Erin Schwind of United Way Southwest Alabama sends the following news:
On Friday, April 27, 2018, the third year of the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge came to an end with an exciting closing event at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center (Exploreum) where students and volunteer mentors enjoyed touring the Permian Monsters Exhibit and the Scratch Factory followed by a trip to the Airbus Americas Engineering (Airbus Engineering) office in Mobile for a tour and a certificate ceremony recognizing the students for completing the mentorship program for this school year. An extra bonus to the program this year: three students from Palmer Pillans Middle School (Pillans) have been chosen to represent Mobile’s participants at a global gathering of Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge mentees in Munich, Germany, next month.
Airbus Engineering and United Way of Southwest Alabama (UWSWA), in partnership with the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF), Exploreum, and Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS), have worked together for three years on this successful international youth development program that inspires young people from across the globe to continue their education, find their professional vocation, and realize their dreams through mentoring with Airbus Engineering employee volunteers.
In Mobile, the program focuses particularly on character development and STEM activities for young people attending Pillans. Fifty students from grades six through eight were mentored by 32 Airbus Mobile employees who volunteered their time January through April to attend weekly sessions with the students.
Developed in partnership with United Way and other local nonprofits, the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge also aims to promote Airbus values and encourage community engagement among employees as they share their passion and skills. The program presents the opportunity for Airbus Engineering employees to provide career exploration, life skills discussions, educational activities, and academic enrichment to middle school students.
“What I really like about the Airbus Flying Challenge is that we cooperate and communicate with each other,” said Pillans student Jacobie. “We can tell each other what we did that day, or if we have a hard time, we can talk about it with each other. I’ve learned I can trust others to help me get through obstacles and to pay attention and be respectful of others.”
“I enjoyed getting to know the students,” said Airbus volunteer mentor Kody. “It’s a very good experience that not only benefits the students, but me as a mentor as well.”
“We know from the data that it works. Our young people are responding to this program,” said Airbus Americas Engineering Site Director David Trent. “Our young people are saying that school is more important, that staying in school is more important, that getting good grades is important and attendance is important. All these are things we are trying to build here in Mobile in terms of a foundational element to be able to take care of our workforce in the future.”
As part of the culmination of this year’s Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge, students participated in a discovery flight that let them fly in a real airplane. Not only did they see what it’s like to fly, but they also learned basic aviation principles such as how the flight controls are used to maneuver the plane and how the plane’s wings generate the lift needed to keep it aloft. Best of all, they had the opportunity to enjoy a truly unique experience.
“When we got into the air, the aircraft was bumpy at first because of the wind,” said Pillans student Quintariez. “The pilot got into formation with his friends and our pilot told us that if one person messes up they all mess up. But if one person does better, they all do better.”
In celebration of the Airbus Foundation Flying Challenge’s 10th anniversary, Airbus is bringing mentees from the program from around the world together in Munich next month. Nicole Goodwin, Alexis Vander, and Al’Landria Jackson will depart with their chaperones, Pillans Principal Jacinda Hollins, Laurie Childers from the UWSWA, and Airbus Engineering mentors, Michelle Roof and Danielle Kelley. This trip will be the students’ first out of the country.
“I am very appreciative to have been selected by Airbus to attend a memorable voyage to Munich, Germany,” said Nicole Goodwin. “I am excited to meet and collaborate with students from all over the world regarding the aviation industry. I have never traveled outside of the country, but I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of Germany.”
The Airbus Foundation also has Flying Challenge programs in Wichita, Kansas; France; Germany; Spain; and the United Kingdom. The Foundation donated approximately $82,000 in funding for the Mobile program. Through mentoring sessions, visits to Airbus sites, STEM and character development workshops, and a flying experience, more than 4,600 students worldwide have been inspired by aerospace, found new ways of learning, and improved their learning engagement and interpersonal skills.