Fantasy of Flight Announces Student Winners of “They Dared to Fly” Essay Contest Honoring Tuskegee Airmen

Winning Essays Explain how Airmen's Ideals of Leadership, Excellence, Advocacy and Determination are Essential to Success

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(l to r) WASP Betty Wall, RAF Sgt. Ron Houston, Tierra Thomas, 2nd place high school, Alysa Hurlstone, 2nd place middle school, Senior Master Sgt. Hal Millett, Jai A. Brown, 1st place middle school, General Arthur Lichte, Michael Wiggs, 1st place high school

POLK CITY, Fla. (March 13, 2013) – Fantasy of Flight recently announced the winners of its third annual “They Dared to Fly” essay contest honoring the nation’s first African American military aviators, the Tuskegee Airmen.

Students in grades 6-12 were invited to participate in the essay contest by sharing their views about how the airmen’s values of leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination earned them a place in the history books and/or how these values could be applied in students’ own lives. The competition culminated in February in honor of National Black History Month and was held in conjunction with the 2013 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, “They Dared to Fly” honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. Distinguished Airmen gathered for the symposium in February to share their recollections of wartime military service during segregated America.

The essay contest winners received not only cash prizes and certificates, but a rare opportunity to receive their awards from aviation heroes. Panelists from Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies Symposium Series “Beyond the Battlefield” took time at the end of their first symposium on Friday, March 8 to congratulate the winners and present them with their prizes. These panelists included retired Four-Star General, Arthur J. Lichte; Elizabeth “Betty” Wall Strohfus, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP); retired Senior Master Sergeant Hal Millett, a World War II and Korean War veteran; and Ron Houston, World War II veteran and member of the British Royal Air Force.

First place winners were awarded $500; second place, $300. Award winners include:

High School

  • First Place — Michael Wiggs, Lake Gibson High School, Lakeland, FL 33840
  • Second Place — Tierra Thomas, Lake Gibson High School, Lakeland, FL 33840

Middle School

  • First Place — Jai A. Brown, Milwee Middle School, Sanford, FL 32773
  • Second Place — Alysa Hurlstone, Stewart Middle Magnet, Tampa, FL 33604

“We were truly amazed and inspired by what each of the students — not only the winners, but every participant — wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Kim Long, General Manager, Fantasy of Flight. “We could not be more proud to sponsor this essay competition and to encourage young people to apply the airmen’s message of perseverance in their own lives.”

Remaining segments of the 2013 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series include: “The First World War,” April 6; “D-Day: Normandy & Beyond,” May 3-4; “Espionage: The Cold War,” Oct. 4-5 and “Veteran’s Day Salute: A Celebration of Service,” Nov. 9-10.

Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders. General admission is $29.95 for adults and $15.95 for children, ages 6-12, plus 7 percent sales tax. Children five and under are free with full paying adult. Group rates are available for groups of 15 or more; for more information, call 863-984-3500, ext. 220. For general information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com.