Friday, May 03, 2013

Kathi, Winner of a Special Girls With Wings Scholarship!

We are so happy to announce an additional recipient of Girls With Wings funds for the 2013 Spring Scholarship Program: Kathi Lehman!

Although we usually provide two awards twice a year, one for a Private Pilot Scholarship, one for a Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, we on the board of Girls With Wings know that we cannot possibly provide funds for every deserving applicant that is struggling to pay for flight training. What we're looking for to make someone stand out is her ability to be a superlative GWW role model by showing potential to motivate others to see themselves as having a future in aviation.

We believe we've found such a person in Kathi.

Dear Girls With Wings,

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read through my application. I am a big supporter of all that you do to encourage and aid women in achieving their aviation dreams. My name is Kathi. I am 25 years old and the single mother of two children (ages 2 and 3). I live in a small farm town in Iowa and have been dreaming of flying for a long time. Aviation is my passion. I am enrolling in the aviation program at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the fall of this year (2013). It is my understanding that the course ultimately is completed with the student having earned their private pilot certificate and instrument rating. I have heard good things about the program and am beyond excited and anxious to begin. I cannot say enough how much the financial help that you are offering would mean to me.

The essay I have included tells how my passion for aviation came about. It also tells how I hope to use it and what I hope it will mean for me and my family in the future. It explains too how I believe I can be a role model and inspiration for the Girls With Wings organization. I would appreciate it if you would take the time to read it. I tried to keep it thorough but short.

Thank you so much for offering this scholarship. It is a wonderful oppurtunity and will be very helpful to whomever wins it. Again, I appreciate what Girls With Wings is striving to do and I hope that it can continue to do it. Thank you for the encouragement and the support!

Kathi Lehman

Even better is Kathi's essay. I found myself a little watery eyed, because I don't know how she feels. I mean, I love to fly, don't get me wrong, but Kathi loves it with every fiber of her being and it really comes through:

I have sat down to ask myself this question, and for the first time, really try to answer it. Why do I want to fly? The answer comes easily. I want to fly simply because something inside me will never be satisfied if I don't. I want to fly because, throughout my life, it's been the one thing that's never changed, the one constant, the one phase I have yet to grow out of.

I don't know where my passion for flight and aviation comes from. Nobody in my family was a pilot or flew a plane. Growing up I never even knew anyone who did.

Maybe it began when my family moved to a new house outside of Shenandoah, Iowa when I was twelve, and there was a small airport not far away. Maybe it was when I'd lie in the grass with my hands behind my head, or on the tin roof of our garage, and stare at the sky. Where ever it came from, it was why I started writing in a notebook every plane I saw, the day, the description, the direction it was headed (even giving names to some of them). And why, when I attended my first airshow at that same small airport, I couldn't take my eyes off the stunt planes performing magic in the air, despite the crick in my neck.

It was why when I had my first flight, in a yellow Piper Cub at an airshow in Red Oak, Iowa (a nearby town), that as soon as our wheels left the ground and we were officially defying gravity, tears came to my eyes, unbidden, and I was glad the pilot couldn't see me.

It was why when I heard that a grandson of Charles Lindbergh was going to be at the Strategic Air Command Museum close to where I lived, talking about re-creating his grandfather's flight, I begged my dad to take me. The memory of that day is one of the best of my life, because I got to spend it with my dad, and also because Erik Lindbergh signed my pamphlet and even wrote FOR KATHI on it.

This passion is also why I started collecting 1:72 scale diecast model aircraft, and my parents bought

me a display cabinet one Christmas to put them in. (That collection now consists of 40+ 1:72 scale models, ranging from the Wright Flyer to the F-35, a few 1:48 scale models, a piece of outer skin from a V-2 rocket taken from a German bunker...and an Erik Lindbergh autograph.)

