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Active member
Dec 3, 2001
Fifth grader earns his wings
as his class takes flight on a
high-flying field trip

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., via/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- For Sam Young, his fifth-grade year will be one to remember. Earlier this month, on May 8, his classmates from West Riverside Elementary, in Jacksonville, Fla., took off for a daylong roundtrip adventure to New Orleans, all thanks to him. And Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and Governor Jeb Bush offered congratulations at the airport send-off.

Young's 100-word essay was selected from among 2,500 entered in the Southwest Airlines "Teachers with Altitude" essay contest, a special writing competition encouraging students to recognize their teachers for excellence in education. The essay contest, which judged essays based on content, sincerity, and originality, was developed as part of the fifth anniversary celebration of Southwest Airlines' Adopt-A-Pilot program.

This spring, Young's class participated in the Adopt-A-Pilot program, a four-week mentorship program where pilots volunteer in classrooms and correspond from the "road" via electronic mail and postcards. The program's special curriculum helps students set long-term career goals and delve into math, science, geography, and writing.

"We are thrilled to see Sam acknowledged for his essay. A modest, exemplary student, Sam is one of those children who rarely finds himself in the spotlight, but richly deserves the recognition," says Frances Gupton, West Riverside Elementary principal. "As for his teacher, Priscilla Kurceba, we couldn't be happier to see one of our committed teachers honored for her contribution. And since many of the students have never flown before, this field trip promises to broaden many young horizons."

At a special send-off ceremony at Jacksonville International Airport, Mayor Delaney congratulated Young and spoke on the importance of community and business support for education. An official commendation from Governor Bush was read, honoring Young's accomplishment and thanking educators for their efforts.

After the ceremony, adopted pilot Captain Dick Crane flew the plane from Jacksonville International Airport to New Orleans International with the 20 students, accompanied by more than 30 parents, educators, and Southwest representatives, on board. The students took an historical tour of the French Quarter, participated in teambuilding with Cajun dance lessons, viewed the Mississippi River, and explored underwater sea life at the Aquarium of the Americas. The group returned to Jacksonville with Captain Crane at the helm. Air fare, ground transportation, meals, and entry fees were provided by Southwest Airlines.

"We've been uniting thousands of pilots and students through the Adopt-A- Pilot program for five years now, but this is the first time we've invited participating students to join in an essay contest honoring their teachers. We were impressed with the caliber of essays from these young students, but Sam's really stood out. It's a delight to see the self-confidence he and his classmates have gained from participating in the program," says Linda Jones, project coordinator for Southwest Airlines' Adopt-A-Pilot program.

Inaugurated in 1997 with the help of former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, the Southwest Airlines Adopt-A-Pilot program has reached more than 25,000 students. The program was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education, America's Promise, the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum, and other educational consultants, and its online version extends the program to cities outside Southwest's route system. (See www.southwest.com/adoptapilot for more information.)

Southwest Airlines, now the nation's fourth largest domestic carrier in terms of customer boardings, serves 58 cities in 29 states. Based in Dallas, Southwest employs more than 3,600 pilots and operates more than 2,800 flights a day with a fleet of more than 360 Boeing 737s.

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