VOTE ON YOUR FAVORITE & share their stories!
It’s almost time to giveaway the $4,000 flyGIRL/Sporty’s flight training scholarship! We had 315 applicants and have narrowed it down to 6! Each of their stories is inspiring and we want to share them with you! You may comment on your favorite or offer any insight!
MEET TAYO LADEINDE
I never dreamed of being a pilot when I was a little girl. By age 8 or 9, I went from wanting to be a figure skater to wanting to be an astronaut like Mae Jamison. She was the first woman I saw in that position who looked like me. However, that wanting only lasted until I realized just how far away space was. I figured that designing airplanes would be the closest to outer space I would want to get. This desire was enhanced by going to air shows at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio with my dad. He is a professor of mechanical engineering at SUNY Stony Brook and spent many summers as a researcher at the base when I was growing up. I remember thinking of how insane it was that something so large and heavy could move so incredibly fast.
So here I was, a teen growing up in the 90s, with a blowup F-16 Thunderbird hanging over my bed, but being in the cockpit was never in my realm of possibility. I went on to study aerospace engineering in college and earned my master’s in aerospace with a concentration in aerodynamics and computational fluid dynamics. Four years after a graduate research study on a rocket nozzle and two years after interning at NASA Langley Research Center, I found myself in the northern Minnesota city of Duluth. Duluth is pretty little gem on Lake Superior and home to Cirrus Aircraft, one of the world’s premier manufacturers of luxury, high performance single-engine aircraft. As a company built by brothers who loved aviation, there was a culture promoting general aviation. I started lessons almost as soon as I started working at Cirrus because, hey – why not? It was inexpensive and probably a great way to get to see the Lake. It wasn’t until after my first flying lesson that I even considered the “dream” of being a pilot.
Now, I am looking to wrap up the final hours of instrument flight training. My flight training was put on pause when I left Duluth because I was focusing on excelling at my new job. It continued on pause when I learned I needed surgery on my uterus for a condition more common to black women. It remained on pause when the pandemic rocked the world. After the sudden passing of close friend, I decided it was time for me to reconnect with my love for flying and aviation, and also look at how I can share that with others.
My path to where I am now has not been common for a black woman. I would have loved to have role models as a young girl, a teenager, or a young adult. I didn’t see any and I wasn’t pointed to any by my circle, so I looked inward and chose to do what I found to be enjoyable rather than what was expected of me by society. Through Women in Aviation International, I have found I can be to others what I never saw as I was growing up: a role model. In 2018, I was ecstatic when I was asked to fly down to Girls in Aviation Day and talk to girls, boys, and their parents about aviation. Now, with the pandemic and the increase of younger girls and women on social media and less in-person interaction, I have thought more about how I share my own life path and experience. I want to let girls of all ethnicities and backgrounds know that they get to do what they find enjoyable and to not measure their time or worth by what anyone else is doing. I know that I have the drive to complete whatever I set my mind to do, and with a scholarship I can get there faster. As an instrument and eventually commercially rated pilot, I want to connect with the girls and young women who scroll through Instagram, see me and what I’ve accomplished, and think, “I can dream of being a pilot too! Why not?”
MEET KELSEY SAGEN
When I started working as a flight attendant I quickly became curious about flying. I frequently spoke with pilots, soaking in everything they shared. One day, the first officer asked if I’d ever considered the career. Through talking to him I realized for the first time that I could become a pilot. I could be the one captaining, flying, and landing the plane. I didn’t need a military background, or a family of aviators to get me there. Following this realization, I immediately started looking for a flight school.
Within the first few lessons, I was hooked. Any remaining uncertainty became irrelevant and I thought, “I have to do this, now how am I going to make it work?” I paid for my private license by picking up extra shifts and drawing money from my savings. It was difficult to balance working overtime and flight lessons, but I persevered and earned my Private Pilot’s License on October 19, 2019!
I used up all of my savings to attain it. Afterwards, I began studying for my instrument rating and applying for scholarships. I applied for loans as well and, in April, one came through and I started training. I received my instrument rating on June 12, 2020. Shortly after, I moved in with my parents to save money for my commercial rating. The sacrifices I am making now are worth it to attain my dream.
I train at AV8 flight school in Eden Prairie, MN. AV8 has a fleet of six Piper Archers that cost $140 an hour wet, and the instructor fee is $70 an hour. My next two steps are to get my commercial rating (I’m almost there! My checkride is scheduled for December 10th) and to become a CFI. If I were to receive the generous flyGIRL scholarship, I would be grateful beyond words. This money would fund my CFI, giving me a better way to help pilots coming after me. It would also take me one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Delta pilot.
If I were a recipient, your investment would be put to good use. In both academics and jobs, I have received honors of dedication and leadership. I earned the award for being “most dedicated” multiple years in extracurricular activities. In college, scholarships that I earned were centered on leadership. I’ve always been a hard worker, graduating Top Ten and Magna Cum Laude. At work, I receive written accolades of a job well done from coworkers and passengers.
