By Senior Airman Jennifer Zima, 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 14, 2020
Daniella Pantoja, Alconbury Middle High School sophomore and Youth Programs member, participates in a discussion panel with Blue Angels pilots and other Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) students. RAF Alconbury Youth Programs collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of America to host an educational panel for students to learn about pilots in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Zima)
Miya Jackson, Youth Programs member, watches a video about the Blue Angels during a youth event at RAF Alconbury Youth Center, Sept. 9, 2020. RAF Alconbury Youth Programs collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of America to host an educational panel for students to learn about pilots in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Zima)
RAF Alconbury Youth Programs students learn about Blue Angels pilots during a during a youth event at RAF Alconbury Youth Center, Sept. 9, 2020. RAF Alconbury Youth Programs collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of America to host an educational panel for students to learn about pilots in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jennifer Zima)
A RAF Alconbury youth at the Child and Youth Programs spoke with U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilots during a virtual discussion panel with other members of the Boys and Girls Club of America Sept. 9, 2020.
“We were interviewing the Blue Angels about what they do whenever they fly, what their favorite plane is and how did they got into flying?” said Daniella Pantoja, sophomore at the Alconbury Middle High School and member of the RAF Alconbury Youth Programs. “It was for the youth, so they can learn about flying and be informed about the Blue Angels. I was one of the people who was asking the questions to the Blue Angels.”
Pantoja was selected to represent U.S. Air Force students in Europe in an event called Whatever It Takes to Soar. She, and other students in Europe who represented the other branches of the military, learned about what it takes to become a pilot. RAF Alconbury youths at the Youth Programs had the opportunity to watch the discussion and participate in online chats.
“The Youth Programs has partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs of America,” said Phil Powell, director of RAF Alconbury Youth Programs. “We answered the call and got one of our best and brightest teens who’s involved in the program. Being a part of youth programs allows you the opportunity to experience these cool things, like interviewing and discussing flight training and how to become a pilot with the Blue Angels. It’s something incredible for a teen, especially for somebody who’s in Junior ROTC.”
Pantoja is planning to receive her pilot’s license through the Junior ROTC program at RAF Alconbury.
“I learned that it’s very hard to be a pilot,” said Pantoja. “Because I’m in ROTC, I’m actually able to get my pilot’s license during high school. To be eligible for that, I have to be 17, and I’m not yet.”
The Air Force Junior ROTC Flight Academy, Chief of Staff Private Pilot Scholarship program, is available to high school students who are currently in the Junior ROTC program and are interested in pursuing a Private Pilot’s Certification. Students must have a minimum of 3.0 GPA and be at least 17 years old by July 9 in order to apply that year. The academy scholarship will cover the cost of room, board, tuition, books, and fees for this program. The headquarters for Air Force Junior ROTC will fund transportation from the cadet’s unit to the nearest airport. The scholarship program is a collaborative effort between the aerospace industry and the Air Force to address a national pilot shortage.
“I hope that they saw what it took for these pilots to get to the level of flying that they’re at,” said Powell. “It’s not something that they just woke up and said, ‘I want to be a Blue Angel pilot.’ It took a lot of training, skill, dedication, determination, and service to get to that level.”