Top Belle Cultivates Next Generation of Aviation Enthusiasts
“If we reach kids in middle school, we can provide mentorship and guidance to get them in the right classes to pursue a career in aviation or other technical field”
Beth Rush has loved aviation as long as she can remember.
Her mother, her first role model, was a computer programmer working on GE jet engines in Cincinnati, OH. At that time, it was rare to have a women working in computers assisting in engine design. Rush just thought it normal to have a mom working in science and technology. She grew up going to airshows, watching and learning about airplanes. There was never a doubt that she would also find a career in the aviation industry.
She is now an aircraft acquisitions and sales professional at FedEx. Part of her job is to help schools obtain retired FedEx aircraft and engines to give students the hands-on technical experience they need to start a career in aviation, and enrich their overall learning experience.
In addition, Rush realized that many children, girls in particular, do not have the benefit of having a mentor to emphasize science and math to expand their career opportunities. This inspired her to take a leadership role in the Memphis Belles- a local chapter of the Women in Aviation International (WAI) association. It is a group of like-minded aviation enthusiasts working to cultivate interest in aviation at a young age.
Rush wants to be sure to stress to the young students that there is more to aviation than just flying the planes. She is a champion for children to reap the benefits of mentorship that she enjoyed and has poured herself into the Memphis Belles, as its president, now for four years. By recruiting role models and tripling membership, she has expanded the reach and enriched the programs at the Belles annual event, Girls and Boys in Aviation Camp. The camp hosts 100 children ages 12-18, exposing them to aviation experiences that they otherwise would not have, and encouraging an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
The group targets children in middle school, focusing on inner city schools, but also includes local private schools. “If we reach kids in middle school, we can provide mentorship and guidance to get them in the right classes to pursue a career in aviation or other technical field,” says Rush. She points out, “if we wait until they are in high school, it is often too late to get the best background to pave the way for their success in a career in aviation.”
Connecting and inspiring like-minded women in aviation across the city, she has an inspired vision of what aviation professionals mean to each other, especially to the young girls and boys. As an example, for this year’s event, she gave each of the volunteers the title of “ROLE MODEL”, which is stamped on the back of each of the camp volunteers’ shirts. WAI global is so fond of the idea, they are adopting it for their annual events, according to WAI spokesperson Molly Martin.
Martin says women like Beth Rush are the inspiration of WAI.
Even as a small chapter, the Belles are making a big difference. Recently a Memphis Belle learned of a student in the final stretch of an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) licensing program at a local technical school. The young mother had to interrupt her training to care for her sick child. As a result, she also lost her school funding. A Memphis Belle mentor took it upon herself to start a fundraiser to help. She did more than help, she found a benefactor, another aviation female professional, who footed the entire bill for this student, marking a life changing difference for that young family.
Perhaps it is women understanding women’s issues, lending just the right boost or hand of support at just the right time. Under Rush’s leadership the Memphis Belles have thrived, and are making an amazing difference.
In just four years, the group has not only tripled membership, but has also made a positive impact on up and coming aviation enthusiasts, making real differences in young students lives that is often immeasurable.
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