Students worked on plane during 2019 Soar into STEM program
On Saturday, January 25, Wings of Hope volunteers, staff and supporters gathered around a Cessna 182 bound for Paraguay to deliver desperately needed medical and humanitarian aid to 20 indigenous communities in the rural northeast part of the country – serving about 4,000 people annually.
The plane and its mission have particular significance for 20 St. Louis-area students who worked on the aircraft as part of Wings of Hope’s inaugural Soar into STEM program, which took place in the spring of 2019. By inviting students to work on aircraft in the Wings of Hope hangar, Soar into STEM is designed to pique students’ interest in STEM and aviation careers – which is crucial in the midst of a severe shortage of pilots and aviation personnel. Boeing provided an $80,000 grant to fund the 2019 pilot program and a $125,000 to support program expansion to two sessions in 2020. Currently, these two sessions are scheduled for September and October. (Wings of Hope is accepting inquiries from interested school districts for the October session. Learn more at https://wingsofhope.ngo/education-outreach/stem/.)
After a blessing by former Wings of Hope board member and pilot Larry Lemke, pilots Steve Williams and Cliff Schisler shared a few thoughts before setting off on the flight that would take eight days, cover 5,764 statute miles, log 45-1/2 hours of total flight time, and require 13 stops between takeoff in St. Louis and landing in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Schlisler, who is the Wings of Hope field director in Paraguay, offered words of gratitude: “If this plane could save one life, it is worth all of our investment. Because one life is worth more than anything money can buy. I give my heartfelt thanks to the volunteers and to the students who made this possible.”
Wings of Hope pilot Steve Williams added, “I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world. To be able to take this trip is amazing. It is so important to give back in life. What really counts is to give back.”