The Wallowa County Pilots Association celebrated its sixth annual banquet dinner on Sunday, January 20, at the historic Wallowa Lake Lodge. It was a night of collaborative celebration with the Northeastern Oregon Aviation Foundation.
For these dedicated aviators, there is so much more to this banquet than sharing their passion for flight. The night also honors the students, educators and pilots involved in the Foundation’s mission to advance aviation education in Wallowa County schools.
Joseph Charter School senior Kana Oliver was awarded with not one, but two scholarship awards for her efforts in promoting and developing the Foundation’s collaborative program with the school.
In front of an impressive turnout of 86 pilots, families, classmates, and friends, Oliver received her award totaling $7,850. In its six years hosting the banquet, the pilots association has never seen such a large show of support.
Steven Locke, the Foundation’s education liaison explained the goal is to “promote STEM education through the lens of aviation, promote post-secondary education and career opportunities, and community revitalization and development in Wallowa County and eastern Oregon.”
Joseph Charter School began its partnership with the Foundation in 2016, providing a unique opportunity for exciting curriculum for rural Oregon students. More than just an introduction pilot training, which according to Locke was not among the “most important aspects of the program.” Rather, he explained that the Foundation and Joseph teacher Toby Kohen preferred to emphasize “organization of the program, documenting progress, public relations, and fundraising.”
Oliver herself became interested in much more than just becoming a pilot. Locke recalls her first flight and noted that she really came into herself as “she became instrumental in helping to create a whole new STEM education … program for Joseph Charter School students.”
The course is offered to 14 Joseph students, each of whom was motivated for a variety of reasons. A video from the Foundation’s website posts some words from the 2016-2017 class. Swedish exchange student, Anna Ytander, said, “I’m taking this class because we don’t have this in Sweden so it would be a fun opportunity to try something new.” Tyler Homan joined “to learn more about the science of flight and how aviation works.” Each of the students seem to recognize and appreciate the unique value that the program brings to Wallowa County.
The next steps for NEOAF are to develop plans “on working through the local schools and community organization to promote aviation, aviation technology, and a regional education center in Eastern Oregon,” according to Locke.