Thursday, August 01, 2013

Kimberly, The Winner of a Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, Summer 2013!

We are so happy to announce the fourth winner for a 2013 Spring Scholarship Program: Kimberly Kanapeckas!

The Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Scholarship is designed to introduce the world of aviation to someone who would benefit from experiencing the joy of flight. The award of this scholarship is intended to fund introductory flight training to encourage achievement of a stated goal, whether in aviation or in another field of study. There is no prerequisite flight training required for this scholarship, just enthusiasm and the desire to learn. The Dreams Take Flight Scholarship is an award in the amount of $500.00.

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!

Here is Kimberly's application essay: 

I pick the prettiest part of the sky and I melt into the wing and then into the air, 
till I'm just soul on a sunbeam. 
— Richard Bach, Running From Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit, 1994. 

From the time I was a young girl I was always an adventurous spirit, with the curiosity and tenacity to blaze a path that was uniquely beyond convention. Beryl Markham, British-born Kenyan aviator, has inspired me with her adventures since childhood, as I have lived in Africa, trained horses, written of my explorations, and am now learning to fly, all as she had done. While working abroad in South Africa, access to remote my study areas required the use of a fixed-wing Cessna as well as a rotary-wing helicopter. Observing the pilots’ skills in recognising the animals’ behaviour and the limitations and abilities of the aircraft, I was impressed by how we were placed so well for immobilizing wildlife. I was inspired. So on New Year’s Day this year, 2013, I scheduled my first flying lesson. 

My greatest aspiration is to fly as a biologist-pilot and I plan to conduct aerial surveys for natural resource agencies. To accomplish this, I am a graduate student and fly in my university’s flying club. By now, I have begun flight training in earnest, practising stall recovery, holding my altitude and heading, and mastering radio communications, pilotage and dead reckoning. As I line up on short final in a crosswind, Marham’s words earn their meaning: “The rudder bar resists the pressure of my feet, the stick inclines against my hand with almost truculent opposition. But this is momentary. A stern touch overcomes the urge to disobedience, and presently I settle back, flying with the craft and the craft with me” (West with the Night, 1942). Soloing is next on the docket once I master landings. I absolutely cannot wait for the joy of my first solo flight. 

Flight training can be frustrating, challenging, and certainly push a girl to her mental, physical, and emotional limits in ways perhaps nothing else can. What a blessing! Oftentimes I feel butterflies driving to a flight lesson, but as soon as I walk out and begin to pre-flight 733 Victor Sierra, I relax naturally. When I plug in my headset, get into the left-hand seat and strap in, and take the checklist from the side pocket and clip it to my kneeboard, I am in my element. As I take off and climb, the exhilaration of flying the airplane through the sky is amazing. When I am on long final into my home airport, the traffic pattern takes me right over my university’s football stadium, and I think of the different perspective this affection of ours affords me. There is none comparable. Interestingly, I come from a family with no background whatsoever in aviation, so I am so grateful for my supportive Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and the wildlife pilots who have inspired me along the way. 

The romantic poets would be hard-pressed to capture the beauty that is flying a little plane through the sky. We can write about it and begin to convey the magic of flight, but until it is experienced first-hand, the freedom, limitless adventure and even escapism are reserved for the pilot alone. That is why it is so important to keep sharing our adventures in the skies with broad audiences, particularly young women in their formative years. One of us may express something in a certain way that resonates within their soul and compels them to pursue aviation in earnest and realize that their dreams stretch far beyond the clouds. 

