Last week, I participated in a service project at Maple Lawn Elementary School with various departments of Southwest Airlines. The projects included painting the schoolyard, gardening, and tutoring. One project I participated in was reading to students and helping them find their desired library books. A majority of these students didn’t speak much English. I was walking around the small library when I spotted a Hispanic girl reading an Air Force book. I sat next to her at the reading table and asked what she was reading about. I quickly learned of her love for flying and how she wanted to one day fly a helicopter like her Dad did during the Vietnam War. I was touched by her enthusiasm as she showed me pictures of various military aircraft and explained to me how they worked. Her enthusiasm reminded me of dream jobs I had had at her age and how much I wanted to accomplish them. No dreams seemed impossible as a kid.
At an early age, I hoped to travel all over the world. My parents can tell you of all the books, National Geographic videos, and computer games I had dealing with world geography. On July 17, 1996, I found my Dad sitting in the living room watching the news. I learned that an airplane, TWA Flight 800, had exploded mid-air on its way back to Rome, Italy, killing all 230 people on board. I can vividly remember watching news footage of rescue crews rowing through fiery water looking for survivors in the night. The news broadcast terrified me so much that I was keen on staying home in December of 1997 when a family reunion was planned for Hawaii. I was convinced that if I got on an airplane I wouldn’t come back alive. I rode to the airport with my grandparents and cousins at the crack of dawn and was asked to say the prayer before we left. I can still remember praying, “Please help for our airplane not to crash and that we won’t all die.” When I finished the prayer, the whole car erupted in laughter. My older cousins, who I looked up to, helped soothe my fears and told me I had nothing to worry about. My parents helped calm my fears again when I had trouble stepping onto our Delta Flight. The pilot on board, perhaps noticing my nervousness, decided to show me the cockpit along with several of my cousins. Before long, I came to realize I had nothing to worry about! Thanks to the constant encouragement of my family, flying hardly scares me anymore and that trip to Hawaii was one to remember.
As a six-year old, after TWA Flight 800, I doubt I could imagine that one day I would be interning at an airline company. But because of influential figures in my life I am where I am today. I thoroughly enjoy flying and love traveling the country when possible. Southwest Airlines, like those figures in my life, has encouraged me to keep exploring and to reach for the impossible.
I have been especially impressed with those I work with at Southwest Airlines–especially the interns. They come from all walks of life. Most, like me, have never set foot in Texas. Yet, despite the unfamiliar environment, they are ready to explore. They are incredibly outgoing and fearless. They have inspired me to continue pursuing those dreams I want to achieve and to make the most out of life. I feel that as humans our nature is to be scared of change and to take the easy way through life. Think of all the great opportunities that are placed before you. Are you taking advantage of them or are you letting them pass you by?
That young Hispanic girl at Maple Lawn Elementary School comes from a poor part of Dallas. Yet she has the dream to be a helicopter pilot. Nothing can stop her unless she gives up. If my family had not encouraged me in my dream to travel the world after TWA 800 I would have never set foot on an airplane. I wouldn’t have traveled all over the world like I have today. I just hope that this young Hispanic girl will be encouraged in her dream to be a helicopter pilot like I was at her age to travel the world. Many dreams have been accomplished that society deemed impossible–history is full of such examples. So let’s make history!