Maria Hernandez of Peachtree Corners, GA has received a unique full-scholarship opportunity for flight training, thanks to EAA Chapter 690 of Lawrenceville and the Ray Aviation Scholarship program administered by the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Ray Aviation Scholars program provides up to $10,000 scholarships to young people who are seeking to learn to fly. The Ray Foundation has provided $1 million to fund the scholarship program, which seeks to improve the flight training success rate from the current industry standards of 20 percent to 80 percent for program participants. Local EAA chapters are responsible for identifying youth for the Ray Aviation Scholarship program and mentoring them through flight training. The Ray Foundation is furthering the legacy of James Ray, an EAA lifetime member who was dedicated to aviation and youth education. The initiative is designed to help meet the tremendous future demand for pilots and associated aviation careers.
Maria will be training at Aero Ventures Flying Club, based at Gwinnett County Airport, in Lawrenceville, GA. The scholarship is designed to support a flight student through both written and practical segments of flight training that are part of successful FAA pilot certification. EAA chapters play a critical role in the success of the Ray Aviation Scholarship program. Chapters interested in participating are prequalified by EAA through an application process. If selected, they mentor and support the scholarship recipient throughout their flight training journey. Once selected as a Ray Aviation Scholarship Fund participant, candidates also commit to volunteer service with the local EAA chapter.
About the Ray Scholar, Maria Hernandez Maria Kaleigh Hernandez is 17 years old and attends Paul Duke STEM High School, Norcross, GA, with plans to graduate with the class of 2020. Upon graduation, Hernandez plans to attend a university where she can be a part of a dedicated aviation program. Maria’s interest in aviation began as a child, when she took flights to visit her grandparents in Mexico. Her father encouraged her to observe the operation of the aircraft. She watched how the wing worked out of her window and noticed more as the years passed. Another influential person in Hernandez’s life was a close friend, Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Farmer, a Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman. When Maria was five years old, Jerry sat down with her to design a flying broom, just because she wanted to have a functioning witch’s costume! Jerry ingrained in Hernandez the same passion and curiosity as he had for aviation. Twelve years later, this interest has evolved into her dream. As a youth member of EAA, Hernandez spends weekends contributing to the EAA Chapter 690 Youth Build Program, assisting with the building of a single place, aluminum aircraft, the BD6. She is also studying for her FAA Written Exam by attending ground school classes also conducted by EAA Chapter 690 in Lawrenceville, GA. After joining EAA, Hernandez quickly joined other aviation affiliated organizations including Women in Aviation and Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) to become more involved in all things related to flying. Without her family and Jerry’s support, she wouldn’t have been able to reach her aviation goals. Her most recent accomplishment was becoming one of the 2019 EAA Ray Scholarship recipients with a grant for $10000.00 toward flight training. With this financial prize, Maria is actively building up flight hours with Aero-Ventures Flying Club, Gwinnett County Airport, to obtain her Private Pilot’s license.