JetBlue Joins OBAP to Discuss Legacy and Being First to Accept the Challenge

Aug 21, 2017 9:15 AM ET

Last week, JetBlue sponsored the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) Annual Conference and Career Expo held in Orlando. JetBlue has worked with OBAP for several years to help diversify the aviation industry and provide access to those from traditionally under-represented communities to the variety of careers within the industry.  

“There’s responsibility in being the first and being a part of history.”

Icema Gibbs, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, JetBlue

JetBlue’s Icema Gibbs spoke at OBAP’s Founders and Pioneers Breakfast about the partnership between OBAP and the JetBlue Foundation to host Aviation Career Exploration (ACE) Academies, exposing high school students of color to STEM and aviation. The biggest hurdle to a career in aviation is limited access. Like OBAP, the JetBlue Foundation is eliminating barriers by raising awareness. This year, JetBlue pilots and Support Center Crewmembers volunteered their time to host ACE Academies in BOS, LGB, MCO, STX and JFK. Aligned with the theme of the breakfast – The Leading Edge of Legacy: Being First to Accept the Challenge – Gibbs shared, “Being a pioneer is personal to me. It’s hard to believe in 2017, we are still experiencing ‘firsts.’ But without the pioneers to pave the way, we wouldn’t have a legacy to build on and pass down.”

The pathway that OBAP is building is making aviation a real career choice and possibility for many. Students get to see these options first-hand and learn from people who look like them and have had similar experiences. Icema, a pioneer in her own right, is a part of aviation history as one of the founding members of JetBlue. Remembering when she got the call asking her to join this new and yet to be named airline, she remembered fondly, “If I didn’t take a chance who would? And how many women, and Black women at that, are able to say they helped start an airline!”

“JetBlue did a lot more than give me the opportunity of a lifetime to accomplish my dream of flight; they taught me how to create myself. I am now someone I respect, love, and want to succeed because I have values.”

Malick Mercier, OBAP ACE Academy Student

In keeping with the theme of legacy, Icema also brought a special guest with her, Malick Mercier, one of our ACE camp superstars. Malick is a great example of why we participate in programs like the ACE Academy. With dual passions in aviation and journalism, after participating in 2016, he came back in 2017 to volunteer for the program.  Malick noted, “JetBlue provided me the runway to take off.”  Malick wrote his college essay on his experience at the JFK OBAP/JetBlue ACE Academy and received a full scholarship to attend Ithaca College this fall. Because our pilots reached back to give back, Malick is now charting his own course.

In addition to comradery, the OBAP conference serves as a networking and recruiting event. JetBlue’s Talent Acquisition team was onsite for interviews and the Diversity and Inclusion team hosted a panel at JetBlue University entitled – JetBlue Equals: Voices of Blacks in Aviation. During this panel, five Crewmembers spanning Flight Operations, Technical Operations and Airports shared their experiences with college students and pilots aspiring to one day work at JetBlue. The panelists shared tips on being your authentic self at work, why preparation is key, how to put your best foot forward and the importance of networking and mentorship. 

Aligned with the conference’s focus on legacy, all shared the importance of giving back to ensure the future of our industry.  Helpful tips from the panelists included: 

  • “Diversity in leadership will change because of college students like you as you create your career roadmaps.”

Sonia Goodman, Inflight Team leader, JetBlue

  • "Cultivate your contacts. You have no idea what they can do for you and your career goals.”

Kimberly McCommon, First Officer A320, JetBlue

  • Don’t think about how expensive it is to become a pilot. The return on the investment in your education and in your career far outweighs the cost.”

Eric Scott, Captain A320 , JetBlue

  • In today’s workforce, social media is your first impression. We now look at it and dissect it as part of the interview process, post wisely.”

Brandi Peyton, General Manager, New Orleans and Houston, JetBlue

  • “If I could change one thing from my journey, I wouldn’t be afraid to fail. Take chances.”

Elston Hall, Manager Duty Maintenance Control, Technical Operations