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Kids’ dreams soar with Cathay Pacific’s ‘I Can Fly’ program

The magic of flying: Caitlin heads the first batch of I Can Fly participants.

As a dreamy-eyed kid full of promise, you probably longed to be a doctor or a teacher or a preacher or a pilot or a lawyer or an  engineer or a chef or a policeman or whatever it is you set your young heart on. Little kids do dream big. Like Caitlin Vea V. Noroña, 18-year-old Grade 12 student of the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) who, as a little girl, dreamt of becoming a flight stewardess “because of my fascination with flying and the science behind it. I wanted to know what happens before, during and after a flight; what makes flying possible and how the air and ground crew work together to make flights successful and safe.”

Well, the determined Caitlin let her dream fly, quite literally, when she was among the first chosen for the “I Can Fly” program of Cathay Pacific in its first year in the Philippines in 2015. Caitlin was one of the first three winners of the program who were flown to Hong Kong to spread their wings and learn more about this thing called aviation.

High on HK

 Of course, that was not Caitlin’s first trip to Hong Kong. Like a lot of Pinoy kids, Caitlin’s first plane ride was to Hong Kong, which opened her eyes to the wonders of flying. She writes in her winning entry to the I Can Fly program: “Before my first plane ride to Hong Kong back in 2010, I was thrilled to have known quite a lot just by observing people and places as we entered the airport. I noticed that international flights had a few more steps in the pre-flight process than domestic flights. As I was about to ride the airplane, I saw the crew in their neon vests running around checking and putting the luggage in, running back and forth wondering what else needed to be done. It made me want to learn more about their job. When I was in the airplane, I looked out the window and saw an absolutely breathtaking view. Seeing the world from the height I was in opened so many doors in my increasingly widening field of imagination.”

She goes on, “I feel very thankful and excited that Cathay Pacific gave UPIS the rare opportunity and privilege to be the first school in the Philippines to be offered the I Can Fly program. My strongest motivation in joining the program is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be taught by an industry leader about the magic of flying — finally a chance to get to know up close the line of work that has kept me curious. This is also one of the reasons why I chose applied sciences and engineering as my track program. Honestly, I am still a bit apprehensive about my choice for I know it would be very challenging. However, I know that the experience from the program would be enticing and inspiring. Truly being in the aviation industry would be a great career choice for me in the future.”

Needless to say, Caitlin’s mom was on Cloud 9 when Caitlin broke the news to her about having been accepted into the program. The petite Caitlin, who could pass for an elementary student, was one of 20 students chosen to participate in a one-of-a-kind, five-day immersion/educational program that would expose them to all aspects of the aviation industry. For the kids, it was a lofty ambition come true as they toured the CX home in Manila and its sister airline Cathay Dragon in Clark, learned new skills, and got to see up close the cargo and engineering departments and many other departments of the CX town office. They also toured the facilities of CX’s catering services partner and found out why food on board Cathay Pacific tastes like heaven.

Yes, she can fly: Caitlin Vea V. Noroña visits the Cathay Pacific office in Makati. Welcoming her is Anna Lee, marketing head, Cathay Pacific Philippines.

CX gave her wings

Looking back, Caitlin believes that her I Can Fly experience gave her wings. “I felt like my world expanded. This program taught me to be confident in everything I do, to never give up, and to never be afraid of asking questions that would help me grow as a person.”

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Anna Lee, marketing head, Cathay Pacific Philippines, shares with us the initial feedback when the program was launched two years ago: “The feedback from the students/parents and our school partner UPIS (teachers, principals, guidance counsellors) was very positive. It was a good opportunity for students not only to learn about aviation but also to have the chance to gain new friends, actively participate in group activities, try new things which boosted their self-confidence, social and leadership skills. With all the good feedback, we were definitely encouraged to continue with the program the year after.”

And the best lesson the students learned from the program? “Aside from our main objective of giving the students a glimpse into a possible career in aviation (which not only covers pilots, flight attendants but also engineering, sales and marketing, etc.) I think the other take-away for the students would be a week of new learnings and memorable activities, meeting new friends, and building their confidence.”

Can these kids hope to get a job at CX someday? “Yes, we would be very happy if some of these students do apply for any position at CX once they graduate,” says a beaming Anna.

Originally, says Anna, I Can Fly was not intended to replace CX’s Lapalala (wilderness program), “but Cathay Pacific saw an opportunity to do a CRS initiative that is very much aligned with what we do best — that is aviation.”

For now, CX is exclusively doing the program with UPIS. Anna explains, “They have been supportive from the first year we started this. But we are definitely open to working with other schools in the future and we hope to open up this project to more students.”

Off to France

Oui, Cathay Pacific will be flying Caitlin to France to pursue her lifetime passion. Caitlin applied with the Berridge Programs, a prestigious acting and film workshop for young actors around the globe, for its annual summer workshop in Normandy, France. She was chosen as one of the 35 participants from all over the world to join the workshop, and when CX heard about it, the airline decided to support Caitlin’s dream by sponsoring her trip to France.

Going beyond the program, CX extends a helping hand to the graduates so they can take on bigger challenges in life and soar to greater heights.

Because for CX’s I Can Fly program, sky’s no limit!

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