The Air Up There Podcast
Fly For The Culture
In a world where diversity is taking flight, representation becomes the compass guiding many toward the unexplored skies of possibility. As a young person, there’s power in seeing someone from your own roots engaged in aerospace. It ignites fresh curiosities and can be the gateway to opportunities in the industry.
In this podcast episode, we connected with Clarence Garden, Vice President of Fly For The Culture, a nonprofit on a mission to bring more diversity to aviation. Clarence shares his personal story of how he soared into the world of aviation as part of an underrepresented community and is now influencing the lives of young people in similar communities through impactful experiences like discovery flights.
Tune in to hear how Fly For The Culture is breaking barriers by showcasing diverse careers in aviation and getting young people involved in the world of flight with thrilling first-time experiences, and even charting the course for some to earn their wings before their driver's license!
Diversity is the jet fuel that propels the aerospace community forward. Share this episode with your family, colleagues, and friends to help create awareness about the limitless possibilities in aerospace. There’s a career waiting for someone who has no idea it exists.
Meet Our Guest:
Clarence Garden is from Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in International Relations. With a diverse background, including active duty as an Air Force Officer and various roles in aviation, Clarence is currently a Beechjet 400 First Officer for Wheels Up Private Jets. Beyond his aviation career, he serves his community through roles in Civil Air Patrol, academia, and as Vice President of Fly For The Culture, aiming to introduce diverse careers in aviation. Most importantly, Clarence is a dedicated family man, married with two children.
Disclaimer: Reference in this podcast to any specific commercial product, process, service, manufacturer, company, or trademark does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. government, Department of Transportation, or Federal Aviation Administration. As an agency of the U.S. government, the FAA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any specific product or service.
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Clarence Garden: Just thinking about my story and where I came from, I want to make sure I reach back and pull the younger generation up to where I am. Like we like to let them know, hey, I was once you and you can do this if you want to. If it is something you want to do. You can and we are here to help you get there.
Lucy: That’s Clarence Garden, from Fly For The Culture – a non-profit that introduces young people to careers in aviation.
Vishal: From their discovery flights to their outreach efforts, Fly For The Culture, is helping to expand diversity within the aviation workforce.
Lucy: We're your hosts. I’m Lucy Jabbour.
Vishal: And I’m Vishal Ramadamu. And this is – The Air Up There!
Various People: This is your captain speaking. The feeling I get when I’m flying is just; you get an adrenaline rush. Seeing something fly is awesome. It’s incredible to be able to fly. Flying airplanes is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I get so excited about aviation, aeronautics, space, engineering, and tech. Like star gazing and just wondering what it would be like to be up there. I just fell in love with it. Stick with your passion and pursue it. Just know you can do it. There is not a room, there is not a cockpit, there is not a place that you don’t belong. There’s certainly a place for everybody in aerospace.
Vishal: In this episode we feature a non-profit that helps introduce people to aviation careers.
Lucy: The FAA also has multiple pathways to ignite your aviation curiosity including a variety of internship programs and summer Aviation Career Education Academies.
Vishal: There are lot of opportunities to explore aviation career paths and become a part of the busiest, but safest airspace system in the world!
Lucy Jabbour: So, tell us a little bit about yourself Clarence. What you're doing now with the whole Fly For The Culture organization.
Clarence Garden: Our biggest platform is providing exposure and avenues via our social media pages. Basically, people of color, women, our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We just like to get all of their accomplishments out there and on the forefront to let young people know this field is open to everybody. As you all know, aviation and aerospace and this industry is way more than just having the coolest job in the world sitting in the cockpit. You know, we like to showcase engineers, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, people who work on the ramps, people who do aviation security, aviation law. There are so many fields, you know, that aviation touches. We just like to show that.
Lucy Jabbour: It is a cool job.
Clarence Garden: It is. You know, we like to showcase engineers, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, people who work on the ramps, people who do aviation security, aviation law. There are so many fields, you know, that aviation touches. We just like to show that.
Vishal Ramadamu: As you alluded to Clarence, the aviation industry, historically speaking, has lacked diversity. How would you say Fly For The Culture engages with these aspiring young pilots and aviation enthusiasts that come from those underrepresented backgrounds?
Clarence Garden: We try to meet people where they are and, and we let people know that, hey, this is something where people who look like you have done this. People who look like you can do this and if you want to you can do it as well. And earlier this year, in the summer, we gave 100 kids their first discovery flight and these are kids who had never seen an airplane up close before. They might have seen them on TV. They might have seen them flying over the airport, the big airplanes. So, they were exposed to a whole other side of aviation that they may have never seen. And when I say the other side, I mean general aviation. We flew them in Cessnas, Pipers the small aircraft that we all learn to fly on. So, that's the big thing that we like to do. We like to let kids know that, you know, hey, I was you once upon a time. I grew up in Atlanta in a in a minority community, where not a lot of pilots looked like me.
