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Mercy Ajala

645

Bold Points

1x

Finalist

1x

Winner

Bio

I am wholeheartedly committed to achieving excellence in the aviation industry. With your support, I believe I can make a significant impact on the world of aviation. My passion for aviation was ignited at an early age when I took my first flight. The thrill of soaring above the clouds, the precision of take-offs and landings, and the awe-inspiring views from the cockpit captured my heart and have since driven my ambitions. Over the years, I have worked diligently to acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to excel in this field. I have recently earned my Bachelor's degree in Aviation Management, with a minor in Airport Planning and Management, from Southern Illinois University. Currently, I am actively working towards my Master's degree in Aviation Management at the same institution. My long-term career aspiration is to not only become an airline pilot but also to contribute to the efficient and safe management of airports as an airport director. I believe that a strong foundation in both piloting and airport management will enable me to make a meaningful impact on the aviation industry, improve airport infrastructure, and enhance the passenger experience. I am well aware that pursuing a career in aviation requires significant financial investment, which is why I am applying for scholarships. Your generous support would alleviate some of the financial burden associated with my education, allowing me to focus on my studies and gain the necessary qualifications to achieve my goals.

Education

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Master's degree program
2023 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical/Space Engineering

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Bachelor's degree program
2021 - 2023
  • Majors:
    • Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical/Space Engineering

City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College

Associate's degree program
2019 - 2021
  • Majors:
    • Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical/Space Engineering
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Airlines/Aviation

    • Dream career goals:

    • Customer Service Agent

      Flightline FBO at Southern Illinois Airport
      2022 – Present2 years
    • Graduate Assistant- Airport Operations Specialist

      Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois
      2023 – Present1 year
    Kyle Rairdan Memorial Aviation Scholarship
    Winner
    First, I would like to thank Kyle's family and friends for their generous donations to not only honor Kyle’s legacy but to assist others who share a passion and desire for an aviation career. My first encounter with aviation was on my first-ever flight out of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria to O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. I remember rolling my suitcase through the airport as a 12-year-old girl, and spotting a young Asian woman in a very lovely blazer with four stripes on her sleeves. I immediately ran to my dad to ask why the lady was wearing such a nice outfit compared to mine. My dad explained to me that the nicely dressed young lady was a pilot and would be the one flying us to South Africa. I could not believe that a woman could fly something so huge (a plane). From that moment, I fell in love with aviation, or should I say, aviation won over my heart. I knew from that very moment that I wanted to become a pilot and inspire others to pursue an aviation career. My professional aspiration is to become an international airline pilot with the aim of inspiring women to pursue careers in aviation not only within the United States but on a global level. I am seeking this scholarship to support my commercial pilot license flight training. I completed my commercial written exam just two weeks after my Instrument checkride (December 2023). While financial constraints currently impede my flight training, this semester, I plan to offer tutoring assistance to fellow students working towards their private pilot licenses. I am currently working on my Master of Science in Aviation Management Degree. My goal with this degree is to show upcoming generations that nothing worth having comes easy, but with hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Upon graduation, I plan to get a job in the aviation field, Save up for my flight training. I am determined to do what it takes to achieve the career goal that I have had since the age of 12. Even though I have not yet made it to where I am going, it is important that I give back. After 20 years of inactivity, I was able to reinstate the American Association of Airport Executives Southern Illinois University student chapter (AAAE SIU). Subsequently, I was able to take nine students to this year’s AAAE annual conference, where three of them earned aviation industry internships. Additionally, I served as the Co-Vice President of the Black Women’s Club at Southern Illinois University (BWC SIU), and have been on the planning committee for SIU’s OBAP annual diversity luncheon since 2022. Twice a semester, I volunteer with De Soto Lions Club to assist grade school students in need of eyeglasses, raise diabetes awareness, and support summer camps for kids with sight or hearing impairments. Also, twice a year I participate as a volunteer at the Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois (VHFSI), honoring veterans by welcoming them home and thanking them for their service. Every semester, I go back to my high school and share my aviation journey with the current students. I know how much mentorship has made a difference in my life, and I would like to do the same for others. I believe that my tenacity, and determination, make me worthy of this scholarship and I would be humbled and honored to be selected as a Kyle Rairdan Memorial Aviation Scholarship award recipient. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    I am soaring past obstacles to become a commercial airline pilot, on a mission to inspire young girls to chase their aviation dreams. If I can do it, so can they
    Craig Huffman Memorial Scholarship
    My first encounter with aviation was on my first-ever flight out of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria to O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. I remember rolling my suitcase through the airport as a 12-year-old girl, and spotting a young Asian woman in a very lovely blazer with four stripes on her sleeves. I immediately ran to my dad to ask why the lady was wearing such a nice outfit compared to mine. My dad explained to me that the nicely dressed young lady was a pilot and would be the one flying us to South Africa. I could not believe that a woman - and someone so little - could fly something so huge (a plane). From that moment, I fell in love with aviation, or should I say, aviation won over my heart. I knew from that very moment that I wanted to become a pilot and inspire others to pursue a career in aviation. As a Nigerian immigrant and first-generation college student, I have had to overcome challenges that other students may not have, such as not qualifying for loans or financing to support my flight lessons. Additionally, being a female born and raised in Nigeria, I have often been told the word “NO” to many of my dreams and goals. I remember telling my extended family members that I aspired to be a pilot in the future, and their facial expressions portrayed disbelief. In Nigeria, women are known for staying at home, taking care of the children (my mom happened to be one of those women), and allowing men to be the sole breadwinners. I remember one Sunday afternoon, my mom, dad, and I were watching a movie together as a family. As always, my mother had great a business idea and shared it with my father. As always, my father’s response was, “NO, absolutely not.” He told her to keep daydreaming because none of her ideas would come to fruition. This was the story of my childhood. Men maintained control and women were disregarded and silenced. After witnessing several events like this, I decided I would be the one to break that generational curse. On September 10, 2016, I took my first step toward breaking that curse by moving to the United States. With that step, I made a promise to myself that I would never give up on my dreams. On March 5th, 2023, I earned my Private Pilot License, disproving the words of my original instructor when he stated “Becoming a pilot is not for you.”. I believe that my grit, tenacity, and determination, make me worthy of this scholarship. I am currently working two jobs to support my flight training, but it just is not enough. I will keep my promise to myself. I just passed my instrument written, and I am looking forward to completing my Instrument Rating as quickly as possible. Being awarded this scholarship will allow me to attain that goal. Even though I have not yet made it to where I am going, it is important to me that I give back. After 20 years of inactivity, I was able to reinstate the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) SIU student chapter. Subsequently, I was able to take nine students to this year’s AAAE annual conference, where three of them earned aviation industry internships. Additionally, I served as the Co-Vice President of the Black Women’s Club at SIU and was on the planning committee for SIU’s annual aviation diversity luncheon.
    Barbara J. DeVaney Memorial Scholarship Fund
    My name is Mercy Ajala, and I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, but I moved to the United States in 2016 to pursue the dream I had since the age of 12. My first encounter with aviation was on my first-ever flight out of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria to O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa. I remember rolling my suitcase through the airport as a 12-year-old girl and spotting a young Asian woman in a very lovely blazer with four stripes on her sleeves. I immediately ran to my dad to ask why the lady was wearing such a nice outfit compared to mine. My dad explained to me that the nicely dressed young lady was a pilot and would be the one flying us to South Africa. I could not believe that a woman - and someone so little - could fly something so huge (a plane). From that moment, I fell in love with aviation, or should I say, aviation won over my heart. I knew from that very moment that I wanted to become a pilot and inspire others to pursue an aviation career. As a Nigerian immigrant and first-generation college student, I have had to overcome challenges that other students may not have, such as not qualifying for loans or financing to support my flight lessons. Additionally, being a female born and raised in Nigeria, I have often been told the word “NO” to many of my dreams and goals. I remember telling my extended family members that I aspired to be a pilot in the future, and their facial expressions portrayed disbelief. In Nigeria, women are known for staying at home, taking care of the children (my mom happened to be one of those women), and allowing men to be the sole breadwinners. I remember one Sunday afternoon, my mom, dad, and I were watching a movie together as a family. As always, my mother had great a business idea and shared it with my father. As always, my father’s response was, “NO, absolutely not.” He told her to keep daydreaming because none of her ideas would come to fruition. This was the story of my childhood. Men maintained control and women were disregarded and silenced. After witnessing several events like this, I decided I would be the one to break that generational curse. On September 10th, 2016, I took my first step toward breaking that curse by moving to the United States. With that step, I made a promise to myself that I would never give up on my dreams. I remember that Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”. I resumed flight training in February 2022 with a different instructor at a different flight school, and it made all the difference. On March 5th, 2023, I earned my Private Pilot License. I am currently working two jobs to support my flight training, but it just is not enough. I will keep my promise to myself. “NO, absolutely not.”, will not deter me. I will not give up. I just passed my instrument written, and I am looking forward to completing my Instrument Rating as quickly as possible. Being awarded this scholarship will allow me to attain that goal and will also help me attain my commercial pilot license as well. I also look forward to being a role model and mentor to younger girls who are interested in aviation because "if they can see it, they can be it"~Theresa Claiborne.