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During my younger years in a historically Black community in Portland, OR, it was hard to find pilots with a similar background to look up to or mentors to support my interest in becoming a pilot. There were aviation opportunities in my city, word just never got around to those in my community. My eyes were opened to my potential in aviation in the fourth grade when I found my mentors and pilots who looked like me. Community programs such as Airway Science for Kids, Red-Tailed Hawks Flying Club, a chapter of Black Pilots of America, and Urban Wings provided me with numerous aviation opportunities throughout my time in middle school and high school. Other programs, such as Building Blocks to Success, Bridges to Success have also been supportive in the success of my personal and academic growth. It’s my life goal to use my credentials and experience to allow others to realize their potential and to provide aviation opportunities to underrepresented people in the field of aviation.


My first flight in a general aviation aircraft was with the Red-Tailed Hawks flying club, and that was what really got me hooked and interested in aviation. I still remember the day I went to Portland International Airport after church and the job fair, where I met the pilot, who just happened to be the president of RTH, to take my orientation flight. What a surreal experience for a fifth grader, a life changer.


Since I’ve been exposed to aviation, I’ve pursued every opportunity that I’ve found and had success! In the 7th grade, I earned admission to the Tuskegee Airmen Inc event at the Compton Woodley airport in Compton, California. This was my first opportunity to meet a large group of like-minded students who looked like me and also shared experiences. I continued my aviation studies and involvement with the local clubs and earned more and more opportunities. The next big thing that happened to me was gaining acceptance to the Southwest Continuing the Legacy in Aviation Event in Dallas, Texas during my freshman year of high school.

I was blessed to receive many flight training scholarships from UW, RTH, EAA, ASK, and the Civil Air Patrol, that allowed me to pursue my flight training throughout high school. I received my private pilot certificate my junior year in high school, and my instrument rating and commercial certificate my senior year in high school. It was a lot of hard work, and it was worth it! I’m currently at the Air Force Academy Prep School as I continued to pursue my flight training throughout my studies; I earned my Certified Flight Instructor Certificate during Christmas break in 2022. I am now pursuing my Flight Instructor Instrument rating. I’m halfway there as I have finished the written test and am focusing on the final details before I go to take my checkride.

My goal in life is to give back through aviation to others. I’ve had a lot of support throughout my aviation career so far, and I appreciate it. I would’ve never been able to achieve what I have in aviation without the first introduction, exposure, and opportunity. I’m hoping to serve my country and community through aviation.

Jaylen Palmer – Student at the Air Force Academy Prep School and former student mentor and instructor at Airway Science for Kids Follow him on LinkedIn for more insightful tips and information on finding your way to your goals.

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