Recently, one young lady was taken up for her first flight in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk during a university flying club gathering in which I was participating. When she came down, the girl had become airsick while they were turning base to final and was quite embarrassed. The men, especially the pilot-in-command, a very kind, gentle CFI, let her know it ‘happens to the best of ‘em’, but she was still unsure of herself. I went over and found the young girl, gave her a Sprite to ease her stomach, and told her quietly about how she’s not alone, how students who ‘yank and bank’ can unsettle even the most steadfast CFI, and how it won’t define her as a future pilot (it’s the passengers who most often tend to get motion-sick anyway, just as in car roadtrips into the mountains). Then I told her honest stories about my more humorous experiences as the only female in the airspace. The anecdote I chose was when a Cessna Citations was on long final at my home airport (uncontrolled) and I radioed our CTAF to indicate traffic in sight. My instructor quickly confirmed aircraft position in traffic pattern and the Citation pilot commented to him “my, your voice has changed” to which my CFI returned “Yeah, I was feeling pretty.” The young girl finally flashed a smile. 

This is my vision for becoming a role model for Girls With Wings. It’s so important that I conduct myself in a way that inspires other women to disregard any glass ceilings and face their own challenges head on, and Girls With Wings will allow me an invaluable opportunity to represent women in aviation and serve as a role model accessible to young women who may wish to become involved in aviation in any capacity. 

Most of our greatest accomplishments are not achieved in isolation; I have been privileged to have many influential people who motivate me to strive for my dreams. Mentorship is a natural and effective way to help others as you have been, and to ensure that others are encouraged in the field we love. I have been a women’s outdoor writer and role model since 2001. It’s not easy to walk the unconventional path, and helps to connect with others who have paved the way. My university’s flying club is a great venue in which I can provide mentorship, and there are certainly other opportunities as well. In my short time in flight school, I have inspired acquaintances to take discovery flights and love to hear their account of how it feels to them to be on the controls in an aircraft. While often readily visible to the newcomer, mentorship can also be a quieter expression of support. Last month, I was told of another aspiring pilot in Africa, so I left my flight magazines there at his camp because reading material isn’t as easily accessible in remote areas. He never knew who left the AOPA Flight Training magazines, and it doesn’t matter. As aviators, we all just hope to encourage one another to become the best pilots we can be. 

Participation in aviation and professional organizations and events is important to my growth as a professional pilot. I am an active student member of the International Association of Natural Resource Pilots and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. I have been a leader and mentor to young women for over a decade, through Pro-staff of a women’s outdoor organization (since 2001), in my university flying club and at aviation expos and airshows, as current president of my departmental graduate student association, as well as at work every day. At the moment I have a female undergraduate student as well as a young woman who just graduated high school that I am mentoring daily in the laboratory. 

I am a full-time student in graduate school, an educational privilege but also truly a sacrifice of many years and thousands of dollars in student loans with a discouraging job market. This lack of financial resources makes achieving my pilot certificate challenging. I take lessons when I can and space them out as evenly as possible so as not to have a glaring gap of time where retention of skills learnt would fade. This strategy of lesson-by-lesson means a substantially longer period until I earn my Private Pilot Certificate, instrument rating, and eventually commercial certificate and float rating, but persistence and commitment are developed, which sharpens my dedication to aviation. This GWW Scholarship would ease my mind of the final constraints I have with each lesson that tend to distract me mentally as I learn how to land knowing that the fewer hours I take the more affordable it will be. Being released from some of the pressure to get so much done and mastered in a given flight would not only get me closer to my pilot-biologist dream, but also richen the amazing experience that flight school is! 

Indeed, flight training has reinforced character traits that make my relationships with my colleagues, students, family, and friends more rewarding. Piloting an aircraft teaches sound decision-making and collectedness under pressure, and also that the pilot’s dedication to her aircraft is paramount. My CFI and I wash the plane together and discuss strategies, maneuvers, etc. I will always be a conservative pilot, but will also push my boundaries within safe limits to expand my skillset as my experience increases. 

In closing, flying is an incredible experience for all pilots. I believe it may represent something more to women--the essence of climbing beyond domestic expectations and standard careers and enlightening ourselves to the promise of our unwritten future dreams. Pilots are a clever, dedicated lot and we can learn so much from one another. 

I look forward to hearing your decision for the Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Summer 2013 scholarship award and thank you for the pleasure of sharing my passion for aviation with you.

What a great story from Kimberly! 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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