A Georgia Northwestern Technical College Aviation Maintenance Technology student, who overcame a battle with depression, is looking at a bright career horizon after receiving a scholarship from the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.
Jonathan Clegg said he learned he has received a $3,000 Work Ethic Scholarship; the foundation awarded $1.5 million total in scholarships to 250 recipients across the nation in 2022, according to www.mikeroweworks.org. Mr. Clegg’s father, who is a fan of Mike Rowe, encouraged him to apply for the scholarship.
“It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it is really reassuring to see aviation on the list of industries this scholarship program supports,” said Mr. Clegg, an Aviation Maintenance Technology student at the Aviation Training Center at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome.
He will use the scholarship funds for educational expenses and to further outfit his toolkit. He said he received his current toolkit through recommendations from the GNTC Aviation Maintenance Technology faculty, but will need more tools as he moves into the industry. The Snap-On tools he uses are “industry standard” in his field while also being “prohibitively expensive.”
“During the time in my classroom, Jonathan Clegg went above just being a student,” said Aviation Maintenance Technology Instructor William Bannister. “He was always helping other students to understand something from a different perspective. If he did not understand something, he would ask questions until he was satisfied that he did indeed understand.
“The Work Ethic Scholarship from the mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a great addition to helping students like Jonathan Clegg not only to be the best aviation maintenance technician he can be, but to help others better themselves as well.”
Mr. Clegg landed on an aviation-related career after searching for a career that pays a good wage. Three years ago, a friend suggested he steer his mechanical aptitude and love for problem-solving toward a career in aviation maintenance.
He said he is taking his final courses this fall to earn his associate degree and is working as an aviation maintenance technician for L&M Aviation at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. One day he may return to school to pursue his bachelor’s degree.
“I have always had a subconscious affinity toward airplanes. Looking back at pictures of me as a child, I typically had an airplane toy in hand or would play airplane-inspired video games,” he said. “Even visiting museums, I would be drawn to the massive behemoths with wings. Seemingly, it was only a matter of time until this love became an actuality.”
He said he realized he was “completely airplane illiterate” once he glided into the career field.
“An aviation maintenance technician works on airplanes, from nose to tail, in nearly every aspect to maintain an airplane's ability to remain the safest form of travel available to us,” he said. “We make sure that every single component on an aircraft is up to the standards set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Mr. Clegg’s motto has always been “Nothing worth doing is ever easy,” he said. “A few years ago, I learned firsthand the differences between motivation and discipline. Motivation will get you out of bed and put your nose to the grindstone, but only for a very short while. Discipline, however, is the long-lasting effect that will consistently wake you up every morning with renewed vigor, eagerly jumping at the opportunity to tackle a challenge, solve a problem and learn something new.”
Discipline in the aviation industry is the basis of our work ethic. It is what holds us accountable for getting a job done correctly the first time. This attitude summons forth the best in us—to never stop questioning, to never stop exploring and to never become complacent.”
Mr. Rowe created the mikeroweWORKS Foundation in 2008 to promote skilled labor. His website encourages people to embrace the “four pillars” of work ethic, personal responsibility, delayed gratification and a positive attitude.
“I aim to be a pillar of my team—one everyone can rely on to help pick up any slack, to raise morale and to allow everyone to succeed together,” Mr. Clegg said. “My work ethic has been forged in the fires of sinking into places I no longer wish to be. I've promised myself to always be better and always help out everyone to the best of my ability.”
Mr. Clegg said he wrestled with his choice of career until his mid-20s and at age 23 fought depression that “almost consumed” him. At age 29 he reflects on how his struggles provided him with empathy and insight into the struggle of others.
“I've noticed that depression seems to be rampant among a lot of people in one form or another,” he said. “I'm hoping to be a beacon for others to realize that the shadow isn't better than they are and that they'll beat it.”
He praised the faculty of GNTC’s Aviation program for getting him on the right career trajectory, thanking instructors Mr. Bannister, Jon Byrd, Zac Fager and Eric Nelson. He characterized Janice Hudson-Huff, administrative assistant for the Aviation program, as “the absolute backbone” of his success and said he cannot thank her enough for all she has done to help him.
“I have never had a more fulfilling aspect of my life than pursuing my studies at GNTC and realizing the capability that I have had my entire life--that I am more than just a paycheck and more than just a number in a system,” he said.
Mr. Clegg is excited about his career flight path because the aviation industry allows so much room for growth, challenges and success, he said.
After graduation, Mr. Clegg wants to pursue a career with Delta or another airline where he can apply his problem-solving skills and “unquenchable thirst for knowledge” to the aviation industry and to ensure that airplanes continue to be the safest form of travel, he said. He continues to study every topic he can, whether it is aviation airframes, jet engines, drill motors or even electric generators.
“I am my own job resume, and I understand that this resume can't improve or become far more enticing unless I do something about it,” he said.