By: Nia A.

When I realized that I had been awarded a scholarship for the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals or OBAP Atlanta Summer ACE Academy, sponsored by Delta Airlines.  I didn’t know what to expect. I applied in early February 2013, and was anxious to hear. I was so excited that I even called the program coordinator to introduce myself and make sure they received my application and essay. July 6, 2013, I finally got the answer; I’d been waiting for. My mom ran into my room giving me the run-down of my schedule for the week. It consisted of early mornings, and long days of fun, including, tours, a lot of walking and even more travel and exciting adventure.  On that
Saturday, I was still trying to wake up but one thing caught my attention, she said I would be going to Washington D.C. “As in the capitol of America?” I asked. She shook her head yes. It took her explaining it three times slower with each time for me to fully get a good grasp on what she was saying. I was going to Washington D.C. for the day to the Smithsonian Aerospace museum!  Then, she hit me with another surprise, the day after we got back from D.C. we were going to fly planes. I realized that I had really underestimated what working hard in school, applying early, being professional and planning ahead, for what you want, and following your dreams really could do.  At the end of school, I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t be doing much this summer but my summer was quite the opposite. By the quickly approaching end, I had gone to North Carolina, Florida, and I was about to go to Washington D.C, and fly an airplane. Who knew?

My experience was an experience most people dream about. It was humbling to know that not many kids or adults get this opportunity. My experience with OBAP would open so many doors and allow me to network with people from all over the U.S. Most of the kids I met were from Georgia, but we also met kids from Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, and even Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. I made a lot of new friends and I got to meet a lot of inspirational people. It felt good to see girls and even women pilots that had the same passion as me, flying!
When we first got to our first meet-up, it was about 7am, we started with strict security clearance and identity checks, at the Delta Worldwide Headquarters at Hartsfield International Airport. I was excited but I think my mom was a little more excited that I was! We checked in and I shook the hands of the program coordinator Mr. Marcus Neyor and the program Director and Southern Regional Director of OBAP, Mr. Emmanuel Burke. I was congratulated on my essay and was also told that my stellar academic record, my professionalism in following up with Mr. Burke were all of the reasons I was chosen. It made me feel so great that I had impressed my program coordinators even before they had the opportunity to meet me. 
As I walked into the auditorium, it was amazing to see all of the people in the auditorium. It was even more amazing to see how few girls that were there. This made me realize that being a part of this program must have meant that I was headed in the right direction, making me even more honored to be there. I looked around and saw no familiar faces, forcing me to make new friends. That didn’t seem to be much of a problem because I already was getting to know this kid from The Bahamas that I admired for his extreme knowledge of airplanes. I was a little taken aback when he was telling planes apart by pictures of their cockpits. “Who does that?” I thought to myself. Over the week I got to know him and he taught me about the programs that he used to practice his flying.
When we got to Falcon Field, I was so eager, that I didn’t even want to stay in the car. I was excited because not only was this going to be my first time in a Cessna aircraft, but I would be the one flying it. Pilots and aviation schools from all over flew in with their planes to spend the day with us. I was elated when I realized that Embry Riddle Aeronautical University came with instructors. I had done a project on them in school and I was so excited because I was finally getting to meet more people than I got to experience in school every day. 
My partner and I were the first to fly with our instructor who was an Australian Native and flew in from Florida to volunteer his Cessna aircraft

and donate flight hours. I flew a total of 40 minutes to LaGrange, Georgia, and my partner flew back. We stayed no more than 3,000 feet in the air, but no lower than 2,500 feet off of the ground. It was a breathtaking experience. It felt great to be a girl at that very moment.

 I was so amazed and knew little of the sacrifice our volunteers gave in the intense GA heat, the long hours of service they donated and the expenses towards fuel and their expertise for free. We were the first to fly and we felt like celebrities walking through the door because as soon as we did, everyone gave us a standing ovation and I never felt more empowered and honored. This is an experience that I will never forget, I was so humbled to know that my week-long experience was provided through the generosity of Delta Airlines, Express Jet and hundreds of pilots, staff and fellow OBAP members who gave up their vacation time to spend the week with us. All food, training, and resources were free and donated via a scholarship.  I could have not been more proud for myself, my family and also as a Girl Scout!
One thing that I remember most is when a pilot from Delta Airlines told me that 15 years from now he expected me to be flying for someone and that I would be the in command. From that day forward I am determined to make sure that happens. I came in contact with very important, successful men and women that are expecting me to take my exposure and experiences and run with them. They are expecting me to let my destiny take me around the world and I am determined not to let them down. This experience has definitely put the right eyes on me and they are now tracking my success. I am grateful for this experience and you can look to see me flying higher than ever towards my future!  For more information and to learn more about Aerospace and Aviation Careers, go to, to learn more about the National Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) , go to

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