Soaring Eagles aviation program providing youth mentoring, helping dreams take off

Posted at 9:12 AM, Mar 15, 2022

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Spring Break at the Lantana Airport means the open air is filled with planes.

There's no other place a kid like 6-year-old Tristan Blake would rather be, and he's dressed the part.

"He has completely taken on the persona of the Tuskegee airman. He thinks that he's one of them. He just walks around and call himself 'Tuskegee Tristan,'" said his mom, Carol Blake.

It's all part of the K.O.P. mentoring program. K.O.P. stands for "knowldge, opportunity and prosperity" — something founder C. Ron Allen thinks is a winning combination.

"Priceless," Allen said. "We can spend time in the classroom and talk to them about the plane, but for them to come out and actually touch it, for them to actually go up and fly in one of these is priceless."

The nontraditional mentorship program already worked for Boynton Beach High School graduate and current Embry Riddle Aeronautical University student Dwight Marshall. Now, he's passing on the torch to the younger generation.

"As I see a change in how they act and how they carry themselves and how they approach the world, it does resonate with me, and I think about it all the time," Marshall said. "I don't want to be a bad influence to them."

And it's working. Tristan's older brother has been hitting the books.

"I like it enough to actually try to get my pilots license before I'm 18," said Derron Bell said.

The program aims to teach the future leaders of South Florida that the sky is really the limit. Allen said for him, it's more than enough motivation.

"When I see young people walk across that stage knowing that the opportunities were not there for them before, and we were able to make that happen for them," he said.

Patience, life skills and mentoring are all part of the right opportunities that are keeping these kids on an upward trajectory.

This story was originally published by Chris Gilmore on Scripps station WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.