Above and beyond

Aspirations. Academics. Aviation. Cedar Shoals freshman Jackie Wright maintains high marks in the classroom, and now she’s aiming even higher. Her true passion lies outside of school: specifically in the sky.

Since she was four, Jackie has maintained a passion for planes. At the age of 14, she accomplished her goal of obtaining a student’s flying license, and she has flown multiple times. She’s not the only one in the family with this love of airplanes. Her dad has his license and her grandmother, Ruth Wright, trained to become a pilot for the women’s section of the army during World War II.

“She’s been flying with me since before she was a year old, of course she didn’t really know what she was doing. She frequently takes the controls. Sometimes when we go on a flight, I take off and then she takes the controls, and then she flies the whole flight and all the way back to Athens, and then I do the landing,” said Mr. David Wright, Jackie’s father.

David also had a childhood where his parents shared an interest in planes.

“Both of my parents were pilots. So, when I was young, I was around planes quite a bit with my father, but my mom had stopped flying before I was born. I’ve had kind of a lifelong interest in planes,” David said.

Jackie’s grandmother had a different experience regarding planes.

“They were sort of like the first female fighter pilots. She made it through the program, but by the time where she would be in combat, when the war was over, and they disbanded. She’s really inspirational because she was really tough, and she dealt with a lot of injustice in her life. She didn’t really get to fly anymore after the war was over,” said Jackie.

Her grandma had a passion that she was unfortunately not able to pursue, and it took a toll on her life.

“She was sort of expected to be a housewife. She really wanted to be flying all the time, but she didn’t really get the chance to do that. From what I’ve heard from my family, her husband didn’t really like her flying, but I’m not sure why. It made her pretty depressed, because she wanted to be flying, but she didn’t really get to follow that dream,” Jackie said.

Jackie has already had that chance. For her, it’s not just the act of flying the plane that’s so exhilarating, but the feeling of power she experiences.

“It makes you feel really powerful. It’s kind of a way to separate yourself from the rest of the world. It’s sort of like how people like to run to disconnect from everything else. You have to think about everything you’re doing, and so you don’t really have room to think about anything else that’s going on,” Jackie said.

David was in his late 40s when he earned his pilot’s license, too busy to obtain it previously.

“It’s really exhilarating to be flying and be able to maneuver the plane. I guess it’s a little bit like you might imagine a bird who had intelligence. It’s beautiful. You get to see the ground from a different perspective, and also the sky is really pretty. The clouds, sunrises, sunsets,” said Mr. Wright.

Anette Wright, Jackie’s mother, has a different opinion towards flying.

“It’s actually kind of funny, but it’s not something that I really enjoy. I support her, but I don’t enjoy flying. I get motion sickness, so it’s uncomfortable sometimes for me to fly. For me myself, I’m not interested in learning to fly. I can fly with them sometimes, and I say sometimes because I have this thing that’s sort of like a watch. You put it on your wrist, and it sends electrical pulses into tendons on your wrist and somehow it calms the muscle that would cause you to have motion sickness,” said Anette.

Airplanes are not the only subject that Jackie actively cares about, and like flying, she receives some guidance from her parents. These interests are leading Jackie to consider studying law in college with a focus on civil rights cases.

“I’m really interested in feminism, and the philosophy behind it too. And racial justice, and just human rights for everyone. I feel like there’s a lot of structures in society that keep certain groups of people down,” said Jackie. “I want to do something like that where I can defend people who are kind of cheated out of their rights.”

Anette is a public defender, working with people who can’t afford private lawyers. Inspired by her, Jackie wants to pursue a similar career.

“I had a passion for law, but I didn’t know that I wanted to do that until I was much older. My family was more working class, so I didn’t know as much about it at her age. She’s had opportunities to meet some of the people that I work with, so I think it makes her believe that she can,” said Anette.

Mrs. Wright gives her daughter the exposure to the legal career field since she wasn’t able to access it herself as a child.

“She grew up in a small town where there were a lot of conservative and closed-minded beliefs. I feel like her beliefs have evolved and she’s learned so much in her life. It’s inspiring how she can be such a beautiful person through how she grew up,” said Jackie.

Taking the lead from her mother, Jackie joined the National Association of Students Against Gun Violence because she feels strongly about the topic. Her parents try to teach Jackie the values that will help her help others.

“Just because she’s a female, just because she’s a woman, doesn’t mean that she can’t pursue whatever it is that she wants to pursue. We can’t really judge people based on one experience with them or what they choose to show us. So that’s really important to me for her to have those values,” said Anette.

These values have stuck with Jackie, and they’re proud of the person she has become.

“I’m proud of what I’ve seen her learn and accomplish. It is kind of special to think that she would be the third generation of pilots in the family, and we sometimes joke that instead of driving off to college, she’ll fly off to college,” said David.