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Young Eagles Volunteers Awarded for Their Passion, Dedication

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 24, 2018 - They come from different parts of the country, but they share a similar passion. They are EAA volunteers with a commitment to get youths interested in aviation through EAA’s Young Eagles program.

Founded in 1992, Young Eagles and its network of volunteers have given more than 2.1 million youths ages 8-17 a free airplane ride. A few of those volunteers will be recognized Wednesday at the EAA Aviation Museum.

“The Young Eagles program is the world’s most successful youth aviation program due to the dedication and support of the volunteers,” said Michelle Kunes, EAA Young Eagles program coordinator.

Chapter Young Eagles Coordinator: Tom Holt

As the EAA Chapter 58 coordinator, Tom Holt, EAA 624355, of Layton, Utah, plans and schedules four or five Young Eagles rallies annually in northern Utah, working to promote the events with the media, or through schools, scouting, or other children’s groups. He also makes sure things on the ground run smoothly, and occasionally flies Young Eagles himself when other pilots aren’t available.

According to the nomination papers, Holt has the rallies so well scripted that all volunteers are part of the success.

Holt has also helped to grow the number of pilots participating in the chapter’s Young Eagles program, and as the number of pilots has increased, so has the chapter’s Young Eagles credits, which has allowed the chapter to offer scholarships to Young Eagles for attending EAA’s Air Academy.

Young Eagles Horizon Award: Jim Hantschel

Jim Hantschel, EAA 230426, of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, said Chapter 838’s ground school helps set its program apart. It’s often taught by Aviation Explorer Post 218 members, and no one gets a flight until they learn about flying and aviation.

A former chapter treasurer who is now a board member, Hantschel said he was “shamed” into volunteering for Young Eagles about nine years ago when he showed up to watch a rally and chapter member Sam Johnson, of SC Johnson, was the only pilot flying kids. “Too many pilots have too many excuses — they are too tired, they have no time, or they are too broke,” Hantschel said. “I vowed after that to be involved.”

The aha moments, when kids get really excited, make all the work worth it. “Those who think it is the greatest thing ever are the ones who get you excited,” Hantschel said.

Phillips 66 Leadership Award: Joseph Coraggio

Joseph Coraggio, EAA 563242, of Glendale, Arizona, is a former Young Eagle who now flies Young Eagles, and he also goes the extra step and mentors those with the passion.

In addition, Coraggio coordinates the Young Eagles rally held annually in Mitchell, South Dakota, right before the start of the AirVenture Cup Race. This year, 92 youths got a free airplane ride at the rally, while more than 2,265 pedestrians came through the airport and learned about aviation and Young Eagles.

Coraggio said he works to bridge that gap between the Young Eagles ride and the path needed for someone to get their pilot certificate. That means he’s written Young Eagles letters of recommendation for colleges or scholarship opportunities, or at times even helped with the application process.

“I can’t imagine my life without the Young Eagles program in it,” he said. “I’m trying my best to pay it back.”

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