From the parade square at Danforth Tech, Alina Farrukh can see the loftiest of goals.
“You get to learn about clouds and stuff that I would not learn at home or with any other program,” Farrukh said.
Farrukh, 14, says her ultimate goal is to get her pilot’s licence through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and to pursue her dream to fly.
Every Wednesday night, the cadets of the 330 Danforth Tech Squadron participate in their weekly parade and training sessions at Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute. These cadets are boys and girls from 12 to 18 years old.
The Royal Canadian Air Cadets was established in 1941 to train cadets to serve in the Second World War. During the war it sent more than 2,235 cadets to serve in the military operations.
For the last 73 years, the Danforth Tech squadron has used the school’s gymnasium as the parade square. The squadron is one of the oldest running air cadet squadrons in the country. Capt. Jonathan John never lets his cadets forget their heritage.
“We remind the cadets (they’re) standing at the same parade square the airmen that never made it back home from the war once as did as well,” he said.
John is the commanding officer of 330 Danforth Tech Squadron. He is on active duty in the Canadian Armed Forces as a commanding officer for training and development, and has served for the last decade.
“The program focuses on three main aims. One of them is stimulating the interest in the aviation industry and in particular Royal Canadian Air Force. We also focus on physical fitness and healthy living, and the third aim we have is leadership and citizenship,” Capt. John said.
There are currently 456 squadrons across Canada with 23,000 cadets. Since the war ended in 1945, the cadet program has not sent cadets to pursue active military duty, but to develop leadership and citizenship skills among Canadian youth.
Cadet Flight Sergeant Quinn Pace, 17, joined the air cadets program three years ago. This summer he will be getting his powered flight pilot’s licence through the program.
“From air cadets, what I’ve gained and expected to gain is a lot of leadership skills, lots of skills that most people don’t learn until they are much older, lots of skills on team building,” Pace said.
Pace’s ultimate goal is to fly in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“I worked on airport through co-op, which I was fortunate enough to do. And I’ve been to gliding centre, worked there,” Pace said. “So I am definitely doing everything I can to try to get myself into the aviation industry.”
John said cadets who join the program don’t necessarily need to be interested in aviation. The program also develops well-rounded individuals and leaders, he said.
Cadet Flight Corporal Madeleine Silverman-Sloan, 14, joined the program two years ago and is the drum major of the squadron’s band.
“I found that being drum major, I’ve been able to hear more tunes within the music, like I can hear the underlying pieces,” Silverman-Sloan said.
She said the air cadets program has helped her to develop her leadership skills, punctuality, time management and public speaking.
“The change that the program has on these kids in such a short time frame is remarkable,” Capt. John said. “I’ve never seen it as effective in any other youth organization or school.”