Shaesta Waiz came to the United States as a toddler with her parents and five sisters in 1987 as a refugee. Born in Afghanistan, the young girl believed her life would follow a similar path as her mother’s—marriage at a young age and raising children. But a flight in a commercial airliner when she was a teenager changed her mind: “I got off that airplane and told my aunt, ‘I want to learn how to be a pilot.’” From that dream to today, Waiz’s plans have soared. She became the first in her family to earn a college degree and is the first civilian female pilot from Afghanistan.
The 30-year-old pilot plans to fly to 18 countries, bringing the message that women can fly. “Girls need to see living aviation female role models,” she says. The flight has been planned for the past three years with Waiz fundraising and finding sponsors through her organization Dreams Soar. The Dreams Soar mission is to partner with female role models at the 28 planned stops along the route and share and promote the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.
“Every time I open the door to an aircraft, I ask myself, ‘How did a girl with my background become so lucky?’ The truth is, anyone can be me,” Waiz says.