More than 100 College Park community members attended the third annual Latinas in Aviation event Saturday at the College Park Aviation Museum and Airport.
The day-long event included children’s activities, mentorship circles and an exhibit about the history of Latina representation in aviation. The event aimed to highlight the accomplishments of Latinas in aviation and introduce children to the field.
“Having these people who someone can say, ‘hey, that looks like me, I can also do this thing’…to get involved in aviation is really great to get that next generation started,” said Kimberly Schwartz, the museum’s education manager.
Women make up seven percent of all jobs in aviation, according to the second edition of Latinas in Aviation. Out of these seven percent of women, Latinas consist of just one percent of them, the second edition said.
Saturday’s event was organized by the museum and the Latinas in Aviation brand. The brand consists of books, magazines and events that highlight the obstacles and achievements of Latinas in aviation.
While the brand highlights Latina pilots from around the world, this event is only held in College Park, according to Jacqueline Ruiz, the founder of Latinas in Aviation.
She said College Park has exclusivity over the event because of their early support.
The museum and Latinas in Aviation collaborated for the second edition of its book series — Latinas in Aviation: Maryland Edition — which focuses on Latinas in the industry from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region.
Ruiz, a 33-year-old sports pilot, worked in marketing and publishing for 17 years and before earning her sports pilot license in 2018. When Ruiz created Latinas in Aviation in 2020, she did not realize the impact it would have.
“I took a discovery flight, no doors on the plane, and it changed my life,” Ruiz said. “I just realized that I was closer to heaven.”
Samantha Moore, a museum educator, said she attended the event to familiarize herself with the museum.
Moore said her favorite part was the Latinas in Aviation exhibit, which included stories about trailblazing Latinas in aviation.
Like Moore, Shelby Powell, who works at the museum, said the exhibit gives a platform for women in aviation.
“It can be empowering to know that these women are out here doing these amazing things,” Powell said. “Their stories are lesser known….and I feel like an event like this just gives them an opportunity to voice a lot of those achievements.”
Tyara Jackson, a teacher in Washington, D.C. added that Saturday’s event was a nice close to Hispanic Heritage Month, which concluded Sunday.
University of Maryland’s UAS Research and Operations Center — a part of this university’s aerospace engineering department — hosted a table Saturday where attendees could use a flight simulator and practice flying a plane in a safe environment.
Darren Robey, the operations director and chief pilot at the research center, said the highlight of his day was helping children learn more about aviation.
“There’s a lot of young people here that are really excited about aviation,” Robey said. “Hearing their questions and being able to give them that exposure [has] been really fun for us.”
For Raiberys Lima, who works in the safety department at JetBlue, the event was an opportunity to reflect on her journey.
Lima was an author in the third edition of Latinas in Aviation. She said she enjoyed talking to children, especially girls, at the event and encouraging them to pursue aviation.
“I saw myself in the little girls,” Lima said. “I feel like I had a healing experience.”