July 27, 2017
By Judy McSpadden
This week in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is EAA’s AirVenture, the biggest annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts in the country. With 550,000 people in attendance, 10,000-plus aircraft, and visitors from 80 nations, it is the place to be if you like airplanes.
Our Military Kids grant recipient, and super-charged aviation enthusiast, Naomi Ceballos-Lopez knows all about AirVenture, especially since she just recently completed her second Air Academy Camp experience at Oshkosh.
“At camp, I figured out that I’m extremely interested in aviation,” said Naomi, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, who received the OMK camp grant when her father deployed overseas with the Army Reserves. “A job in aviation is anything but ordinary. You can fly, be an engineer, or be a mechanic. I would like to be a commercial pilot, a drone pilot, or an air traffic controller.”
Naomi found out about the Oshkosh camp from one of her teachers at school. “She was telling me about a program called Young Eagles, where pilots give kids flights,” she said. “I tried one of those flights and absolutely loved everything about it.
“At first, I was kind of scared, but it was a great feeling. I saw the world in a different perspective. It’s not like driving a car. You have to control the stick, up and down. There are a lot of buttons to press.”
Ironically, Naomi has a driver’s permit, but she won’t get her license until December.
From the Young Eagles program, Naomi learned about the Air Academy in Oshkosh. About 40 kids from all over the country attended the week-long summer camp. Naomi has gone two years in a row.
Campers participate in the traditional camp experience with dormitories, games, and team-building activities like rock climbing. They also work with wood, sheet metal and other materials to make an airplane wing and to learn about planes throughout history.
Of course, the campers also fly. Naomi said, “We went up in a helicopter and a Skycatcher airplane. It was small, seating two people, and I got to fly all around Oshkosh.”
When school starts, Naomi will return to her other interests. She plays sports, like golf and track, and she’s a cheerleader. One of the clubs she likes is El Sol, an organization that helps Hispanics in the community.
Beyond high school, she is considering going to college at Embry Riddle, an aviation school. It’s not surprising that, as a military kid, she’s also thinking about joining the U.S. Air Force.
“My dad’s military benefits have given me a lot of opportunity, like the OMK grant for camp. I’m also able to use the facilities at Ft. McCoy nearby. My family tries to swim at the pool once a month,” she said.
As the week winds down, visitors at Oshkosh – including OMK’s own, Executive Director Linda Davidson – will be returning to their routines. But there’s one military kid who will continue looking skyward, planning for a bright future.
(Please email comments to JSMcSpadden@ourmilitarykids.org.)