‘I felt like I was flying to Heaven’

A plane co-piloted by Peyton Bertelsen, Wahpeton Middle School, was one of several taking off and landing as part of the annual 'Young Eagles' event at Harry Stern Airport, Wahpeton. Students from Wahpeton and St. Mary's School, Breckenridge, Minn., were expected to take part.

For years, Twin Towns Area middle schoolers have taken to the air as “Young Eagles.”

The tradition continued the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 15, when Wahpeton Middle School sixth graders received a free flying lesson. Students from St. Mary’s School, Breckenridge, Minnesota, were scheduled to join in the unique learning experience that afternoon.

“Dave Jennen comes in and gives them a big motivational speech,” said Connie Pederson, a retired teacher and longtime event supporter. “Hopefully some these kids go into aviation.”

Young Eagles is made possible through the Breckenridge-Wahpeton Interstate Airport Authority and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter No. 1174, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Daily News previously reported. Jennen had no trouble saying what keeps himself and other pilots and organizers coming back.

“The kids,” he said. “EAA is also starting another program that we are gonna try to introduce to the schools, called ‘AeroEducate.’”

Launched this year, AeroEducate is intended to bring more interactive, educational and engaging experiences to youth.

“(Our) web-based resource provides clear, age-appropriate pathways to aviation and aerospace engagement, and even career paths. A multitude of turnkey, easy-to-use aviation-themed activities for teachers and EAA chapters can be used at sites ranging from classrooms to EAA chapter hangars,” EAA stated.

Among Wahpeton’s young pilots and navigators were Xyleena Richards, Eimaj Anderson and Peyton Bertelsen. The trio paid close attention when taught how to safely enter a plane and prepare for takeoff.

“When I was coming out of the middle school, I looked up and I could see the planes coming into the airport. I knew they were on them. It was fun to see,” Pederson said.

While the students went for their rides, teachers and family members waited to hear all about the view from the top. Makayla Masching, who told her grandparents that she couldn’t even sleep Tuesday night, was just as enthusiastic when she landed.

“I felt like I was flying to Heaven,” she said.

For nearly 30 years, Young Eagles has provided free introductory flights for more than 2 million youth. The experience is available to anyone between ages 8-17, Daily News previously reported.

More information is available at www.eaa.org.

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