Caribbean Heritage Organization
Robert Nesta Marley Humanitarian Honoree
Robin Charles Petgrave was born in Jamaica as the youngest of three sisters and one brother who passed away in 1997. While his mother worked two full-time jobs to make ends meet, Robin and his sister Florence spent three years in foster care before coming to Boston, Massachusetts at age ten. Robin grew up in Belmont where he noticed people close to him were influenced by the wrong crowd, and he saw their lives crumble from drugs and alcohol. He became determined to become successful and avoid self-destructive behaviors at all costs. Robin explored his passion for flying by joining the Civil Air Patrol, immersed himself in extracurricular activities, and blossomed as a track star in high school.
While in college, he enjoyed working as a summer camp counselor. On a track scholarship, he graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Acting and a minor in Communications. He later qualified for the Olympics, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. It was in Los Angeles that he discovered flight school, and obtained his Commercial Helicopter Pilot License and Certified Flight Instructor’s Certificate. Shortly after, be started his own helicopter company that grew to a $3.5 million a year business earning him features in numerous books, magazines and television appearances including the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Robin created Positive Vibrations in 1990 when a local school invited his first company, Bravo Helicopters & Wing, for a career day landing. In 1992 he met a single mother with a troubled son. Robin was compelled to mentor Richard Washington, and discovered a passion for helping kids and the community.
Robin’s vision was to honor WWII’s Tuskegee Airmen by continuing their legacy with the next generation of pilots and provide tools for youth to learn about aviation as a real life application of math and science. He founded Torrance Aeronautical Museum in 1997. In 2000, Compton’s Mayor Eric Perrodin invited him to re-locate the organization to the Compton Airport. Seeing the greater need for at risk youth programs in Compton, Robin moved his small staff of two and a few desks with computers to the 7,000 square foot hangar, and re-named the organization Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM). Robin envisioned TAM’s Compton airport location as being an entry point for underrepresented youth to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers and enrichment. TAM’s purpose was simple: teach inner city kids about flying, support their academic achievement, and instill in them the importance of their education.
Today, the non-profit museum boasts a variety of static displays and historical artifacts, an annual Arts & Aviation Career Expo, and is the umbrella agency for the Aero Squad fixed wing flight school and after-school program in its Tuskegee Airmen Learning Center. TAM has become a living classroom bringing aviation history to life and empowering the dreams of youth to take flight. TAM has been a safe haven for the youth in the community since it’s inception evolving into a safe place for learning and building positive relationships with other adults and peers. Robin instills a “second home” culture. When a youth joins TAM, they not only join a family, but become part of a cultivation process designed to empower them to excel in their personal, academic, and future professional lives. Under his leadership, TAM envisions a place where all community youth receive the support they need to graduate high school, go to college, and become future contributors in the fields of science, aeronautics, technology, and to the well-being of society. TAM serves the community from 8am to 8pm daily, and Robin currently volunteers 100% of his time as Executive Director. Most youth do not have access to aviation-centered enrichment on this level, let alone an impoverished area like Compton.
Robin and TAM have received numerous awards, recognitions and honors for service to at- risk youth, including the General Noel F. Parrish Award presented by the National Order of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.; the Astronaut Ronald McNair Award presented by National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees and the Living Legend Award presented by LA County Board of Supervisors. Robin and TAM have been featured in People Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Oprah, CNN, AIM Zones on AOL to name a few, and have been recognized by Senator Roderick D. Wright, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Congresswoman Janice Hahn, and California State Assemblyman Isadore Hall. In November 2011, Robin received the Bank of America Local Heroes Award.
Robin is also a highly sought after motivational speaker through his “Positive Vibrations” program. He is a stunt pilot with celebrity status and has several movie credits to his name. He privately funded many of the museum’s programs and equipment needs. Robin holds fast his belief that all children are capable of achieving success.
In addition to receiving his BA in Acting and Communications from the University of Connecticut, Robin is a Gold Seal Flight Instructor, helicopter pilot, airplane pilot, the museum’s Executive Director, President & Chief Pilot of Celebrity Helicopters, and mentor. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Myra; daughter Little Robin and son Neeko.