Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everything heats up in July

Is it hot enough for you? The answer for most of us would be a resounding yes, as we wipe the sweat from our respective brows during these record-setting temps these past few days. My frustration with the never ending heat is somewhat tempered by knowing that the heat wave will have passed by the state of Wisconsin, at least leaving us with more moderate temperatures next week for EAA Airventure.

[Note. After spending the last few months in Texas, I thought I would find Ohio weather moderate in comparison. The thermometer is not as high, but someone added humidity to the mix. It's a lot more sultry here. And not in a good way.]

Oh, you say, what's AirVenture? It is known more familiarly as Oshkosh to the 500,000 or so people who treat this 7 day event, always the last week in July, as their Mecca. Last year we called it "SPLOSHkosh" because of the insanely continuous rainfall which turned the fields into muddy pits. This year, I hope, the weather will be more moderate. I mean, it always rains at least once, but hopefully the "once" will last hours instead of days. A break in the heat will also be nice. This will be Girls With Wings' seventh year having a booth to promote the organization and do fundraising. Family and friends stay at the campground, in a spot strategically chosen to offer the shortest walk to Hangar A every morning, with a pass by the food tent every evening. We're just too tired to cook at the end of the day!

Last year we moved into a bigger booth to handle the traffic (We're still in Hangar A, but now booth 1058). This means we need a lot more staffing. So in addition to designing and folding, pricing and packaging t-shirts, and ordering, receiving and packaging hair accessories, jewelry, etc, and then packing all of this stuff up into my trailer to get to Oshkosh, I also need to worry about finding volunteers to help. Trust me, this is SO important to me I could staff it myself because I feel so strongly about GWW, but realistically, it helps to have four people in the booth to talk to and help all of the visitors. One person on each side to engage the public (yes, our new booth is open on both sides, which means people use it as a short cut - this drives me CRAZY when other exhibitors do it) and one person helping to find sizes and one person to ring up purchases. Every year, because of the expenses involved, we barely break even, but it's a such a charge to interact with the community. Especially the ones who say, "Girls With Wings? Where's Boys With Wings?" Naaah. Most people get it and would like to spend all day sharing stories!

This year, more than ever, I am also being called away to do interviews,  Penelope book signings and a seminar on starting Youth Aviation Programs which means I REALLY need help. Especially on the weekend, the last few days, because I'd like to help out again with Women Soar. Then again, maybe I just try to do too much (I've heard that before). I've considered just having a booth with a table so we could just tell people about Girls With Wings, but I think a lot of people feel like I did, and do, that it's important to get aviation themed items out there for the girls (and ladies). Our t-shirts stick to motivational messages, like "Yes, Girls Can Fly!" Simple, but to the point. And necessary. So until I fall flat on my face, I'm going to continue to have a booth at Oshkosh. Please email me if you are willing to commit to a 2 hour shift at any time during the week.

Debbie Downer
So I'm stressing about finding help at Osh, as well as worrying (as I do every year) about getting some good applications for the GWW scholarships. We've really had to tighten up the application process because of lessons learned from the 4 previous years of doing the program. We still look for people who would make good role models and by that I mean being a good role model. As an example, one year in particular I friended one of the better applicants on Facebook. Her essay was a great story about wanting to be an example to her son by becoming a pilot that I was truly moved by. Her FB page, however, was filled with stories of public intoxication using words I don't hear as much since I got out of the Army. I don't have any delusions of (or intent to) instilling Victorian era modesty back into society, but I do hope to promote an individual with a positive attitude. I take seriously any lamentations on social media sites about how the universe and everyone in it hates you. Everyone has a down day, but actions speak louder than words. And one of my favorite mantras is, "You may not be able to control something that happens to you, but you CAN control how you react to it." By selecting an applicant as a recipient of a GWW scholarship, I have to be sure that she'll personify our mission to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. You can't do this with the SNL character Debbie Downer mentality. Becoming a pilot is tough - we have to motivate (not discourage) each other!

