Aviation Awareness Day returns to Reserve Airport

Published 7:13 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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UPDATE: Aviation Awareness Day has been rescheduled to April 22 due to incoming weather.

RESERVE — Guys Achieving Goals founder Paul Green introduced Aviation Awareness Day to St. John Parish in 2017 with a vision to expose young men and women to diverse professional opportunities in STEM fields.

The event has soared to heights Green only imagined during the inaugural event. Following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, the fourth annual Aviation Awareness Day is scheduled to return from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 15 at the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport, located at 355 Airport Road in Reserve. An alternative rain-out date is scheduled for April 22.

This year’s Aviation Awareness Day is dedicated to women in aviation and will also pay tribute to the late Pastor Donald August, one of the original coordinators of the event.

Children ages 11 to 17 will have an opportunity to enjoy a flight experience with approximately 20 participating pilots. Among the aircraft operators are seven pilots out of Atlanta, a female pilot/pediatrician who hails from Alabama, and the chief pilot of Delta Airlines. Fedex Captain Mary Gonzales will serve as guest speaker. As always, the day will commence at 9:30 a.m. with a prayer from St. John Parish ministers.
During the last event in 2019, volunteers flew more than 200 children. New community partnerships have allowed Guys Achieving Goals to prepare for a larger audience in 2023 by reaching out to schools in St. John, St. Charles and St. James parishes. Children must have a parent or guardian present to sign a consent form to fly.

According to Green, this experience directly engages boys and girls in aviation, introduces them to inspiring role models, and supports the primary purpose of stimulating an interest in future educational and employment opportunities within the field.

Green in invested in the success of youth in the community as a St. John resident, a graduate of East St. John High School, a Navy Veteran and an aviator who has been employed by Fedex as an aircraft maintenance technician for the past three decades.

Since the first Aviation Awareness Day, Green has watched several young people in the community start the journey to become a pilot.

Kirsten Smith, a junior at Louisiana Tech University studying aviation, hopes to see more minorities in the profession.

“We are trying to show kids that aviation is an avenue they can pursue. As a kid I didn’t really think I could fly a plane. It’s something I can do and I want other people to know they can do it, too,” Smith said. “Don’t let anything stop you whether it’s people, money, time. Don’t let anything stay in your way because there will be things you have to overcome. Once you find that self-motivation, everything else will follow.”

The success stories also include Micah Tregre, who is studying aerospace engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

Bradford Jackson, a native of St. Charles Parish, is now part of the American Airlines Cadet Program based out of Dallas.

Green has watched his own son, Tristan, become a licensed private pilot. Tristan, a graduate of East St. John, will be making St. John Parish history during Aviation Awareness Day as a young African American solo flying at his home airport.

“We have seen that we have a lot of interest in the parish from young men and young ladies who want to fly, and we are here to teach them,” Green said. “Having donations from the local businesses and from some friends far away who support the idea, we are able to successfully have this event again. Every year, it’s getting larger and larger, which is a blessing.”

With an event budget of $20,000, Aviation Awareness Day has relied upon donations to cover expenses for fuel for participating airplanes, hotel rooms to host out of town pilots, event liability insurance and arm bands to use as identification for youth.

For more information, contact Green at 504-723-4169 or email SJAviationDay@gmail.com.