Program helps students 'elevate' their lives
Within a span of just a few minutes, they got to experience weightlessness, the pull of gravity and the thrill of speed. They also got a chance to view the Earth from a vantage point most people can only dream about.
In the end, two students from Hacker Middle School and two others from schools in the Treasure Valley earned a once-in-a-life chance to participate in a program aimed at encouraging them to pursue their dreams and achieve lifetime goals.
Adtison Clark and Jacob Tvinnereim were among four students participating in the Elevate Your Life program, held Sept. 18 at the city's municipal airport. Others participating in the flights that day were Sabrina Jones from Compass Public Charter School in Meridian and Brentley Peterson from Nampa High School.
The national program uses aviation to inspire, motivate and provide a path for young people to realize their dreams, according to Theresa Poe, administrative assistant with the Ryan J. Poe Foundation, which oversees the program. More than 200 teens from schools across southern Idaho submitted essays this year in hopes of earning a side in an acrobatic aircraft flown that afternoon by stunt pilot Brad Wurstein.
Clark's desire to fly was actually a last-minute decision.
"When they asked us what our biggest dream was and what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said I wanted to be an archeologist," she said.
Outlining her future goals as she wrote her essay, Clark suddenly realized there was a chance to earn a flight. It convinced her to write something memorable.
Before the flight, Clark had already envisioned what she hoped the flight would include.
"When I'm up there, I want to experience the best thing possible," she said. From her perspective, that meant being able to reach the fastest possible speeds in the air.
Tvinnereim submitted his essay because of his lifelong interest in aviation. Even when he was young, the fifth grade had always wanted to fly.
For years, he wanted to experience for himself what it's really like to be in the air, which was something he could only imagine in his dreams. When flying, people can experience flips and rolls and other acrobatic maneuvers, which they can't do if they're on the ground, he added.
While he still has several years of school ahead of him, Tvinnereim hopes to join the military one day. Specifically setting his sights on flying Army Apache helicopters, he said it would allow him to not only serve his country but to also follow his dreams.
Clark was the first teen to fly that day. While she thought some people might get anxious and a little apprehensive when they climbed into the cockpit, the teen had a different perspective.
"I was just so excited that it didn't even phase me when we got into the air. I was like, 'Well, we're in the air and we're not coming back down, so I might as well enjoy this,' " she said.
Clark remembered one particular maneuver where the plane appeared to stop in mid-flight with the engine still running. She also enjoyed Wurstein's signature move -- a series of maneuvers that when viewed from the ground made it appear that the plane had drawn a "thumb's up" in the sky.
Viewing the ground from the cockpit while upside down also gave Clark a unique perspective she didn't expect.
"It was just so cool," she said.
Despite all the flips, loops and rolls, Clark admitted that she felt fine when the flight ended.
"I was so excited that it didn't phase me," she said.
Meanwhile, Tvinnereim said he felt a little wobbly as he climbed out of the cockpit following the brief flight.
"We went upside down, and it was kind of creepy. It was sort of like you were falling and looking upside down at nothing," he said.
The flight was everything he could've imagined.
"It was amazing. It was everything you could describe -- that is if you want to fly," Tvinnereim said.
The teen admitted that the flight only made him want to fly helicopters even more, "because I'm doing it for the thrill."
Renowned air show pilot Greg Poe created the Elevate Your Life program after he lost his son to drug addiction. For more than 10 years, he dedicated his life to helping children turn their lives around and to help them achieve their dreams.
The stunt pilot from Boise took the youth outreach program with him to nearly every airshow. He used school presentations, essay contests and rides in his aircraft to leave a positive message and confidence in the students he met.
But when Poe died of a heart attack in July 2011, it cast doubts on whether his goal to help others would end. However, people like his brother, Russ Poe, remained committed to keep the program alive.
Simply put, they were not going to allow his brother's goal of helping others pursue their dreams to die, Russ Poe said. Today, Elevate Your Life has taken on a life of its own and continues to help youngsters create their own dreams and goals.
According to foundation officials, it shows them that they can achieve anything if they remain on the positive path.