EAA Chapter 1358, located in Dothan, Alabama, had its first meeting since COVID-19 started, taking place on June 13, EAA’s International Young Eagles Day. Chapter president David Stock decided to make the most of the day by presenting two worthy Young Eagles with flight training scholarships.
Sixteen-year-old Wesley Rodgers and 15-year-old Anna Pearce are this year’s lucky recipients. Created by Chapter 1358, these introductory flight training scholarships are designed to help deserving Young Eagles get a jump start on their flight training by providing them with a nice headset, pilot’s logbook, and five hours of flight instruction and aircraft rental (valued at more than $1,000 each).
Anna has been interested in aviation from an early age, although her first real introduction to aviation was when she took her first Young Eagles flight.
“I’ve been into aviation for as long as I can remember,” Anna said. “My grandfather and I would look at pictures of airplanes together and that’s what really sparked my interest. I had considered it as a career path, but I never thought it would be something that could actually happen until I heard about the Young Eagles program.”
Prior to her first Young Eagles flight, she had only ever experienced flight from a commercial standpoint, and when she finally had the opportunity to fly in a small airplane, it was love at first flight.
“It was really cool to be able to see everything,” Anna said. “On my second flight, I got to take over the controls. I was nervous; I didn’t really trust myself. But with David right next to me, I felt confident and like I could handle it.”
Much like Anna, Wesley had also been interested in aviation but never had the opportunity to experience flight up close and personal until he attended an aviation camp, and later, joined the Young Eagles program.
“I was given the opportunity to go to a flight camp in South Carolina with Bob Jones University,” Wesley explained. “They have summer camps that you can go to to feel out a career, so I went to the aviation-centered one. I was able to put my hands on a yoke and feel that plane respond, and that’s where I was sold. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’ I remember feeling the landing gear pull off the runway. There, they gave me a lot of resources for further education and opportunities to fly and they brought up EAA.”
After returning home from camp, Wesley and his father read through the pamphlets they received and did some research as to what the next best step was.
“We found out that EAA is very beneficial, not only for me to learn to fly, but also for me to one day give back as a supporter,” Wesley said.
Both Anna and Wesley have passed David’s ground school course with flying colors. Wesley currently has five hours under his belt, and is eager to gain more in pursuit of his private pilot certificate. Anna is excited to start her flying lessons with David as soon as she is able to.
Wesley said his end goal is to become a missionary pilot and to give back.
“I want to be able to support missions in places like South America,” Wesley said. “I have several good friends in South America, in Papua New Guinea. To get there, I definitely foresee becoming commercially certified. My goal with aviation is really just to be able to serve others. I’ve been looking at a couple local universities for A&P school as well.”
Like Wesley, Anna also hopes to earn her private pilot certificate. She said that without this scholarship, she wouldn’t have been able to start so soon after finishing ground school.
“With this scholarship, this is really going to be my first endeavor into flight training,” Anna said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the scholarship.”
“This is my first scholarship to be awarded, and it was really exciting. And there was a moment of, ‘Wow, this really happened!’” Wesley said. “It’s a blessing, because money just doesn’t fall out of the sky.”