also reaches into Blue Springs, spent part of Tuesday afternoon visiting the aviation and computer animation classrooms in the Blue Springs School District. Both are in the basement of the Freshman Center.

The aviation program, taught by former Navy pilot Bob Seago, is in its fourth year, while the computer animation class is in its first year, and starting this year Blue Springs students could also take classes at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance near Arrowhead Stadium.

“These kids can walk out with 12 (college) credit hours in aviation,” said Deputy Superintendent Annette Seago (Bob's wife), whom Superintendent Paul Kinder credits as the “brainchild” behind the newer course offerings.

“It's a good time to be a pilot; they'll be 1,000 short in a few years,” Bob Seago said while giving an overview to Graves about what he teaches.

Computer animation teacher Andrew Enlow said his first-year program didn't have a full class of 18 this year, with some students perhaps unsure about it, but for next school year there's a waiting list.

“We're having fun, and we're learning a ton,” Enlow said. “I feel like all my animation kids will go into something with that.”

Graves, who has been in Congress since 2001 and grew up next to tiny municipal airport, came away impressed and also bit wistful.

“This is neat; I wish I had this opportunity when I was young,” he told the Seagos.

“It's exciting, the opportunities they're able to provide,” Graves said. “Unfortunately, it's not practical in some places, but it says a lot for this community that they're able to do that. It's unbelievable.”