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Honoring Young Eagles Volunteers
While the work that volunteers do during this eventful week of July can be clearly seen each day, outside of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh hardworking volunteers around the world help to bring The Spirit of Aviation to local youths via events like Young Eagles rallies and youth workshops. On Tuesday, July 26, some of these volunteers were honored with a variety of awards. Kris Olson, Stephanie Schulko, and Tracy Miller were awarded the Young Eagles Chapter Coordinator of the Year Award; Chris St. Germain was awarded the Young Eagles Horizon Award; and Ken Jordan was awarded the Phillips 66 Young Eagles Leadership Award.
The Young Eagles Chapter Coordinator of the Year Award goes to the Young Eagles coordinators nominated for their special commitment to their chapter. Out of all the chapter coordinators, three were chosen, as mentioned above.
Kris Olson, EAA 9024095, started helping out at Young Eagles rallies at EAA Chapter 25 in Lakeville, Minnesota, in 2006. Eventually becoming the Young Eagles coordinator for her chapter, Kris has missed only one of the monthly rallies since then.
Some of Kris’ favorite memories involve sharing with the parents in the Young Eagles joy.
“Lots of the kids are really into aviation and looking at finding out more about it, more opportunities,” Kris said. “It’s just fun to help the parents have this opportunity for the kids.”
After 30 years of Young Eagles, Kris said that the aviation world continues to benefit from it.
“The airlines that are looking for people,” Kris explained, “they’ll find a lot of people that are interested in the technology and the fun of aviation.”
Stephanie “Steph” Schulko, EAA 719052, has been the Young Eagles chapter coordinator for EAA Chapter 18 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since 2005. Introduced to the chapter and Young Eagles program in 2001 by a co-worker, it didn’t take long before Steph was hooked.
“We flew over 200 kids that weekend,” Steph explained. “The smiles on the kids’ faces make any struggles worth it.”
Steph has loved working with the Young Eagles program, both with the kids and other volunteers.
“I think one of the coolest things is, we had multiple pilots. I can think of two or three that were Young Eagles that came back and flew Young Eagles for me,” Steph said. “I love working with the Young Eagles. The friendships and connections made through the program are incredible. I’m lifelong friends with people because of it.”
Despite all her hard work, Steph said that the reason she has done so well is because of others.
“The reason I was successful,” Steph said, “was all of the amazing volunteers, ground [support] and pilots, that make every event fun!”
Tracy Miller, EAA 794015, was the final recipient of the Young Eagles Chapter Coordinator of the Year Award. Tracy has been working as the chapter coordinator for EAA Chapter 838 for around 15 years. Throughout her years of volunteering, Tracy’s admiration for the Young Eagles program and what it does for aviation has grown.
“It just brings people in,” Tracy said, “community members who never ever would have had a thought of aviation as a hobby or as a career.”
Winning this award was an exciting surprise.
“I was in shock,” Tracy said. “I got the email … and my mouth dropped. I went home and told my husband, he was excited.”
Chris St. Germain, EAA 443948, was awarded the Young Eagles Horizon Award, which recognizes the exceptional efforts that a volunteer provides in support of youth aviation. Chris got started in Young Eagles at the very beginning of the program, flying Young Eagles beginning in 1993 for his chapter, EAA Chapter 91. A few years into the program, Chris took over the position of Young Eagles chapter coordinator.
“I took it over from there and still have it as a coordinator,” Chris said. “I flew a lot of kids until the point where I needed to be on the ground doing all the managing full time. We had finally gotten to the point where the typical month was 50-80 kids, and it was a lot of chaos — I call it happy chaos.”
Chris said that the Young Eagles program has helped bring a lot of people into aviation, and not just kids.
“We’ve had a lot of parents that have come out and have caught the bug once they saw what it was all about,” Chris explained. “We had a young lady … looking into flight training, but the dad was so blown away by the program, he was immediately talking to me, ‘Where can I go for flight school? Should I buy an airplane?’ He was so far out in front of himself to get started.”
Chapter 91 is coming up on 13,000 Young Eagles flown, but Chris refuses to take all the credit.
“I can’t do Young Eagles on my own,” Chris said. “[Winning the award] says a lot about our chapter, and that they are enablers.”
The final Young Eagles volunteer award winner was Ken Jordan, EAA 481552. Ken was awarded with the Phillips 66 Young Eagles Leadership Award, which recognized an outstanding volunteer who has made significant contributions to the Young Eagles program. Ken has been the Young Eagles chapter coordinator at a number of chapters throughout his life, most recently at EAA Chapter 1632, which he also founded and is the president of. However, Ken said that his chapter is a little different.
“We concentrate on the kids,” Ken said. “We do six Young Eagles rallies a year. My target is 300 kids a year.”
Ken has been pretty successful in encouraging kids to fly. Over the last 30 years, he has flown over 1,600 Young Eagles, and makes sure to allocate any funds his chapter gets from EAA to sending kids to the Air Academy. Besides flying kids and leading his chapter, Ken also had a big hand to play in the development of the Young Eagles online registration system.
Overall, the Young Eagles program has benefited from Ken’s hard work, so he was an obvious choice in winning the Phillips 66 Young Eagles Leadership Award. When he found out he won, Ken felt a variety of emotions.
“Proud. Humbled,” Ken said. “But also a little embarrassed, probably because, you know, there are probably a hundred other pilots that are just as deserving. I certainly appreciate it. It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers.”
Congratulations to these volunteers, and thanks to all who make Young Eagles the program it is today!