North Bay's Emilie Perron has always been fascinated by the sky.
“For as long as I can remember, I have looked up at the sky with immense curiosity. I have always been fascinated by the expanse of the universe and wondered what else the world held," said Perron.
Having met Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen in grade six, Perron realized that she wanted to reach for the stars and become a pilot and, hopefully someday, an astronaut.
A “most remarkable flight” happened last September for Perron, as she had her first flight in a Piper Super Cub and where she was offered control of the aircraft by Canadian Owners and Pilot's Association (COPA) members.
“Even if I don’t yet have any actual flight training, I know that I want a life in aviation," said Perron.
"Whether that be as an airline pilot, instructor, test pilot, engineer, or even astronaut, I know I want to pursue a career in the aviation world.”
This curiosity is what inspired the 16-year-old's interest in aviation, space exploration and astronomy and recently she received the COPA Neil J. Armstrong Scholarship which gives Perron $10,000 which she can use toward eligible training costs associated with the Private Pilot License.
Perron feels getting her pilot’s license and becoming an astronaut may be something that seems far-fetched and impossible to reach” but she has learned that what seems impossible can be reached with some hard work and dedication.
The Ecole Secondaire Catholique Algonquin student has an impressive academic record, consistently placing at the top of her class, receiving award recognition and delivering a valedictorian speech.
Last year, she placed the second-highest average of 98 per cent.
“I have always been someone who, when their mind is set on something, will do whatever it takes to make it happen," she said.
"I have always loved challenges and don’t believe I should be limited on what I can achieve."
Perron also believes giving back to the community is important. Over the past few years, she has contributed over 480 hours of volunteer work helping out her community. From helping run a dance camp, acting as the assistant coach for two youth football teams for the North Bay Bulldogs, and since October helping run and maintain a Curling Pro Shop.
Perron often had to work twice as hard to prove herself and show that she belonged. “In everything I have already done, I have had to become a self-starter and be willing to earn my own way, these qualities I know will be important if I want a career in aviation. I know that getting my pilot’s license will be quite a challenge but this, to me, makes it every bit more incredible and makes me want it even more.
“I know that flight training is very expensive and with university coming up in the next year, I am not in a position, financially, to pursue this dream without assistance. This scholarship would help me get a head start on my aviation career and allow me to make a difference in this world.”
Perron is hoping to be accepted into the University of Waterloo Aviation program next year when it comes time to start applying to universities.
“When I do defeat the odds and become a pilot, I wish to share these many lessons and inspire others to do what their hearts desire. I believe that, as Canadians, we need to stand up for each other and support others to give them the courage to fight for what they want.”
For more than 25 years, the COPA Neil J, Armstrong Scholarship has helped open doors for the next generation of aviators. The scholarship, created in honour of Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame inductee Neil J. Armstrong, promotes Canadian pilot development by providing annual scholarships to ab-initio pilots and advanced flight training to licensed pilots.