UW-Green Bay staffer helps young women soar

Every year, thousands of pilots come to Oshkosh for AirVenture. Lidia Nonn is one of those pilots.

“We call it blue sky thinking,” Nonn said. “You can’t think about work. You can’t think about doing the dishes or getting the laundry done or anything that’s happening on the ground. It’s the most incredible, peaceful, luxurious and incredibly fabulous experience to have.”

Nonn works as the director of the Institute for Research at UW-Green Bay. But for the third straight year, the part-time pilot is volunteering with the Women Soar You Soar program at EAA.

“Pretty much everyone at UWGB knows that I’m not on campus this whole week,” Nonn said. “I spend my whole week listening to airplanes, and trying to get girls excited in their dreams and using aviation and flying planes as part of that.”

The goal of the Women Soar You Soar program is to teach young women self-confidence.

“It’s using aviation as a way for them to reach for the sky I guess and to reach for their dreams,” Nonn added.

“I feel like I have a new direction as to how I need to concentrate on what I want to do,” said Isabelle Edhlund, one of the 100 high school students taking part in the program. This is her fourth time at Women Soar. She hopes to become a bio-engineer.

“I think that it’s really important to think about your future even if it’s not about aviation because if you don’t think about it now then you’ll find yourself kind of panicking about what you have to do in the future,” Edhlund said.

Lisa Wendel took part in the program last year. This year she’s back as a junior mentor, helping other young women find and follow their dreams.

“Even if you’re not sure if you really love airplanes or if you even want a career in aviation, it’s great to come and be inspired by all of these women who have really made an impact on other people’s lives,” Wendel said.

Regardless of their ultimate career choice, the program has a clear message for the young women:

“Believe in yourself. If you really want to do it, you can do it,” said mentor coordinator Crissy Tonsi. “We help give them tools and identify tools for them so that they can actually take those steps.”

Lidia Nonn says aviation is the perfect metaphor for these young women, because the sky truly is the limit.

“Some of the girls say, ‘I don’t know if I’m smart enough.’ What we’re trying to convey is not that they aren’t smart enough. They are smart enough. If you work hard and you really are passionate about something you can achieve anything,” Nonn said. “It’s about how you see things and not how other people see things for you.”