Photo by Heather Middleton
By M.J. Subiria Arauz
Deja Fambro, 15, already has career plans to become a professional pilot -- through the United States Air Force.
Fambro said she is aware that many pilots hired by airlines have served in the Air Force and gotten their wings, and she is determined to make it in the aviation industry.
She already is a member of a rather rare group in the industry, she said, since she is a female and an African American. "Less than one percent of the aviation industry is African American, and even less than that are female African Americans," said the ambitious 15-year-old.
But she is taking the road she believes will lead her to her goal. She takes part in the Aviation Career Enrichment (ACE) Weekend Academy, an Atlanta, non-profit organization that exposes youngsters to various career opportunities in the airline and aerospace industries. The academy is located at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field.
Fambro, of Riverdale, said to reach "Solo" status in piloting and receive her wings, one of the requirements she must complete is about 25 flight hours. The hours come at a cost of approximately $3,000, which will go toward the fuel, the instructor and the airplane, a Cessna 172-F.
She would like to achieve her solo flight on her 16th birthday, said her mother, Regina Nelson-Fambro. "She is in need of financial assistance to meet this goal," said Nelson-Fambro. "Her airtime expense is $105 an hour."
Nelson-Fambro said her daughter has not been able to find a job this summer, and has been unsuccessful with her own fund-raising efforts. She said, since May, she and her daughter have been standing in local shopping plazas and public areas, while holding decorative posters and buckets. Deja's friends joined in to assist in the fund-raising, she added.
Nelson-Fambro said she has done everything in her power to assure people the collection is not a scam, but for a good cause. Even so, it has been difficult to collect money, said the concerned mother.
Nelson-Fambro said she has Crohn's disease and is a single, stay-at-home mother. She is unable to work and receives assistance from the government to keep her family afloat. She operates personal businesses from her home, such as hair-styling and creating gift baskets, which haven't taken off enough yet, to solely sustain her family.
Julius Alexander, president of the board of directors for ACE Weekend Academy, said flight is optional, and not a requirement for participants. He said not all youngsters want to become pilots. Some aspire to be air traffic controllers for the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
Since Fambro wants to be a pilot, and eventually an astronaut, achieving the solo status will benefit her, said Alexander.
Though instructors at the academy are volunteers, they are compensated for flight instruction for accountability, he explained. "She is an outstanding student," said Alexander. "She is highly motivated."
Young Fambro said she has been with the academy for almost a year, and enjoys every minute of it. ACE is held every Saturday, she added. She has studied different aerospace topics. Exams or quizzes are given every week to test the knowledge of the participants, she explained.
Fambro said various guest speakers, such as members of the Air Force, also come to talk to participants, during lessons.
She also likes participating in field trips, which include college campus visits and conferences. Recently, she was selected to attend the "83rd Annual American Association of Airport Executives Conference and Exposition," hosted by the City of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
There, she learned about the various colleges that offer aviation careers, and the new technology available in the industry. "I had fun," she said, during an interview at her home. "I thought it was interesting."
Nelson-Fambro said she informed herself about the academy and enrolled her three daughters in the interview process. Fambro was the only one accepted into the program, she said.
Her daughter took on a summer job in 2010, which paid for the enrollment costs of the program. "She worked the whole summer," said Nelson-Fambro. "She paid the tuition, uniform ... She paid everything."
The program is an extracurricular activity, on top of her academic responsibilities, said her mother. "She is all honors in [North Clayton High School], which is hard enough and [then] aviation on the weekends," she stressed.
She said her daughter will attend the Elite Scholars Academy Charter School, in Morrow. The school is competitive, and students only take honors and Advanced Placement classes.
For more information about sponsoring Deja Fambro, contact Regina Nelson-Fambro, at (678) 508-7141, or e-mail her at email@example.com.