By Jennifer L. Warren
Carley (Buttwell) Daring recalled the life-changing moment with a distinct glint in her eyes: She had not even driven a car yet, but she had just flown an aircraft.
Daring was one of several, proud alumni Saturday night who virtually shared their fond memories of being a part of the Tuskegee Airmen’s Lee A. Archer Red Tails Flying Program while in high school. The authentic learning opportunity is a pivotal part of the Major General Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. which uses flight instruction as a catalyst to mentor, tutor and provide role models for youth. In addition to introducing a comprehensive aviation learning program (featuring hands-on piloting opportunities and licensing), the Red Tails experience includes critical life skills, such as discipline and diligence, applicable to any career path as well as being a sound, contributing community member.
It’s that lofty standard which defined the legacy of preparation, determination and excellence left behind by the Tuskegee Airmen whose primary goal is to affect positive change in America’s youth. The profound impact of the program could be heard and felt at Saturday evening’s 23rd Annual Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Tuition Assistance Award Celebration; this year enjoyed virtually. Here, 10 local high school seniors were awarded Scholarships, in the amounts of $1,000 and $2,000, and named after revered individuals connected to the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Whether it was exhilarating moments like Daring’s of flying an aircraft while a teenager, witnessing the awe-inspiring thrills only an air show can produce, viewing the Intrepid Opening at The Air and Space Museum, soaking up nuggets of wisdom from a mentor, or spending time in a classroom, absorbing pertinent details of how to pursue college scholarships, alumni passionately spoke of the indelible footprint the Red Tails Flying Program made on their lives.
“I will forever be inspired by the Red Tails Program as well as the Tuskegee Airmen,” said alumni Laisa Pertet. “I loved the air show, guest speakers, and information I got on air traffic controlling; my advice to the students now would be to really take advantage of all of the flying opportunities because it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Alumni Brenee Robinson discussed the Red Tails potency on her life to this day.
“It gave me a big sense of pride to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen,” recalled Robinson. “I’m so very grateful I was able to be a part of this amazing program.”
In addition to alumni speaking of the life-altering dynamic of the Red Tails Program, so too did the 10 high school senior scholarship winners, who were grateful for the funds they will apply to such things as books and housing when they attend college in the fall, pursuing their goals and dreams, some of which include careers in aviation.
Dominique Gooden (winner of the Dr. Irene Trowell- Harris Award), who attends the Storm King School, is looking to pursue a career in medicine and aviation with hopes of becoming an astronaut, doctor and researcher. She gratefully relayed just how much this prestigious honor, coming from a deeply meaningful organization, rich in history, meant to her. Newburgh Free Academy senior, Collin Evans, is looking forward to a career in law enforcement, a field he is now inspired to impact through his Tuskegee experience.
“I really look up to the Tuskegee men, and consider them to be role models in my life,” affirmed Evans. “Their resilience in the face of adversity is something I admire, especially in the career path I want to pursue.”
That respect and admiration for the Tuskegee Airmen was shared by another one of this year’s recipients, Mya Zylberberg. Reflecting upon the unique challenges the Pandemic has presented. Zylberberg, who is a senior at Newburgh Free Academy’s PTECH Program as well as sophomore at SUNY Orange, related the very real relevance of having reminders of people like the Tuskegee Men around, serving as barometers of motivating excellence to aspire to despite the present circumstances.
“Reading and hearing stories of the Tuskegee Men of determination during challenging times keeps me motivated,” said Zylberberg. “It also makes me maintain my desires for education, also during these unprecedented times.”
Other Scholarship recipients included; Hannah Cullen, Celeste Ibarra, Nicole Davis, Courtney Rampe, Nathan Woinicki, Michaela Brown and Manpreet Kaur.