Shaesta Waiz was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. In 1987, she traveled with her parents and five sisters to America to escape the conflict, where they settled in Richmond, California.
Waiz lived in an underprivileged school district. There were not enough materials for all of the children, so they were forced to share, and many students wound up dropping out. Waiz believed for a long time that she was going to meet the same fate. She believed that her future would consist of getting married and having children.
That was true until she took her first commercial flight upon graduating high school.
Up until then, Waiz had a fear of flying, but once the plane was in the sky, she realized that aviation was her true calling. She started thinking about her future in a different way and began considering college and a career in nothing other than aviation.
Waiz was the first person in her family to attend college, gaining her Bachelor’s and Master’s from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. There, she started the Women’s Ambassador Program, which was designed to mentor and support young women who were pursuing an education in aviation and engineering.
This program was credited for increasing enrollment for women at the university from 13 percent to 22 percent in just three years. After graduating, she wanted to expand these efforts on a global scale, which is how Dreams Soar was created.
Dreams Soar is a nonprofit founded in 2014 with a mission to inspire women to pursue careers in STEM fields. On May 13th, Waiz took off from Daytona Beach in a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza to complete a 90-day, solo trip around the world to promote Dreams Soar and its mission.
Waiz has traveled to 20 countries, where she has attended 18 events to inspire children to achieve their dreams, and encourage them to pursue careers in the STEM field. Waiz made stops in multiple U.S. states and traveled to Canada, Spain, Greece, Egypt, India, and Australia, among others, to promote Dreams Soar.
This trip, which will conclude shortly in Daytona, has made 29-year-old Waiz the youngest woman to fly solo around the world! She will add that to her record of being the first civilian pilot from Afghanistan.
“You must believe in yourself and allow your dreams to soar!” says Waiz.
Today, there are only about 450 female airline captains worldwide, and less than one percent of airline pilots are women. In 2017, these statistics are hard to believe.
In 1930, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, among other lifetime achievements, but she remains the only female pilot to make headlines such as this. When asked to name iconic female pilots, Earhart should not be the only name that comes to mind. Girls need to have more living, female aviation role models, and through Dreams Soar, Shaesta Waiz and her team are making this a possibility.
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