By Fiona Roy
For The Diamondback
Caleb Smith, a 17-year-old from Prince George’s County who is the youngest licensed glider pilot in the nation, spoke at the College Park Aviation Museum Saturday, encouraging young community members to follow their dreams.
The sold out event hosted small families and community members from across the county.
“[We’re] always looking out for events in our community, especially things where our children could be inspired and see themselves reflected,” said Lynice Brock, a mother of homeschooled children.
Smith admitted earning his license when he was 16 was not without hardships.
“My personal life was sort of put on hold before I was able to achieve my goal,” Smith said. “Prayer and sacrifice was the key to making this happen.”
With support from friends, family and aviation mentors, Smith soared past expectations.
“He’s wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force for a long time now,” James Dula, a family friend to the Smith’s, said. “He’s a focused young man.”
Already becoming a community leader, Smith currently mentors two young local children also interested in following his footsteps toward a career in aviation.
They are not the only young community members interested in flight. The audience was filled with families with young children — all eager to listen to his story and ask for aviation advice.
“We need positive programs and activities for our young Black males in Prince George’s County, and this is an activity I did not want my son to miss as another 10-year-old in fourth grade, who has high hopes of doing all kinds of things,” for University of Maryland African American studies employee Cecily Morgan said.
There are not a lot of known Black pilots which makes Smith’s story critical to African American studies, Morgan said.
“Caleb is starting a story, especially for young Black boys globally,” Morgan said. “Because you can have children in many countries that probably … look at planes in the air, and they have no idea how they can become those pilots for the planes that they see.”
Aviation mentors such as Allison Diaz of Skyline Soaring Club further emphasized the importance of encouraging young people to dream big and work hard.
By sharing his story, Smith and his family hope to encourage young people to follow their dreams.
“You young people are here, and you’re here for greatness,” Chazz Smith, Caleb’s father, said toward the end of the event.