At some point in their academic career almost every student sets down their pencil, throws up their arms, and asks, “when will I use this? How does this apply to real life?” Dan Mikkelsen, founder and CEO of Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy, was no different. What changed his life and ignited his passion to help others find their way?
During his sophomore year of high school, Dan had a rare opportunity to take an experimental aviation course at Naperville North High School. This course was a complete private pilot ground school taught by a veteran flight instructor. The experience revealed to him how exciting and empowering math and science concepts could be when taught in an engaging and relevant context. “I looked forward to going to the class every day,” Dan remembers. Thus the dream of Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy took root in his imagination, almost two decades before it would fly.
In August of 2005, Dan relocated to California to teach in the urban high schools of South Los Angeles. In his first year he led about 20 students on a field trip to Compton Airport’s annual aviation fair. Witnessing the wonder and delight of two students who experienced flight for the very first time moved him deeply.
Over the next four years Dan led some twenty field trips to airports in Compton, Torrance, Hawthorne, and Los Angeles. On each visit students got to pilot planes and learn about aviation careers. Meanwhile, that old dream of Dan’s was stirring: it was time to leave the nest of imagination and fly into reality. In December of 2008, with the invaluable help of Sheryl Turner, Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy (GKWFA) was incorporated.
In the spring of 2011, the foundation offered its first elective class. In the fall of the same year, GKWFA formed its first partnership, with DaVinci Science High School in Wiseburn, CA. Together, they offered ground training, computer flight simulator instruction, first flights, and professional training opportunities as a bundled elective class available to all of Da Vinci Science’s students.
To date, GKWFA has worked with twelve schools to bring its programmatic and consulting educational and aviation services to an ever-growing number of students. Working with schools and aviation groups, as of January, 2024, GKWFA has provided hopeful, young men and women with 129 first flight lessons, 16 aircraft solos, and 9 licenses and ratings. Over $150,000 has been invested in programmatic services.
We help kids to find answers to those age-old questions: What is education for? What will it do for me? What can I do with it in the world?
It’s in the name: Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy helps students to see their own amazing potential and to embrace it. It helps them look forward to learning and life – to give their passion wings.
Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy
21143 Hawthorne Boulevard, #203, Torrance, California 90503, United States
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