I believe in giving back. I will continue to participate in Women in Aviation events. I have met wonderful people through the organization and I enjoyed volunteering at Girls in Aviation day. It was fun to be a part of sharing aviation with the girls. I know that as a woman pilot, they may look up to me just as I look up to the pilots at work. I hope that when they do, they realize their dreams are within reach.
I also volunteer my time to Virtual Aviation of Minnesota (VAM). Through VAM I have the pleasure of helping others achieve their own aviation dreams through mentorship. I am an active member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). I recently became a qualified CAP pilot and soon I will be able to operate orientation flights. Once I am a CFI, I will instruct in my squadron.
One of my favorite things about aviation is the people I meet. I’ve met so many who have been willing to give me advice or take me up in a plane. I will keep pursuing this dream with the help and encouragement of enthusiastic aviators like you. People who are generous and encourage those coming after them, just as I hope to do for the next person. Thank you for considering me for the flyGIRL scholarship.
MEET NOBI BUNTIN
I never realized how much I loved flying until doctors told me I would never do so again. My career as a flight attendant ended abruptly when turbulence resulted in traumatic injuries. Prior to my injury, I had always been extremely athletic. Doctors told me it would take a miracle to walk again. From that instant, I put every ounce of energy into healing. Over two years, I underwent five procedures, countless hours of rehabilitation, and physical therapy. Determined to return to the sky, I obtained my First-Class Medical. I was one step closer to flying again, but this time from in the cockpit!
When I took my first discovery flight in 2016, I felt a surge of adrenaline and a sense of freedom I had not felt since my injury. The second we landed, I signed up for flight lessons! As the sole provider for our family of four, it is a struggle to make ends meet. To balance costs and support my goal, I pick up extra shifts and taken out loans. My family has been incredibly supportive, despite the sacrifices they endure on my behalf.
As I immerse myself in aviation, it is my passion to support our flying community. I am blessed with phenomenal mentors; it only feels natural to pay forward. Currently, I serve as the ‘WAI Hawaii 5-0 Treasurer’, chaired GIAD, ’99s Aloha Chapter Chair’ and formed an enthusiastic fundraising committee. In response to Covid-19, I founded the ‘Aloha Aviators’, a charitable group of aviators. Receiving media attention from WAI and AOPA enabled us to raise funds and awareness of our efforts. The Aloha Aviators have sewn and transported over 1400 masks throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
With my Multi-Engine Commercial certificate completed, I am one step closer to becoming an air ambulance pilot. Unfortunately, the offer to fly SIC for Mokulele Airlines was withdrawn due to the pandemic. During the lockdown, I remained focused. I passed two FAA Knowledge Exams and designed lesson plans. Learning to fly from the right seat is definitely a challenge, but it will soon become second nature with my tenacity. In conjunction with training, I work towards a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Despite the various uncertainties, I managed to maintain my 4.0 GPA.
It would be a tremendous honor to receive this scholarship; my strategy is to obtain a Commercial Single-Engine Add-On, followed by a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate. Teaching comes second nature and is extremely rewarding to me. I am eager to utilize my bilingual teaching experience to instruct the local and international community. Upon completing my instructor certificate, I have been offered a teaching position at Lani Lea Flight School. This will serve as a jet bridge to my goal of becoming a MedEvac pilot. Receiving the prestigious flyGIRL Sporty’s Scholarship will allow me to achieve my dream efficiently. With my relentless determination to leave the world in a better place, you will not regret investing in me. Aloha nui loa.
MEET KIM BURTON
Since I was little I have loved aviation. My family didn’t have the resources to enable me to purse this passion and I chose a different career path. When I started working, I was not fulfilled. I was bored and longing to do something that set my heart on fire. I knew it was time to pursue flight training and became an active member in my local chapter of Women in Aviation.
Between the resources provided by full-time employment and the opportunity afforded me through flight training scholarships, I was able to obtain private and commercial flight certificates with an instrument rating and a tailwheel endorsement. I began working on a flight instructor certificate when my progress came to an unexpected halt.
One of the best things that happened as a result of pursuing this dream was meeting my husband. We have a wonderful life together which includes two sons. We married in 2007, around the same time Brandon was hired by a regional airline. Things were looking positive for us until the economic recession hit. As a result, my flight training was sacrificed while I provided income for our family.
I can’t believe it has been over thirteen years since I have pursued my dream. During that time, I began to believe the falsehood that has been portrayed to women over generations. I began to believe that I could not pursue my dream and be a supportive wife and great mom. I thought it was not in the cards for me and the sacrifice was necessary to enable my family to achieve their dreams.
In December 2019, I was reflecting on the year’s accomplishments. I realized all the accomplishments focused on my husband and kids. I asked myself: What about me? What about my dreams? I had to discontinue believing the falsity that I was not worthy or able to pursue mine. I decided that I was going to focus energy and effort into achieving my dreams and doing so would not make me less of a wife or mother- in fact, it makes me a better one.