The passion is why when a friend of a friend offered to take me up in his plane, I jumped at the opportunity. He was an older pilot and his name was Gene. I remember he kindly compared me to Patty Wagstaff (I think it was because of my hair, certainly not because of anything else). He came to the Shenandoah airport in his Piper Arrow to meet me and when we were in the air, he surprised me by handing over the controls. He didn't seem worried at all, like he trusted my ability, (even though I'd never flown before!), and sat calmly in the left seat messing with his GPS. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't stall that plane, because I was turning and banking with full abandon, but somehow I didn't. I told him we had to fly over my parent's house, and they told me later that every time they heard a plane they ran outside and waved in case it was me. When Gene and I landed, he let me help him re-fuel and then we sat around a table inside, drinking coffee, while I listened with rapt attention to the old pilots conversing and swapping stories. I may have looked like I didn't belong at that table, but in all honesty, I've never felt like I belonged anywhere more. I went flying with Gene a few more times after that, and he gave me books and videos to help with my learning. I hope that today he knows how much that all meant to me.

I'm only mentioning these things because I want whomever is reading this to know that this is not a passing whim. My desire to fly and to live and breath aviation is real and I am determined, somehow, to do it.

Between the days of flying with Gene and now, (roughly a 5-year span) life briefly took me a different direction. I met a guy, had two kids, and long story short, am now a single mother. But I feel like now is finally the time to realize my dream, and to do what I feel I was born to do. To be the role model and the inspiration that my children need, and hopefully, to be those same things to my peers and other women.

I suppose in a way, I might be seen as an underdog, Firstly because of my lack of growing up around aviation, and also because I'll be the first to admit that my days in school (public and home-schooled) could have been better spent. Looking back, I wish I'd taken a more serious approach to math, instead of lying around outside dreamily staring at the clouds. But I happen to believe that if a person is really determined, they can learn and become good at anything. They can overcome any obstacles in their way. I feel that with a little work (or a lot) my math skills can be sufficient. I am currently refreshing my knowledge with what I've forgotten and working on learning what I never did. It's actually this "underdog status" that I believe could make me a good role model for the Girls With Wings organization. I hope to be able to someday say, "If I can do it, anyone can do it", and it'll be true.

My goals at this moment are to get my private pilot certificate and be instrument-rated. I also would like to take Aircraft Maintenance courses at some point (because I refuse to operate something I don't understand and have a working knowledge of). Right now, I'm not really sure what's beyond that. Yes I want to make a career of aviation, but I'm hoping that opportunities will present themselves and I will have a choice to make in the future.

I am working right now in a factory (I've been there for six months) to support myself and my children. Because of the demanding hours (10 hour days and I am constantly tired), I've come to the conclusion that I cannot continue working there and take flight training at the same time. I am more than willing to work a part-time job though. Of course, I would prefer to be able to focus my attention entirely on learning to fly, but in all honesty I'll do whatever it takes.

I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the opportunity to get help with funding this great endeavor, and also how much I support and appreciate what Girls With Wings is doing. Knowing that there is support and encouragement somewhere is more empowering than you know. I know that you will probably receive many submissions for this scholarship, and that it will be a hard choice, but I thank you for taking the time to hear my story and consider me. This help would be so much appreciated but even if I am not chosen to receive it, I wish the woman who is the best of luck, and maybe I will get the chance to meet her when we have both joined the elite "six percent".

Thank you immensely!
-Kathi Lehman

We wish Kathi all the best in her flight training. We agree that everyone needs to "overcome any obstacles in their way." So we look forward to hearing about her flights!

See the details of the Summer Scholarship Program. Applications accepted until June 30th, 2013.

Please note that the scholarships are funded by donations - so we need contributions from people like YOU to keep our program running. We always have way more deserving applicants than funds. Visit our donation page to help.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:39 PM

    That was a wonderful essay! Thank you so much for sharing such an honest and moving description of what it means to one woman to fly. Her voice speaks for so many of us. Best of luck to Kathi Lehman. She is most deserving of this scholarship. So filled with humble determination. No doubts she will be flying her own plane one day and inspiring others with her story of how it all happened. - Marcella B.