July 24, 2014
Ty’Niyah Harris’ original plans were to become a marine biologist. But a trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to learn about marine biology ultimately helped her find her passion in aviation.
After several plane changes and many hours in-flight to and from Australia, Ty’Niyah decided flying was more fun. From that moment on, she looked for any opportunity to learn about aviation.
She attended two aviation career education programs, both including flight time, the following summer. Ty’Niyah says the first time she sat in the cockpit, she knew aviation would be her career.
“Flying is life changing,” she explains. “It’s an act of defiance. You defy depth, you defy gravity, all while having fun doing it.”
Ty’Niyah, 15, currently attends Centennial Aviation Academy for young aviators, located at the DeKalb Peachtree Airport, where she takes weekly ground and flight lessons. Starting in the fall, she will begin Centennial’s one-on-one training program. She plans to solo on or near her 16th birthday in December 2014.
This summer, she’s getting a head start toward that goal, however. Ty’Niyah was selected to participate in the Tuskegee Airmen Aviation Career Training program, which includes flight training and aviation career exploration.
After high school, Ty’Niyah says she hopes to attend Auburn University or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and become a commercial airline pilot.
This fall, Ty’Niyah will be a sophomore at Academe of the Oaks in Decatur, where she participates in several extracurricular activities. In her spare time, she created a Facebook page to motivate young aviators and let them know about scholarships and aviation opportunities.
As a girl and an African American, Ty’Niyah says she didn’t realize flying was an option available to her. So her Facebook page tries to help others realize there aren’t insurmountable barriers to learning to fly. “Originally I felt awkward or out of place,” she says. “In most cases I was the only girl. But so many people have taken the time to mentor me and show me how they made it in aviation. It’s been very encouraging.”
Ty’Niyah says she joined AOPA AV8RS because it offers useful information and a chance to celebrate other young people’s successes in aviation. “It’s also a good networking tool, and a great place to find resources.”
For other teens, she offers this advice: “Whenever you feel uncomfortable, instead of retreating back into your old comfort zone, pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I must keep growing’ and continue moving forward. Don’t give up. If money is the problem, find scholarships. There are always ways to overcome your difficulties.”
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