I want to become a CFI to lead and influence our next generation of pilots, especially women. I want to teach them in an encouraging, inspiring and safe environment. I want to mentor them-help them learn from my mistakes. I want to coach them-in the pursuit of their dreams whatever that may be.
Thank you for considering this application and supporting my dream of empowering future generations. If chosen, know that your gift will grow exponentially as I give back to the aviation community-especially to those young women who like me have a dream and just need some support achieving it.
Nelson Mandela said “There is no passion to be found playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” My intentions are to pursue my ambition, my dream and to never play small again.
MEET KRISTI NAIGAN
My career path looks very different now from what it did a year ago. I had a long successful career in the casino industry but was ready to start the next chapter of my life. That next chapter I thought was going to be in medicine. I was preparing to attend graduate school to become a Physician Assistant when fate stepped in. For some reason I had convinced myself I was too old to be an airline transport pilot. My love for aviation goes back as far as elementary school where I dreamed of becoming a pilot. But, life took me in a different direction and what I thought were childish dreams were stuffed behind five kids and a mortgage. I chose medicine because I thought it was the responsible thing to do for my family. My best friend, who is a flight attendant, reminded me that it’s never too late to pursue our passions. She showed me I still was able to have a long career in aviation. The most important thing to me are my children, they are my motivation. I want to set a good example so they know that anything is possible at any age. I also want to teach them that San Diego is not the center of the universe. I not only want them to see the world but learn about and experience different cultures and a career in aviation would allow that.
I am currently training at Plus One Flyers for my instrument rating. It is also where I will be training for my Commercial and Certified Flight Instructor certifications. I have a Bachelors of Business Administration degree from USD and am currently working on an Associates of Science degree in Professional Aeronautics at San Diego Miramar College. I received several scholarships to attend USD and numerous honors for academic excellence including the Vice President’s List, Dean’s List, and First Honors. I tutor and help other pilots with subjects they find difficult. My career goal is to become a captain at Southwest Airlines. In order to accomplish that, my plan is to become a Certified Flight Instructor to gain the necessary hours, training and experience needed to attain a job at a regional airline like SkyWest.
I took out a personal loan to help pay for flight school. Like many of us, COVID-19 really affected our family. The only income we had for a few months was unemployment insurance. We all had to make sacrifices and my flight training was one of them. The WAI San Diego Aviation Chapter Scholarship I won last year allowed me to train longer than it would have been possible without it. This scholarship would mean I could continue my training and pursue a career in the aviation. The cost for training varies but averages about $200 per hour.
I’m a highly motivated hardworking individual that doesn’t let temporary setbacks derail me. My love for aviation continues to grow and if I am awarded this scholarship, I will not disappoint you.
MEET AVERI STEGEMAN
Pursuing a career in aviation has been my goal since I was twelve. My mother recently found my journal entry from 2012 where I detailed how I was going to become a NASA pilot. My passion for flying and aviation led me to joining the Civil Air Patrol and Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps along with joining AOPA, EAA, and Women in Aviation International. Being accepted into the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) made me a legacy as my father graduated from USAFA in 1992. Being a legacy deeply resonates with me. Using the strong work ethic and sense of determination he instilled in me, I will leave a legacy of my own in the aviation field.
My short term goal is to graduate from USAFA with a B.S. in Meteorology with my first assignment being pilot training. Next, I plan to graduate from Undergraduate Pilot Training at the top of my class and become a military aviator. Long term, the goal is to have a fulfilling career as a military officer and aviator and be able to continue my passion in the ever expanding world of aviation.
To earn a pilot assignment from the Air Force, I have to compete against my peers by having a higher Pilot Candidate Selection Method (PCSM) score. Pilot assignments have drastically decreased in number this year and become extremely competitive. I have taken the two pilot aptitude tests, and received close to the maximum scores on both. The final way for me to improve upon my PCSM score is with flight hours. Earning my private pilot’s license will increase my PCSM score, secure a pilot training assignment, and allow me to pursue my passion professionally.
I have no previous training due to the financial constraints of being a full time college student with a restricted income. The FAA Part 141 approved institution I will be earning my private pilot’s license from is the Academy Flight Training Center on the USAFA installation. The costs I will incur are as follows: $650 for ground school, $175 for my first flight, $42/hr for instruction, and $105/hr for aircraft rental.
Only 6% of military aviators are women. By pursuing a STEM degree and a career as a pilot, I am in the minority. I have been underestimated for the mere fact that I am female. That has never become a deterring factor. Adversity pushes me to challenge myself more, which provides the spark that ignites my inner drive. I worked as an aircraft marshal at Oshkosh AirVenture in 2017. As one of a handful of women in uniform at that airshow, I was often stopped by younger girls wanting to know more about what I did. I was put in the unique position where I could inspire them, and aviation scholarships are my opportunities to do so on a larger stage. To be a role model worthy of representing the Women in Aviation International organization is a true honor. The legacy I forge will inspire others to new heights.