New Beginnings flock ready for lift off
Church-pilot partnership has positive results
On Saturday mornings a group of Waukesha youth is getting high.
They're not doing something to their detriment. Instead this group got out of bed early to hitch a ride with New Beginnings Christian Church's Rev. Jerome Spencer to Crites Field where they spend the morning learning to fly.
The aviation program was initiated in 2006 and is giving the students wings in more ways than one. Targeted at helping the disenfranchised youth that Jerome ministers to, and with the generous help of several area pilots, the students pack a room with the blinds drawn to take the helm at a flight simulator.
You've got teenagers, pre-teens and young adults seated around the room with the simulator. Spencer, with the help of the pilot Charles Allen and others, puts the group to work learning the pilot's alphabet, having them take their hand at the simulator and they study the Federal Aviation Administration text book. And of course, there's the real flying too.
"We'll take you up on your first day," said Allen.
The love for flight is evident here. The excitement is infectious and as fresh as the breeze out on the tarmac. And it's catching on with the kids as well as Oconomowoc pilot and surgeon, Dr. Stan Markus. His connection with the New Beginnings aviation program has yet another layer. When he's not in the OR, or in his plane, Markus is likely in the studio recording music on his guitar. His talent brings him to area social events and he donates his time and the sales of his last album, "Give and Take," to the Lake Area Free Clinic. And now he's donating the proceeds from his new album, "Fireside" to the aviation program.
The connections Spencer has established with the pilots help keep the program going, but flying isn't cheap and beyond the pilots' time, there's the cost of fuel and other related items. Spencer has been able to fundraise and use his own money to keep the program going, but the need is constant. However, the result from those who participate in the program exceeds the monetary investment.
"We had one girl, everyone called her a pistol and said don't even try," to help her through the program, Spencer recalled. "The other day, she flew me to Gary, Ind."
The heights reached by others who have participated in the program are even greater. Spencer had one student who is now attending Notre Dame on a scholarship to become a professional pilot and there's an FAA certificate hanging on the wall of the simulator room for a 12-year-old that passed the written exam that started right there, seated at the simulator. Another young lady, Amber Gaffke, 10, who was there to practice on a recent Saturday, said her goal is to pass the written exam before she hits 12 years.
"When you show them something, the amazement in their eyes when they see they can do it themselves," is a true reward, said pilot Clark Schreiner who donates his time and his plane on Saturdays for the program.
Schreiner's journey into aviation somewhat mirrors those in the New Beginnings aviation program. He said he was introduced to aviation through his pastor who had stopped flying but was member of the former Metro Flying Club in Waukesha. Schreiner said as he was going through his flight training, he felt there was some reason God connected him to the opportunity, but years went by without a "sign." When he was approached to help New Beginnings, it came full circle for Schreiner, who revved up his plane last Saturday to take two students up. One of those students is Charlie Marshman, who also is letting God guide his flight path.
Marshman is hoping to join with missionary group, New Tribes Mission. New Tribes is an international evangelical Christian mission organization that sends missionaries to the most remote places on earth for evangelical efforts. Marshman's hope is to be able to fly into remote areas as part of the New Tribes Mission.
"We'll see where God leads," the humble youth shared before boarding the plane.
Another student, Alexus Gallman said she wants to be a veterinarian for large animals. She's sure if there was a distant need to help a large creature, her being able to fly there would be an advantage.
Schreiner said no matter what the young pilots' goals through the program are, the overall picture is self confidence that helps them grow into more well-rounded young adults.
"It gives kids something tangible to hold on to," he said.
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