Shaesta Waiz is helping young people get interested in STEM education and aviation.
Shaesta Waiz, the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan, became in 2017 the youngest woman to complete a solo, round-the-world trip in a single-engine plane. Now she is working through her non-profit, Dreams Soar, to interest young people in aviation.
Waiz was born in an Afghan refugee camp in 1987. Few people would have imagined that 30 years later she would be flying around the world in a light plane. During her journey and ever since she’s been preaching the value of STEM education and aviation careers to thousands of young people.
“It was important for me to take this past year and share my round-the-world experience with as many people as I could,” said Waiz, “not only to promote aviation and STEM careers, but also to let them know it’s possible to have a dream and work hard for that dream to come true.”
Spaniard Almudena Alvaro Moreno was just one of the many young people who dreamed of working in aviation. But because of the high cost of preparing for such a career, she settled for a government job. Moreno told Waiz, “I am living vicariously through you. You’re a pilot and are following your dreams by flying around the world.”
But after talking with Waiz when she stopped in Madrid, Spain during her globe-circling flight, Moreno was moved to reconsider her dream of pursuing an aviation career.
“When I left, she started flight training and obtained her private pilot’s license,” said Waiz. “All the hard work that went into planning and executing my trip paid off by me hearing from the people inspired by the flight.”
“I’ve learned that it’s great to inspire, but we also need to empower,” added Waiz. To help make that happen, she founded Dreams Soar, a non-profit whose mission is to help develop the next generation of STEM and aviation professionals, particularly young women and minorities.
“At Dreams Soar, we want to continue inspiring. The first phase was the global flight. Now, we are continuing our outreach efforts. In the long term, we want to offer scholarship opportunities to the kids who have been inspired by our efforts.”