Mentors Jill “Raggz” Long and Karen Courington with some of the girls who attended Women Soar You Soar. Standing, from left, are Megan Giambrone, 17, of Belmar, New Jersey; Michelle DeVillers, 14, of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Alex Arcamuzi, 15, of Memphis, Tennessee; Victoria Ewert, 14, of Belvidere, Illinois; and Blake Schuette, 16, of Farmington, New Jersey.
Corporate pilot? NASA engineer? Flight surgeon? No clue.
While some of the teenage girls attending Women Soar You Soar know exactly what they want to do, many others aren’t so sure. And that’s just why the program exists—to inspire and empower girls in grades 9-12 and show them the many career options in aviation available.
Back for its fourth year, the program looks a little different from past programs. This year it ran two full
days - Monday and Tuesday - and included lodging and meals at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. But there were also more hands-on activities for the girls to choose from, including career planning sessions and more time on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds.
Some things remained constant, however, especially the mentoring relationships that grew from about 30 successful women who shared of their time and talents.
Mentors said they were impressed with this group. “They are really excited to learn and are coming out of their shells,” said mentor Jessica Powers, a high-technology attorney in Washington, D.C. “They’re making
connections … that will help them in their careers.”
Another mentor, Lidia Nonn, director of the institute of research at UW-Green Bay, agreed. “They’re a fabulous group—they seem mature and focused. The fact that they are spending time here at their age, and not sitting at the pool, tells you something about them. You already know they will be successful because they care enough to spend part of their summer
She understands some of the obstacles they face. “I grew up poor in Chicago. I never dreamed of opportunities like this. I didn’t know anyone who was a pilot, and now I’m doing Young Eagles flights.”
Nonn said it’s important for the girls to realize there are more options in the aviation
field than being a pilot. A common interest in aviation, plus a love of science and math, can help them find careers that fit their needs and abilities.
Some of the girls already knew that, and that’s why they decided to come to Women Soar.
“I wanted to figure out what my options were, to find a path I could follow
for school,” said Blake Schuette, 16, of Farmington, New Jersey. “I am interested
to see what other people are doing. I don’t know anyone else at my school (who is interested in aviation). They don’t understand why I’m at the airport so much.”
Schuette said she thinks she wants to be a corporate pilot, and is on her way. She has already soloed in a Piper Archer.
This is the first year that Alex Arcamuzi, 15, of Memphis, Tennessee, is taking part in Women Soar. She said she always thought about becoming a pilot or doctor,
but already learned at Women Soar she could do both as a flight surgeon.
Megan Giambrone, 17, of Belmar, New Jersey, said she also wants to figure out what to do with her career, since she has just one year left until high school graduation.
She’s started pilot training, and also planned to talk to “anyone who has already done it.”
Mentor Amy Walsh, of Ball Aerospace in Boulder Junction, Colorado, said she hoped to inspire young people just as others inspired her when she was young. “I had male teachers and my father who told me I could do anything,” she said. “I love talking to the girls about things like how to pick what school to go to, or how to choose their major.”
But if there is one message the mentors want the girls to get it’s this: if you’re book smart and hard working, you can accomplish just about anything.
“And even if you’re not convinced you’re capable of doing something, try it anyway,” Walsh said. “It doesn’t matter if there are obstacles or doubt. Failure is part of learning.”
The message seemed to be getting through.
“I can see them vibrating with excitement when they don’t realize we’re looking,”
Nonn said. “It’s important for these girls to realize that if they want to, they can do it. Just because it may be dirty, messy or smelly, doesn’t mean it’s just for boys.”