Alumna Creates Foundation to Inspire the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals

Desktop News | March 2023

Alumna Jessica Sanders Walker’s experience at the Capstone was enriched by female leaders serving as her mentors and friends. These relationships played a critical role in her personal and professional growth and inspired her to pay it forward by uplifting and guiding others on their path to success. 

“We could see women filling these roles, it was the opportunity for them to really guide us. For us to watch them come out from behind their desk and sit next to us and say, ‘We’re here for you. We want to mentor you. We’re your friends. We genuinely care’,” said Walker. “And I hope to this day The University still has people like them because that experience was priceless having women especially be able to show us the pathway and continuously encourage us.” 

Walker is now the Vice President of Sanders Aviation, and Sanders Flight Training Center, a certified Part 141 flight training school that has grown from a small operation to a large-scale flight training school. The school boasts 20 airplanes, trains nearly 1,000 students each year and prepares for commercial airline positions. 

To inspire, motivate and build a pipeline for the next generation of aviation professionals, Walker recently started a non-profit organization called Operation Aviation Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to introducing underrepresented individuals and underserved communities to aviation careers and aims to provide pathways to airlines and other aviation careers. The foundation hopes to inspire the next generation of aviation professionals. 

“We’ve got to open the door for people from all backgrounds to make up a more diverse percentage of who’s in the cockpit,” said Walker. 

This summer, the foundation will host its first camp, providing a unique and immersive experience for thirty children selected through a competitive essay process and nominated by local leaders. Campers will learn from a diverse group of experts from the FAA, NASA, meteorology, airlines and military. The foundation is passionate about creating opportunities for children in the community and helping them see the unlimited potential within the field of aviation. 

“We’re going to engage the campers through this program and hopefully spark their interest in a career in aviation,” said Walker. 

The summer camp will culminate with an exciting expo open to all children and the greater community, showcasing various aircraft exhibits and presentations by professional speakers. 

Operation Aviation Foundation will provide children from underrepresented communities access to resources and opportunities to inspire them to pursue careers in aviation. Through exposure, exploration, engagement and elevation, the foundation is working to build a brighter future for underserved youth and the aviation industry.