Some participants have grown up with grandparents who are pilots, others earn their pilot’s license before their driver’s license, all 80 high-school aged young women live and breathe aviation.
For seven years the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has contracted with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Division of Lifelong Learning and Community Engagement (LLCE) to present the annual Women Soar You Soar program during EAA AirVenture. Through the collaboration, UW Oshkosh provides housing, meals, screening of mentors, registration and forms for the Women Soar You Soar program.
The Women Soar You Soar partnership helps young women in high school learn more about the aviation industry and encourages them to pursue their aviation dreams.
Women Soar You Soar is designed to help young women see their passion for aviation translate into an education and a career through mentorship provided by 35 women in the aviation industry ranging from engineers to fighter pilots.
“EAA and UW Oshkosh use this program to show young women that there are education and career opportunities that will help them turn the passion into a career,” Jennifer Monroe, associate marketing specialist in LLCE, said. “Some want to be pilots, some are interested in mechanics and electronics and others want to be involved in aviation business.”
For every level of interest, the Women Soar You Soar program shows participants what possible opportunities are available and the education paths to help participants reach their goals. For high school junior Sara Harke, who is a returning Women Soar You Soar participant, the program reinforces her passion for aviation.
“I get to meet all of the mentors and they talk about different careers and paths to take and how they’ve achieved their goals,” Harke said.
“If you know you are interested in a field shown in movies and other media predominately as men, then an immersion experience like Women Soar You Soar helps you re-think the potential career,” Kauffeld said. “This experience helps participants know they are not alone in their dreams.”
This year’s 80 participants range in age from 13 to 18 and come from throughout the United States, and are broken into groups of six mentees to every chaperone, who are all college students at UW Oshkosh and Edgewood College.
“I’m really excited to learn about, as well as help young woman in their journey to accomplish their dreams and goals,” Katie Tessier, lead chaperone and a junior at UW Oshkosh majoring in journalism with a public relations emphasis, said. “I am granted a once in a lifetime chance to lead, inspire and assist all of the woman I am working with! I am beyond honored and blessed to serve as a role model for so many people.”
Chaperones for Women Soar You Soar help participants navigate EAA AirVenture to attend numerous workshops, which are customized each year based on essays on their interests participants submit.
“Women Soar You Soar gives girls the chance to learn not only about EAA and aviation, but what it means to be a woman and the importance of leadership, hard work and making what you love come to life,” Tessier said. “The program has mentors and speakers that reinforce the strong and powerful abilities a woman has and their capabilities of making their dreams come true!”
For the first time, a second aviation immersion and mentorship program is being offered to the Boys and Girls Club of Orlando, Florida, which is being sponsored by former MLB player Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Blue Sky Foundation.
“The program provides the EAA experience to 10 members of the Boys and Girls Club, our first co-ed group,” Kauffeld said. “Six mentors and two chaperones will assist with the program, giving the group a more intimate experience.”
1967 UW Oshkosh graduate and retired commercial pilot and former superintendent for the Kaukauna school district Lee Siudzinski serves as the executive director for the Blue Sky Educational Foundation of Dallas, which is a sponsor of the Boys and Girls Club aviation program.
“The program uses the excitement of aviation to increase interest in aviation and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career opportunities which is the perfect way to engage students and demonstrate the opportunities aviation careers can offer them,” Siudzinski said.
Participants gain hands-on experience, interact with female professionals in the aviation industry and learn about career opportunities and educational pathways, including the UW Oshkosh aviation management emphasis.
“For a student to learn more about their interests, to encourage them to follow their passions, you can show them how English, math and science relate to and apply to their passion,” Kauffeld said. “It’s exciting to see participants realizing their potential.”