participants and mentors gather by the Brown Arch before
Monday's air show.
Mentor Amy Laboda, editor in chief
for Aviation for Women, introduces some of the Women Soar
participants to Verne Wiese, WIA conference coordinator.
If you want a career in aviation, it
doesn't mean you have to be a pilot.
You could be a journalist or be in the
military. You could work in airport operations or be an airframe and
powerplant (A&P) mechanic. Then there's aeromedicine, aeronautical
engineering, and air traffic control.
Nearly 100 teenage girls learned about
those careers and more at the sixth annual Women Soar You Soar program.
About 40 mentors and junior mentors were
matched up with about 100 young women from throughout the United States
and three foreign countries. From Sunday to Tuesday, they spent time
talking to mentors, participating in hands-on sessions on navigation,
gliders, rockets and aircraft structures, taking part in team-building
activities, exploring the AirVenture grounds, and much more.
Amy Laboda, editor in chief of Aviation
for Women, was back as a mentor. She took a group of Women Soar
participants interested in journalism as a career on a tour, stopping at
the AirVenture Today offices, the photography trailer, the Canon Imaging
Center, and the Women in Aviation International booth. They also
attended a press conference.
Each teen participating in Women Soar had
to submit an essay about herself and why she wanted to come. Those
essays were then shared with the mentors, Laboda said. "It really
helped us to know the kids a little more and understand their
aspirations," she said.
Jill Long, a lieutenant colonel in the
Air Force and an aerobatic performer, took her group to look at military
planes, to tour the Connie, and then looked at the Pitts and Huskys.
(She flies a Pitts S-2B called Ragged Edge for air shows.)
Long has been a mentor since the Woman
Soar program started. "I do it for the inspiration," she said.
"Some of the junior mentors here had been in Women Soar in years
back. The program is making a difference."
The program also continues to evolve.
Curriculum was expanded this year, and partnerships were expanded to Fox
Valley Technical College, as well as the University of
Melissa Nelson was a first-year mentor
and works as an A&P mechanic at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
"I wanted to warp young minds and
show young women there are many facets to aviation beyond being a
pilot," she said. "I wanted to show them the
Being an A&P mechanic is a great job
for anyone who likes to work with his or her hands, she said. "It's
very empowering. If I can fix an airplane, I know I can fix
She was joined by co-worker Christa Frey,
a pilot, who said she has enjoyed meeting not only the girls, but also
the other mentors.
The two said the young women
participating in Women Soar were intelligent, driven, and seemed deeply
interested in aviation. While many had family members who were pilots or
involved in aviation, others had no one to serve as their mentor.
Some girls, like Krystal Vancil, 17, of
Yucapia, California, already know what they want to do.
Krystal earned her private pilot
certificate nearly three weeks ago and followed up by attending advanced
airman training at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. She belongs to the
U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and said she plans to be a naval aviator.
Kristen Overstreet, 15, of Sussex,
Wisconsin, plans to become a private pilot and fly for fun. She's
already started on that goal, having taken her first lesson.
Kristen said her father is a pilot, and
she's been at AirVenture nine times. "I like coming here," she
said. "But I like meeting other girls who are also interested in
the same thing at Women Soar."
2010 was the second year that Kristin
Sandager, 16, of Albert Lea, Minnesota, attended Women Soar. She is
interested in a possible career in aeronautical or mechanical
She said she enjoyed talking to the
mentors and the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Plus, she liked exploring
other possible careers and how friendly and accepting everyone was.
"Once I was at a church camp, and I
saw a plane go overhead and I said something about the plane … and
another girl said I was weird," Sandager said. "At Women Soar,
everyone is so accepting."
Why did some of the other young women
spend their summer writing an essay so they could participate in the
Women Soar program?
Prenise Whittington, 18, of La Crosse,
Wisconsin, said she came to learn more about airplanes, meet new people,
and see if flying is a job that interests her.
Hannah Grimm, 17, of Onalaska, Wisconsin,
said she was afraid of flying and decided to face her fear head-on by
enrolling in the Women Soar program.
"I'm very excited to see all the
planes," she said. She is considering journalism as a career, as
well as nursing or teaching.
Briana Godin, 16, of Menasha, Wisconsin,
has attended Woman Soar twice. She said this year's program was even
better than last year's.
"This time we're getting the
AirVenture experience more, and spending more time with our mentor
groups," she said.
While she isn't sure what she wants to do
yet, she is considering aviation as a career, as well as journalism
since she's an editor at her high school magazine.
Larissa Lupp, 18, of Wiesbaden, Germany,
summed up the AirVenture and Women Soar experience best. "I've met
some amazing women who can tell a lot of stories about what they have
accomplished in their lives," she said. "Plus I've met people
from all over America who are really nice. I see this as a chance to
learn more about aviation, and I hope it will help me decide what I want
to do when I graduate."