Volunteer Spotlight — Abigail Oleniczak

Abigail Oleniczak, EAA 1157455, from Wheaton, Illinois, is a seasoned AirVenture volunteer. During EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022, she completed her seventh year volunteering, which is quite impressive when you realize she is only 19. Abigail first began volunteering at AirVenture with her family.

“My dad is a private pilot,” she said. “He really likes to be very involved. … My mom is always like, ‘This is a vacation for us!’ And [my dad] is like, ‘No, we have to do this, this, this, and this!’ But we enjoy it, and we love meeting people up there. It has been a blast every year we volunteer.”

In 2016, at the ripe old age of 13, Abigail began writing her own AirVenture story, by volunteering for AirVenture Today, the official newspaper of the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration. “My dad and I were walking around the grounds of AirVenture. He was looking for ways of getting involved,” Abigail said. “And next thing you know he’s like, ‘Oh there’s a newspaper? Abby, let’s get you involved with this!’” Although she described herself as a “timid and scared” preteen, Abigail felt welcomed by the AirVenture Today staff. “For someone who is 13 or 14 years old and wants to write articles, that is super cool that there’s a group of people that want to help you do that.”

She began writing stories for the paper under the guidance of AirVenture Today reporter Barbara A. Schmitz. Over the years, Abigail learned how to write engaging, informative articles and honed her interviewing skills.

“She was so nervous yet so excited to help cover an event that she had been coming to with her family for years,” Barbara said. “In the beginning I had to give her a lot of guidance — who to talk to, what questions to ask, and so on. She also shadowed me to interviews, and together we brainstormed questions. But year by year, she improved, and soon she was pitching story ideas to us. It was fun to see her grow in her confidence and skills. She’s become one of the reasons I enjoy coming back to write for AirVenture Today each year.”

In her first article she explored the AirVenture grounds looking for free swag, which proved to be a hit. Since 2016, Abigail has written a variety of stories. From interviewing the 2 millionth Young Eagle Jodie Gawthrop and 3D RC pilot Jase Dussia to capturing the excitement of the Women Soar You Soar day camp, AirVenture has given Abigail quite the writing portfolio.

Although she is currently a nursing student at LeTourneau University, aviation is always in the back of Abigail’s mind. “I am not currently working on my private pilot certificate; however, I am very passionate about airplanes. I am your definition of an enthusiast.”

As far as advice to those thinking of volunteering at AirVenture, Abigail echoes what countless volunteers have found out during that magical final week of July.

“You’d be surprised what will come your way! I’ve met a lot of cool people, and I find that to be a blessing,” she said. “If you are thinking about volunteering, AirVenture is the place to do it.”

Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.

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