By EmmaLee Italia, Correspondent
An interest in aviation and unique opportunity intersected recently for Ean Chambers, eighth grade student in St. Ann School, Lawrenceville. And that became the catalyst for his entering – and winning – an essay contest sponsored by Southwest Airlines.
Chambers, who wants to become a commercial pilot and air traffic controller, became interested in aviation upon attending his uncle Don’s aviation camp in July. Joined by 12 other campers age 12-17, the camp at the First Baptist Church in Glenarden, Md., allowed Chambers the opportunity to visit the Potomac Tracon Center, Washington, and Patuxent Naval Air Station. Chambers’ uncle is a former air traffic controller who worked for the Federal Aviation Adminstration.
“I got to see how the air traffic controller and planes worked,” Chambers explained, “And I was also able to actually fly a plane for a few minutes.”
Chambers earned the “Top Camper” award, affording him the opportunity to enter Southwest Airlines’ “Continuing the Legacy Contest” – a competition for entrants ages 15-21 to participate in a hands-on aviation experience at their headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
“I had to list two student aviation-related accomplishments, and write an essay explaining student fascination and aspirations in aviation,” Chambers said. “Thanks to St. Ann School for building my writing confidence, I won an opportunity to go to Dallas, even though I was the youngest student there.”
Not only was Chambers the youngest of 25 student winners, he was also the only representative from New Jersey who attended Southwest Airlines’ Oct. 26-29 aviation program to learn about aviation aspects like engineering, mechanics and piloting, as well as watch an air show and meet some very special guests.
“The highlight was meeting the last few remaining Tuskegee Airmen and the passing of the torch ceremony in which they pass their torch to the students, and the Aviation Inauguration Dinner,” Chambers recalled.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military aviators in the U.S. armed forces, flying with distinction during World War II.
“The Tuskegee Airmen really emphasized not giving up on your dreams which was a good life lesson,” he continued. “They told us to work hard at our education and, Colonel Charles McGee said ‘Don’t let your circumstances be your excuse for not achieving.’”
Chambers’ mother, Lynett, could not be more proud of her son’s achievement.
“This opportunity was such a blessing. I was confident he would be able to hold his own, even though he was the youngest,” she said. “Southwest Airlines has been hosting this event for 10 years; it’s a great company. Ean is now more informed , inspired and focused on all things aviation. I’m grateful.”