Lucy Jabbour: You were kind of mentioning the connection that you see like yourself in these kids. This is like the spark you're creating for them. Right? What was your spark?
Clarence Garden: So, growing up in Atlanta, we lived very close to the airport, Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta. And the Delta planes would just fly over my house all the time. And I would just look at them. And there's also a there's this old flea market that my mom used to go to every Saturday. And the flea market will line up with one of the runways. And if anybody's listening from Atlanta, it's the flea market that's across from the College Park train station. And if anybody listening in from Atlanta, they know exactly what I'm talking about. And the planes would be super close on final approach landing. And I would just stand in the window of that flea market and just yell. And my mom tells everybody this story. Mom, look at that airplane! Looking at that airplane. So that was my, that was my early spark. My mom also got me enrolled in Aviation Career of Richmond. It’s one of the few Black run and Black owned flight schools in the nation and that was how I got my initial start. I didn't get have my first discovery flight until I was in eighth grade and that was the spark for me. And after that flight, I was just hooked.
Lucy Jabbour: How does it make you feel to have the opportunity now to, you know, knowing where you came from, and that an opportunity and some awareness was opened up to you, and now you're able to sort of turn that around and give it back?
Clarence Garden: The feeling and the sense of gratitude and fulfillment I get from reaching out to these young kids and letting them know, like, hey, you can do this too. I just, I honestly can't put it into words.
Lucy Jabbour: When you're talking about these flights. Are these some of the flights that are on the YouTube channel? Where because like, I was watching those videos, and just the look on these kid’s faces. You can't tell somebody about that experience and get the same sort of reaction.
Clarence Garden: Flying airplanes is all I've ever wanted to do and to see the looks on those kids faces. I go back to being that kid. As a matter of fact, every time I'm in a cockpit and I'm flying a plane, and as soon as the captain says rotate, and I pull that plane off the ground. The kid in me, just the biggest smile just comes out of nowhere. You could probably see it on my face now. Just the thought of it. You get so amped just to see that and it’s like - I know that feeling.
Lucy Jabbour: Your enthusiasm is like... You're making me excited. I already work at the FAA. I'm like, where do I sign up? Do you happen to have like any specific stories that stick out to you of maybe a student that you worked with that keeps pushing you forward?
Clarence Garden: So, there's a young man. He's a cadet at Howard's Air Force ROTC program. I was doing a Civil Air Patrol flight with some Howard University cadets. And I took him on his, his first orientation flight. And there was an event at the school a year after that. He approached me. He said, Mr. Garden, I don't know if you remember me. But about a year or so ago, you took me on an orientation flight. And after that flight, I went and got my private pilot's license, and now I have a pilot's license to fly in the Air Force. And I was like, whoa. I said, whoa, you did all that in a year? He said, yes, sir. Yes, sir. Wow, that was amazing. And there's another young man who I trained early on. He got his private pilot's certificate on his 17th birthday. Now he's 21-22 years old mI believe and he owns his own airplane. So um, these young kids are out here doing the thing.
Lucy Jabbour: That is wild to me, because I feel like when I was growing up, I mean, getting your driver's license was like enough. We're learning about kids like the ones you're working with who are like, yeah, I got my pilot's license at 17.
Vishal Ramadamu: Yeah, it's amazing.
Clarence Garden: Yeah, it's funny you say driver's license, because he got his driver's license a year later.
Vishal Ramadamu: So, he got his pilot's license before his driver's license?
Clarence Garden: Yeah, he got his pilot’s license before his driver's license. His mom had to bring him to get his pilot's license.
Lucy Jabbour: Well, I suppose flying is more efficient, right?
Vishal Ramadamu: He takes “go big or go home” literally.
Clarence Garden: Absolutely.
Vishal Ramadamu: I had a question, Clarence. What advice would you give to young people who are aspiring to pursue a career in aviation?
Clarence Garden: I would tell them you can do this. You can do this and regardless of who you are. What you look like. Where you come from. There is not a room; there is not a cockpit; there is not a place that you don't belong. There will be tough times. There will be difficult times. The important thing is that you just don't give up. You have to unapologetically be yourself and enjoy the journey. There is nothing more exhilarating than sitting in that flight deck at 38,000 feet, looking at the stars and looking at the sun and saying to yourself, I did. Darn it. I did it. There is no, no, no, no better feeling than that.
ACE Academy PSA: Are you curious about drones, rockets and air taxis? Explore the skies and beyond through Aviation Career Education Academy or ACE. Programs vary but you could ride in aircraft, fly drones and simulators, go on aviation field trips, and learn the physics of flight, aviation history,
aircraft design and maintenance. Go to faa.gov and search A-C-E to learn more about camps
Lucy Jabbour: Thank you for listening! For more information about today’s guest, check out faa.gov/podcasts. Subscribe, like, follow where ever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a
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