"I met Richard Walsh, from American Express, at our Flight Academy opening ceremonies, and he came to the classroom and talked about opportunities in aviation and about the AMEX internship," RedTail student Mya Coley recalls.
"Everybody applied for it initially but me. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in aviation, and I didn't want to needlessly take this opportunity away from one of my classmates.
"Our Operations Manager, Tanya Austin, asked me to reconsider, so I read more about the internship and realized that it was a business aviation position.
My degree from Lewis University is in aviation management, and that's what the internship was about. It sounded like a great opportunity to learn about several aviation components of the company—flight operations, dispatching, finance, all the things that would help me determine where I wanted to be in aviation."
The head of AMEX’s flight department Richard Walsh quickly realized that he had a prime internship candidate in Coley.
"We look for people who have shown leadership in a university environment,” he says. “Students who demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement in their personal and professional development.
"We are looking for a cross-functional skill set. A successful candidate needs to be deployable in multiple functions. A corporate aviation department goes through peaks and valleys in terms of demand, so you need people who can be utilized in a variety of areas.
"What struck me about Mya was her resilience. She's been through some challenging times financially, personally, in college, and her resilience in not letting obstacles get in her way was to me just so impressive.
"As an intern, she's going to get exposure to flight operations, dispatch and business administration,” Walsh continues. “She's going to have an opportunity to view training events at FlightSafety, she's going to go to Gulfstream, see the production process on a business jet and what role AMEX plays in that process. She is also going to be able to work on getting qualified as an FAA-rated dispatcher.”
Coley admits that the internship acceptance process was challenging, particularly as she was the sole Flight Academy student to be accepted by Amex. "Was I nervous?” she asks. “Absolutely! But Mr. Fraser and Mr. Richards coached all of us on things that you need to say, how to project yourself, how to brand yourself, how to get your points across, how to show up for the interviews . . . to be ready to be a part of that interview, to have done your research, to have looked the company up and become familiar with it.
"How to greet someone when you get on the phone, to be personable, to show that you actually care about the person interviewing you. The big thing I took away from the process was knowing enough to ask the right questions."
Walsh points out that the Amex internship can lead to even greater opportunities. "We're looking for people who want to come work for Amex,” he notes. “It's the reason we have this program. We're looking for entry-level management people who are successful in their internship, to place them immediately in entry-level roles. The RedTail Flight Academy is an extremely effective means of vetting high-potential young adults in an underserved minority, those who have the capability to be successful in business aviation."
Mya Coley got both her FAA commercial license and certified flight instructor rating through the RedTail Flight Academy. She has a total of 310 flight hours logged, 185 of which were flown with the Flight Academy. "The thing I love most about this program is being able to learn from professionals who look like me,” she explains. It's not easy to go through a flight school and be the only person there who looks like you. It's very inspiring to see people of color who are in positions where I want to be someday."
There is no doubt that, thanks to her American Express internship, along with the support of the RedTail Flying Program and its sponsors, Mya Coley will soon achieve that position.
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