My hope, with stylizing the scholarship to require the winners to post on the GWW Message board, is to encourage a lot more mentoring, and so that is not going to change. Again, if I could guarantee raising enough funds to offer four scholarships per year, I'd like to have a "reigning" GWW Role model every quarter of the year. But first, I'd like to find some awesome applicants for this year! As my good friend, Cindy Jacobs, always says, "Every year you worry about it, and every year you get a ton of applications right in under the deadline." Which happens to be July 31st. She's right, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to worry about it every year. Please tell everyone you know about the scholarship. Even if you don't have a friend who has soloed and is working on her private pilot certificate, your friend might know someone who does.

What else is bringing on the heat? I'm trying to generate more talk on the aforementioned message board. I decided to offer a very nice prize to the winner of a contest but haven't gotten much traffic. All you have to do is post your favorite pictures of a Girl With Wings on the board and/or vote on the ones you see there. The person with the most votes wins a travel bag valued at $95! Everyone likes to see aviation photos. Especially their own. And especially when they can win something for them!

And of course, the first couple of weeks of July were taking up by my finally wrapping up my Certificated Flight Instructor Rating. I have been working on this rating for about eight months, thinking I could knock it out in a couple of weeks, not knowing what I didn't know. I've been blogging over my experiences in the pursuit of it, but I've received many emails since with people asking my advice on how to best get theirs. I'll have to blog on it, now that I am an educated consumer of the flight school system. I imagine it will expound at length on the basic principal of accomplishing CFI training: There is no "cheap" and there is no "easy." And now I have to see if I can make a living at it!

And on that note, without becoming a Debbie Downer myself, I've got some work to do. A lot of paperwork that's built up over the last few months while I was on the road. I have to get it done before I leave for Oshkosh on Saturday so I can fully enjoy the show. See you there!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

It's Scholarship Time at Girls With Wings!

Yup, it's July and that means I have to find some people to give money to. I know, tough job, right? I always want to give the funds to folks that really deserve it. And thus far I think we've chosen some great winners. All of them are featured on the website.

For example, last year we chose Rose, an Air Force ROTC cadet at Florida State University. Besides posting updates to the GWW Message board, we posted her final essay on the website. It begins:

It has been a year full of leaps and bounds for me. I have discovered more about myself – my limitations and capabilities – than I ever have in such a short period of time. When I started this year, I thought (with the undeniable naivety of the young) that I could do everything, perhaps only sacrificing sleep to the wayside.

I’m sure you can already imagine the outcome of his essay with a beginning like that…

We have a very narrow margin of applicants we can accept which is why I SO want to get the word out. Potential recipients must have soloed, but not yet received their private pilot's license. We've developed the application considering some lessons learned over the last four years but we still retain the requirement for an essay with photo stating why the applicant believes she is a role model for Girl With Wings, to include her motivation, inspirations and future plans. Applicants then agree to possibly have portions of or their entire essays and pictures posted on the GWW website.

We also chose Janice, a student of aviation management at Mt San Antonio College/Southern Illinois University. Her final thoughts are in her essay, Girls With Wings: Truly Uplifting:

A boost of confidence and a lot of support is what I found to be the most important outcomes from this scholarship. I have come to realize that aside from the financial help, this year has been a huge year in my growth as an adult, a pilot and a professional. Prior to knowing about Girls With Wings, I was very timid in how I approached aviation. I was afraid to ask questions feeling that people would think I was dumb. I was extremely nervous when approaching certain challenges such as my first solo, solo cross-country, and long solo cross-country. Writing about my experiences on the Girls With Wings web site and getting feedback from other more experienced woman really helped me with my insecurities.

Ideally, I hope to start raising $4000 per year in order to have a scholarship award each quarter. But that's going to require more donations. We were SO close to $3000 on July 1st! Next year, I think we can do it. But first PLEASE spread the word about this year's scholarship application window. One of your friends just might know someone PERFECT for this scholarship!

Deadline for submission is Midnight EST, July 31st, 2011.