In the coming months, 28-year-old Capt. Shaesta Waiz will embark from Daytona Beach, FL in a single-engine Beechcraft A36 Bonanza towards her goal of becoming the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.
Born in a refugee camp, in 1987 Capt. Waiz emigrated with her family to America at the height of fighting in the Soviet-Afghan war, settling in Richmond, CA. Initially faced with limited educational opportunities in one of the country’s most underprivileged school districts, as well as pressure to follow a more traditional path as an adult, Capt. Waiz’s life was forever altered by a commercial airline flight shortly after her graduation from high school.
“I’d never been on an airplane before that I could remember, and I didn’t even know what a [airline] terminal was,” she recalled. “I sat in awe as we accelerated for takeoff, wondering how this piece of machinery was able to fly 150 people from one side of the country to the other. It was an amazing experience.”
That led Capt. Waiz to pursue her collegiate education and flight training at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, where she became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree… as well as the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan.
Worldwide aircraft charter broker Paramount Business Jets, recognized as a global leader throughout the industry for its core principles of honesty, integrity, and transparency, announced on Thursday that the company would sponsor a portion of the upcoming “Dreams Soar” round-the-world flight.
“On behalf of the team at Paramount Business Jets, it is truly an honor to support an extraordinary Riddle Grad seeking to be the youngest woman to fly solo around the world and to support Dream Soar’s mission to inspire young people throughout the upcoming journey and beyond,” said Richard Zaher, founder and CEO of Paramount Business Jets.
Capt. Wais adds: “It was a great struggle financially, and even some of my family members didn’t want me to fly,” she added. “Most importantly, my experiences also demonstrated the need for women to explore opportunities within the aviation industry. I created the Women’s Ambassador Program for current Embry-Riddle students to serve as mentors to freshman students, and to help them line up financial aid so they could pursue those goals and dreams.”
Within three years of the program’s launch, female enrollment at Embry-Riddle had increased from 13 to 22 percent. That inspired Capt. Waiz to launch Dreams Soar, so that she could share her story with women throughout the world and encourage them to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.
“This is about much more than setting a world record,” Capt. Waiz said of her upcoming flight. “The outreach events at each stop are truly the heart of this program, so that I’m able to reach out to the younger generation and show them they can do anything they set their minds to. If I can do this coming from my background, they can do just about anything.”
Scheduled to begin early fall 2016, Capt. Waiz’s flight will be supported by a “Dream Team” comprised of 20 graduate and undergraduate college students, as well as the Dreams Soar Advisory Council. Recently, Dreams Soar earned official 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit charitable organization, allowing the project to raise funds for scholarships to support women on a global scale long after Capt. Waiz completes her journey.
The Board of Directors for Dreams Soar, comprised of seasoned aviation/aerospace professionals, will work closely with Founder, Capt. Shaesta Waiz, to be one of the first charitable organizations to provide global scholarships supporting women with their goals in STEM and aviation in their own countries. – PRNewswire