Flying in High School | Charlotte Photographer

Remember when you were in high school? Learning to drive a car. Beginning to really understand the responsibility that you had grown into? Now for a moment imagine being that age and learning to fly a plane!

Flying in High School

Amya Clark, an Air Force JROTC cadet at West Mecklenburg High School, took a big step when she applied to the Air Force Academy’s new summer seminar program this past winter.

Charlotte high school student Amya Clark flew to new heights in AFJROTC

Similar to being in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), participating in the program is not a military commitment; however it is designed to assist with the shortage of pilots, both military and commercial. The US military is hopeful that it will help reinvigorate the job for all of its branches.

Amya felt it was fast-paced with tons of information to soak up in a short period of time. Mornings consisted of intense lectures and then hands-on learning in the afternoon. As with most things in their creation, it’s not perfect. Amya told me that she didn’t feel that she was as prepared for what she was doing as she could have been. But at the end of the 8-week program, she managed to fly solo, something that not everyone had the opportunity to do.

Challenges make you grow as a person. Senior photographer Emilie Smith Photography

Most of your childhood is defined by what you try, or don’t try. For many high school students, social activities and extracurricular activities are what define you to your peers. But they can also be catapults to what you decide to pursue in the future. Sometimes taking the big steps is easiest when you still have a safety net of people around you that support you and cheer you on. And it’s typically those people that help you on that journey.

Help to get there

Amya told me that her JRTOC sergeant had looked into some programs for her after she voiced interest in being a pilot and approached her with this one. It’s not abnormal for the instructors of JROTC programs to assist their cadets in these ways.

The next step was to take a test. “…Looking back on that I still don’t know how I got into the program because other cadets said they studied for it and they got in so I’m just amazed by Gods Grace and Favor. I was selected as an alternate and from there we got a list of colleges I’d be interested in going to, went to go get a physical, and did some ground school work online…” Amya said.

I had a chance to talk more with Amya about the experience when we met for her photography session. While she is amazed at what she learned, the realities of being a pilot have become very apparent. Amya was faced by the dangers of flying “Its way more serious then I thought.” Amya wrote me. “I don’t think this is something I’ll consider pursuing because I don’t feel I have the desire to put my life at risk in a huge aircraft with hundreds of other people as well. If I were to go into this field, I’d be a missions pilot.” Her heart is drawn to helping others, be it through fostering or social work.

I shared with Amya an adventure I went on when I was in high school. Similar to Amya’s story, a friend of mine recommended an exchange program to me as something I might be interested in. It was an experience I will never forget. Even as an adult, I use the experience as a reminder of what I can achieve when I set a goal.

Help along the way

Amya told me about many new friendships that surprised her as well as helped her through her experience. “I’ll remember Cameron, one of the instructors, because when I flew with him something clicked. It was like magic that God had done. I’ll also remember Morgan. She was my camp counselor. I honestly didn’t like her much at first, but that definitely changed. She was always there to help me and she’s so bright-eyed and patient, and very loving. She’s someone I’ll always stay in touch with. “

So, find your allies, mentors and role models. Find the people that will support you and lift you up! So that you have an army behind you when you feel the need to do something amazing! And then put in the work!

Did you do something in high school that influenced your path or direction? Who helped you get there? Comment below and share with me!