by Jess Clackum
At the age of 15, Kimberly Anyadike, inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, along with bravery of previous African American female pilots, like Bessie Coleman and Mae Jemison, flew a single-engine Cessna cross-country from her hometown of Compton, CA to Newport News, VA.
Anyadike had always been an ambitious child. At age five she told her mother she wanted to be a cardiovascular surgeon. When she was 12, her interest turned to the skies when she attended the Compton-based Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, which offers aviation lessons in an after-school program for disadvantaged youths, the Los Angeles Times reported. In fact, it was their plane Anyadike flew on her cross-country trip. The brave teenager came up with the idea for the trip on her own and the Museum's founder, Robert Petgrave, told the L.A. Times. "I told her it was going to be a daunting task, but she just said, 'Put it on. I got big shoulders.'"
So great was her passion for flying that Anyadike paid for her flight lessons by working many regular jobs and odd jobs while still maintaining an excellent academic scorecard which was a prerequisite to remain in the program.
Along for the historic ride were an adult safety pilot and 87-year-old Levi Thornhill, one of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
"They left such a great legacy," Anyadike, now 22, said of the U.S. Army Air Corp all-black combat unit. "I had big shoes to fill. ... All they wanted to do was to be patriots for this country. They were told no, that they were stupid, that they didn't have cognitive development to fly planes. They didn't listen. They just did what they wanted to do."
About 50 Tuskegee Airmen autographed the young pilot's plane during her journey.
Of her feat, she says, "I wanted to inspire other kids to really believe in themselves."
Anyadike’s accomplishments don't stop at her trail blazing journey. In Tuskegee, Alabama, July 2 is now marked on the calendar as #KAday and in 2014, Steven Magazine chose Anyadike to be one of five finalist to be featured in their Pretty Amazing spread.
As to her dreams of being a cardiovascular surgeon, she said, "I have every intention to still be a surgeon. Just one that flies."