Thursday, August 01, 2013

Caylee, The Winner of a Private Pilot Scholarship, Summer 2013!

We are so happy to announce the first winner for the 2013 Summer Scholarship Program: Caylee Johanson!

Girls With Wings offers two scholarship opportunities twice yearly. The Private Pilot Scholarship is to help defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship is targeting those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. The Private Pilot Scholarship is an award in the amount of $1000.00.

We are doing something simply unprecedented this year and we are super excited to finally be able to share the news with you. We are announcing NUMEROUS awards for our summer program instead of the usual two. Why? Because we are fortunate to receive donations and membership fees that people entrust to us because they believe and support the mission of Girls With Wings. There is no need or benefit to keep cash idling in the bank when the following individuals can take flight!

From Caylee:

My dad, a helicopter pilot, introduced me to flying. He used to take me to lunch in the bowling alley parking lot across from Bradley International Airport and watch the planes fly in and out. For as long as I can remember, the passion of aviation has run through my veins and every time I hear an airplane or helicopter my eyes drift toward the sky. My mom always wanted me to go directly into flying after high school and in hindsight she was probably right. It was impressed upon me to work towards a “practical” degree, though. I set a goal for myself which I achieved when I graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology Suma Cum Laude with the highest GPA of the graduating Mechanical Engineering Technology major and second in the graduating class overall. The desire to challenge myself grew. What was next on the list? 

I took my first flight lesson in October 2011. I soloed on February 19, 2012 after 15 hours of flight time! Unfortunately, a family illness overshadowed my life and I am now in graduate school at the University of Hartford studying for a dual-masters degree in mechanical engineering and business administration. Again I have set the goal to graduate at the top of my class. 

 I recently began ground school with the plan to pass the written test by the fall and begin flying again. This scholarship will get me back in the cockpit to review maneuvers and landings so I can fly my solo cross-country. With 32 hours of flight time behind me, I know I would be able to complete my training within a few months. 

In college I was very privileged to be able to become familiar with different jobs through internship programs. I’ve been able to work as a product safety engineer ensuring the reliability of the space suits that NASA astronauts wear and when applying to graduate school, I was accepted for a research grant with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This grant led me down the path towards nuclear engineering and I currently intern with a company testing the ability of our nation’s nuclear power plants to withstand earthquakes. While these experiences will enhance my ability to promote women’s studies in aviation and its related fields, the aviation industry is what truly inspires me. 

My passion for flying is waiting to explode as I work and study with an antsy feeling in my body that I just have to get out there, into the world! I know that aviation is my passion and I will always feel that something is missing until I get my pilots license and am working in the aviation industry. I know that when I do get my license I will feel as free as the birds that join me in the sky, knowing that I have the ability to explore all that this earth has to offer. Aviation incites in me a spirit of adventure! As Ernest Hemingway said, “Escape. Reach the inaccessible. Make the world your own.” This will all become possible with that ticket in my hand. 

I always think back to the little girl who fell in love with the skies. The one who wrote next to her fourth grade year book picture for everyone to see, “When I grow up I want to be a pilot”. I want to be a role model to the Girls With Wings community to prove that you can achieve your elementary school dreams. 

Being a woman in both the aviation and engineering industries, I know what it can be like in a male dominated field. Luckily I have been greeted with nothing but support thus far but I know it is not as easy for other women out there. I strive to promote women in engineering and aviation fields to make it easier for the future generations to break through. 

 I am a member of the Ninety-Nines, Women in Aviation, AOPA and the Society of Women Engineers. My association with these groups has shown me how many opportunities there are for women and girls to gain experience, support and general information in various aviation industries. I wish that I had been exposed to these groups when I was younger and had an opportunity to be involved in the aviation community sooner. Now my main goal is to share these opportunities. I volunteer annually at the New England Air Museum’s Women Take Flight program to talk with young girls and to help plant the seed to their aviation and engineering passions. I also work the 99’s booth at the annual Simsbury Fly In to promote aviation and plan to give presentations throughout my local school system to give back and inspire. My ability to share aviation will only increase when I get my license and I am able to provide the gift of flight. 

Like most young girls, I look up to all of the women who have blazed the trail before me; the women who are more experienced and have so many amazing accomplishments and stories to tell; the women who have such a fire for what they do but all the while are classy, modest and encouraging; the women who are proud of where they are but do not forget where they came from and push others to reach their own goals. While I will never stop looking up to them, now want to be one of those women. I want to be someone that girls can come to for advice, encouragement or just a story showing that I relate to the fact that they can’t get their landings or radio communication right and they are not alone. 

As a role model for the Girls With Wings community, one of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to “Make yourself proud.” This is a quote I live by; I carry a piece of paper with the saying on it everywhere I go. There is even one in my flight bag. In intense fields such as aviation and engineering, it is difficult not to get caught up with how well others are doing and where you stand in relation. It is best to realize and respect the fact that everyone learns differently and at their own pace. I set my personal standards high, work extremely hard in all that I do and simply strive to make myself proud of the effort I put in. I can’t wait to see how far this gets me in flying and in life! 

I have many dreams and challenges I’ve set for myself. I plan to pursue my instrument rating, commercial license and continue on with a helicopter rating as well. Learning to bush fly in Alaska for a summer is on my aviation bucket list too. I have a desire to use my flying for the better. I will love to volunteer with Pilots and Paws or as a transport pilot in remote areas of the world to deliver supplies. Dreams and goals are what keep me going. Life should be a never ending set of challenges that you give to yourself. Meeting those challenges and surpassing not only other people’s standards but the higher one’s you set for yourself are what makes life exciting and great. Regardless of where I do end up in the aviation industry I want my 8 year old self to be proud that I didn’t give up on such a rare dream. 

Best wishes to you, Caylee. We look forward to hearing about your training!

See the details of the 2014 Scholarship program starting January 1st, 2014.

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.

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