First certified civilian female Afghan pilot will attempt to become the youngest woman to fly solo around the world to promote STEM and aviation education to encourage women to believe in themselves and allow their dreams to soar.
Scheduled for May 13, 2017, weather permitting, Shaesta Waiz will begin her solo flight around the world. That’s 30 stops over five continents, in 18 countries, in 90 days – with more than 25,000 miles flown. But it’s nothing compared to the journey this 29-year-old aviator – the first certified civilian female Afghan pilot – has already persevered.
Born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan in 1987, Waiz and her family fled to America to escape the brutal Soviet-Afghan war, which was amid ripping the two nations apart.One of six sisters in her family, Waiz was raised in Richmond, California, where she discovered an interest in aviation. That’s when everything changed for her.
“She’s an inspiration to all of us – she’s created a spark and a flame in our hearts to live a life giving of ourselves to ensure we positively impact the next generation, our future leaders, and our future communities,” says Lyndse Costabile, Chair for Dreams Soar, Inc.’s Board of Directors. “The global solo flight is only one chapter of the Dreams Soar program, yet one that will leave a footprint on the lives of 20,000 plus women and men globally.”
While a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Waiz founded the Women’s Ambassadors Program in 2011 to increase the female enrollment through a modeled mentor program. In less than three years, under her leadership, the program helped increase female enrollment from 13 to 22 percent. With a mission to encourage more women to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and aviation-related degrees, Dreams Soar was born late 2014 by Waiz, now a non-profit organization whose goal is to partner with strong female role models along her upcoming route around the world, and together, promote the importance of STEM and aviation education, globally.
“Every time I open the door of an aircraft, I ask myself, ‘How did a girl with my background become so lucky? The truth is, anyone can be me,” remarks Waiz.
Waiz’s global solo flight for STEM will begin and end at Daytona Beach International Airport, and will include stops in Canada, Europe, India, Egypt, Thailand, Middle East, Singapore, and Australia. U.S. stops will include Columbus, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hilo, Hawaii, El Cajon, California, Phoenix, Arizona, Wichita, Kansas, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Georgia, and Mobile, Alabama.
The longest leg of the global flight is Hilo, Hawaii to El Cajon, California, one that extends to 2,184 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean. Global Partners to this program include ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and BendixKing by Honeywell.
Louis C. Seno, Jr. and his wife Christine have supported Waiz since the beginning, helping to acquire the A36 bonanza, supporting her flight training and other aspects of the program. Lou served Embry-Riddle for 25 plus years, and currently serves on the board for EAA and GAMA. “As a 40-year veteran in business and corporate aviation, my wife and I cannot imagine a better cause to invest that truly measures the reach and impact on our youth on a global scale, ” comments Mr. Seno. “Shaesta Waiz, through our support and others, will no doubt complete her mission in October 2016, propelling this industry forward.”
A 20 plus member Dream Team of talented collegiate students and young professionals serve the Dreams Soar program using expertise from their STEM and aviation curriculum to lead efforts related to donor/corporate relations, social media campaigns, video productions/multimedia, outreach events, weather briefings and global climate, homeland security and risk management, women in STEM strategies, to list a few. “We’ve taken action, stepped up to use our skilled minds to impact the next generation,” says Oriole Le, Women in STEM/Outreach team member for the Dream Team. “Helping plan a historic global solo flight and support a new nonprofit has proved to me, anything is possible.”
For a complete itinerary of planned stops, information on Waiz and the Dreams Soar team, visit Dreams Soar’s website: www.dreamssoar.org
Waiz is currently based in Daytona Beach, Florida.
About Dreams Soar, Inc.:
Dreams Soar, Inc., is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization founded by Shaesta Waiz, a dual-graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, whose mission is to inspire the next generation of STEM and aviation professionals, globally. The global solo flight is the first phase of Dreams Soar’s worldwide effort to empower the next generation to pursue degrees and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and aviation, specifically for young women and minorities. Supported by her Dream Team of collegiate students and young professionals, Waiz aims to be the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe, as well as the first Afghan women to fly solo around the world. Departing from Daytona Beach International Airport (KDAB), the global flight intends to raise additional dollars to award scholarships for young women and men worldwide in pursuit of STEM and aviation education. For more information about Dreams Soar, visit dreamssoar.org.
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Aviation aficionados have another reason to celebrate. On Thursday, Jan. 19, Broward College celebrated the opening of its new Aviation Annex, a 13,500 square foot facility, which houses four classrooms, faculty offices, and shop space at North Perry Airport. The launch of a new partnership with Tropic Ocean Airways was announced during the event. By joining forces with the airline company, students and graduates will be provided with a vast amount of job opportunities within the aviation industry.
“Within the last two years, our Aviation Institute has grown into a comprehensive program which offers students support from their first class to their first day on the job,” President J. David Armstrong, Jr. said. “The sky is the limit for what students can achieve, and the newly opened Annex and agreement with Tropic Ocean Airways are the latest exciting developments which will further create a well-educated and highly skilled work- force.”
The College marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by members of Pembroke Pines City Commission and other supporters of the institution. Guests toured the new classrooms and workshops, and posed in front of the Cessna Grand Caravan flown into the event by Tropic Ocean Airways. “We are excited to offer students the opportunity to take advantage of our partnership with Broward College, serving as a stepping stone to launching their career in aviation,” said Rob Ceravolo, Tropic Ocean Airways CEO. “By extending the benefits of our partnership with Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines, students will have a clear path towards establishing themselves as well-trained aviation professionals.”
Ceravolo introduced three graduates of the Aviation Institute who were recently hired by the company. The Aviation Institute solidified its relationship with Tropic Ocean Airways in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The two-year, non-binding agreement opens the door for potential job openings for Broward College graduates as future pilots, mechanics or as members of operations personnel. Other opportunities will include the creation of an internship program and corporate training plans, as well as future recruiting, career center involvement and curriculum development.
“These initiatives are important in strengthening the connection between business and industry with education,” Russell McCaffery, Dean of Transportation Programs, Aviation Operations said. “We are grateful to have supporters like Tropic Ocean Airways, along with the addition of such a beautiful state-of- the-art facility. We’ve had a regular waitlist of 150 students over the years for our Aviation Maintenance Management program so this expansion was much needed.”
According to data acquired by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the aviation industry is a multibillion-dollar sector in Broward County. In recent decades, Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport (FLL) has grown into a major transportation complex that now provides more than 139,000 direct and indirect jobs and boasts an economic impact of more than $13.2 billion, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported the median annual wage for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians to be around $58,390.
Graduates from Broward College aviation programs have filled these high-wage, in-demand positions in South Florida for the more than 50 years. Established in 1966, the Broward College Aviation Institute is the only public facility in Broward County dedicated to the training of aviation professionals.
The Institute currently offers Associate in Science degrees in aviation administration with four areas of specializations, as well professional pilot technology and aviation maintenance management. It also has certificate programs in airport management, avionics vocational, airport airframe mechanics, air- craft power plant mechanical and commercial flight operations. In 2016, the Institute marked another milestone when the Florida State Board of Education approved a new Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Sciences.
The Broward College Aviation Institute is located on South Campus at 7200 Pines Boulevard in Pembroke Pines, adjacent to North Perry Airport. Tours and information sessions are hosted Tuesdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays at 3 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.broward.edu/academics/programs/aviation.
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