Students at Oakland Technical High School will soon be able to take classes in aviation through a new program established this year to honor alumna and 9/11 victim Wanda Anita Green.
Green, who graduated from Oakland Tech in 1970, died on Sept. 11, 2001 when she was working as a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers on board attempted to fight back against the hijackers. Green, who was born in Oceanside, California, and raised in Oakland, was taking the San Francisco-bound flight to visit her mom, who still lives in Oakland.
“This is to create a lasting legacy for her at Tech, so that students who graduate will know her name and know that she went to Tech, and to provide opportunities for students to be exposed to aviation,” said Nona Ogunsula, another Tech alumna who has been working for several months to bring the program to fruition. “Aviation was a dream that Wanda had that she was able to fulfill through being a flight attendant.”
Oakland Tech has five “pathways”—from health to design and art—as well as several programs, like Paideia, which emphasizes a specific approach to teaching and learning with roots in ancient Greece, said assistant principal Martel Price. While Ogunsula had initially envisioned a separate aviation pathway, the Wanda Anita Green Aviation Education Program will instead be part of the school’s existing engineering pathway.
The program will offer students exposure to careers as pilots, flight crews, mechanics, air traffic operations, airline operations and more. As with OUSD’s other linked learning pathways, students interested in the aviation program will not only be able to take classes to learn about the industry, but also go on field trips to places like the Oakland Aviation Museum and Oakland International Airport, as well as get mentorship and training from professionals.
This year, during the introductory phase of the program, interested students will be able to meet with professionals and go on field trips, and the aviation curriculum will be implemented during the 2022-2023 school year. The goal is for 10% of Oakland Tech students, about 200, to be exposed to aviation careers. A plaque honoring Green will also be placed in the school’s entryway.
“Her legacy lives on in the lives of those she touched in her travels, and among her family and friends. And now, it will also be known at Oakland Tech, her alma mater, as well as the other five memorials across the United States that bear her name,” Price said. “That’s quite a feat for a Black woman.”
Ogunsula, who graduated from Oakland tech in 1982, first heard about Green in 2017, when she visited the United 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, which listed Green’s hometowns as Oakland and Linden, New Jersey. But it wasn’t until Ogunsula read Green’s bio in the Flight 93 visitor’s center that she learned that Green graduated from Oakland Tech. That immediately piqued her interest. When Ogunsula sought out more information about her, she didn’t find much. She watched United 93, a 2006 film about the flight, and United 93: The Families and the Film, a companion documentary that included interviews with families of the victims, but the Green family wasn’t interviewed.
“I just felt at that point that Wanda’s story needed to be told. Her story should be out there and get visibility,” said Ogunsula, who lives outside of Washington, D.C.
In 2018, when Ogunsula was visiting California, she met up with a few of her classmates, and over time, eventually connected with some of Green’s classmates. From there, she reached out to Green’s twin sister, Sandra Jamerson, and her family. Earlier this year, Ogunsula and a group of Tech alumni began meeting to brainstorm ways to honor Green at their school, and they landed on an aviation education program. The group contacted professional aviation organizations, like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and the Federal Aviation Administration, to request aviation curricula aimed at high schoolers. Ogunsula also got in touch with the former leaders of Oakland Aviation High School, a charter school that operated between 2006 and 2011 to train students to be pilots, flight attendants, and airline mechanics.
Green had dreamt of flying since she was a teenager. She worked as a flight attendant for nearly 30 years. In 2001, she was getting ready to retire, while also working as a real estate manager. She lived in Linden, New Jersey, and had two children. Green was 49 when she died.
“I’m overwhelmed, overjoyed, and I’m just excited about what Oakland Tech and Oakland Unified School District are going to do in honor of my sister, Wanda A. Green,” said Jamerson, Green’s twin sister, at a ceremony to honor Green and celebrate the program’s launch last week. “Nona is a wonderful person who took a lot of initiative to make this happen.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Wanda Anita Green was born in Oceanside, not Oakland.