When I was 15 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. That’s rare, it seems. More often than not teenagers have very little idea what they want to do for a living.
In my case, I pursued my dream for far longer than most young men chase their own personal pie in the sky. No regrets. Not one. But it’s worth noting, I no longer earn my living doing what I’d fantasized my profession would be.
That’s all well and good, but what’s it got to do with you?
Dreaming is good, even if the dream is unrealistic. When people dream about their future and the world they’ll help to shape, their fantasies are an indication of motivation.
How far that motivation takes them is a function of several variables, including the support and encouragement of others.
Being a teenager is daunting. If any of us past the age of 35 reflect on our high school and college years honestly, we will remember ourselves as being alternately confused, excited, and a little intimidated by what lay ahead. We were in a competition with ourselves and our peers, as well as with our parents’ expectations and hopes.
There’s some pressure involved in being a teenager.
I bring up this topic because this past Saturday, I spent my day in a large corporate hangar at St. Simons Island, Georgia. The airport is actually known as Malcolm McKinnon, but the identifier is KSSI, which implies the name of the island itself. It’s a bit confusing for some, but St. Simons Island is near and dear to my heart, so returning there is always a pleasure.
When I was in flight school, I planned and completed the long solo cross-country required to earn a private pilot certificate, from Sanford, Florida, to St. Simons Island, Georgia. It was my first long range adventure in an airplane and I remember it well. The facilities have been upgraded over the past 30 years, but the people are the same. Wonderful. Simply, wonderful.
The occasion for my most recent visit was Glynn County Youth Aviation Day. Roughly 150 high school students came through that hangar and toured the ramp.
Admittedly, some were there on little more than a day out. And good for them. They explored a piece of real estate and met a group of general aviation professionals and hobbyists they likely wouldn’t encounter outside the airport fence.
But on this day, with adult supervision and following a well organized plan, they got to see the local airport, a great selection of fixed wing and rotor wing aircraft, and meet people who just might inspire them somehow.
Among these roaming groups of students were a significant number who are thinking seriously about pursuing careers in aerospace. Some want to be pilots. Others want to be engineers. A handful showed a preference for becoming an A&P mechanic, and at least a couple indicated they wanted to go the administration route.
What’s exciting about this is that these kids were actually at the airport, not in a classroom miles away. They were experiencing aviation for themselves, not just hearing a story second or third hand in an environment they spent hours in every day — a place they very well may consider to be quite dull.
They were seeing aviation in their own community, educational opportunities and jobs they could avail themselves of without ever leaving home or, alternatively, opportunities at home that could open the entire world to them if they wished to pursue their options.
These kids were dreaming of being awesome – and being made aware that the choice to pursue this particular path was theirs if they wanted it.
Thankfully for those kids, it was obvious and often reinforced that there are plenty of people right there in town who could and would help them along the way.
All this wouldn’t have happened if not for an airport administration that seeks out opportunities to welcome visitors to the field. EAA Chapter 905 played an important role as well, staffing the event with responsible, experienced members who brought their aircraft out for display.
What an amazing event. It’s happened before and it will most certainly happen again, because it gets results. It makes an impact. It begins the process of expanding the professional and personal horizons not just for the students who come to be a part of it, but it also benefits the volunteers who participate and energizes the airport administration as well.
What excites me most about this past weekend’s festivities, however, isn’t my opportunity to visit a great destination again. It’s not the kids I met, the volunteers I got to interact with, or the really cool aircraft I got to ogle.
That’s all great, but what really excites me is knowing that you can do the same thing in your town, at your airport, in your community, and begin to see equally impressive results.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can simply follow the template the good folks at KSSI have given you. Do what they do, market your event like they marketed theirs, get volunteers involved the same way they got volunteers involved, and reach out to local schools and youth groups to invite them to participate.
The world we leave behind can be significantly better than the one we found. It really can. So let’s do that. Let’s not just talk about it, let’s actually do it. Now. In your neighborhood.
Because your local kids have dreams, just like we did. We can help them come true.
Are you in?