Introducing Youth to Aviation and STEM Programs: Expedition Mars!

Cadet Flyers STEM Programs at Above the Clouds:

Above the Clouds, through our partner social service agencies, is introducing youth from traditionally underrepresented communities in aviation and STEM fields to unique, educational experiences.  Our vision is to see students from Children from the Lynn Girls and Boys Club got to hear directly from Christa McAuliffe Center staff including an astrophysicist and students from Framingham State University.  The McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning provided a FREE program customized to the out-of-school time population and focused the experience and Mission Simulation by age group for twenty students.  This program, Expedition Mars, was sponsored by the Center for Above the Clouds and the MetroWest STEM Network.


Unlike their more affluent counterparts, students who live in underserved communities typically lack access to what are now considered STEM basics: up-to-date laboratories, laptop or tablet computers and access to the Internet.  The Lynn Boys and Girls Club has built a STEAM lab in their Club for all participants to access and provides creative STEAM program for Club programs.    “A surefire way for students in the U.S. to compete in the global technological economy is to provide them with real-life applications of STEM — and children in underserved areas are being left behind” 2021 USNews Report.

Thank you to Suzanne Wright and her team at the McAuliffe Center at Framingham State University!  And, for the generous support from the MetroWest STEM Network.


On July 20, Above the Clouds will bring a bus to Norwood Memorial Airport including staff, families and six Dream Flyers from the Lynn Boys and Girls Clubs to provide Dream Flights for selected participants.  On August 13th, as part of our Girls in Aviation programs, Above the Clouds will provide Dream Flights for girls from the Big Sister Boston program.

Dream Flight Day August 13

Captain Ken Hertz featured in Air Line Pilots Association, International Magazine


JetBlue Pilot Works with Charity to Help At-Risk Kids

Our Stories

By John Perkinson, Senior Staff Writer

Capt. Ken Hertz (JetBlue), left, and F/O Matt Hurley, also a volunteer for Above the Clouds, on the flight deck of an E190.

A different perspective and a little encouragement can go a long way to help those in need. Capt. Ken Hertz (JetBlue) learned this firsthand as an Above the Clouds volunteer. “It’s been an incredibly uplifting and rewarding experience,” he commented. Looking back at his nearly eight years with the charitable organization, he added, “Actually, I feel like I get more out of it than I put in.”

Above the Clouds is a Boston, Mass.-based nonprofit organization that “brings joy and hope through the wonder of flight to children and teens who have a serious illness or disability, are underserved, or facing other serious adversity.” The charity offers these individuals flying opportunities through its Dream Flyers, Discovery Flyers, and STEM Cadet Flyers programs. The organization also introduced a new Dream Flyover program to ensure it could maintain its outreach efforts during the current pandemic.

Above the Clouds works with Boston-area social services agencies and conducts presentations at local high schools to ensure that young people in the community have access to and can take advantage of this unique opportunity. Most of the charity’s pilots fly their own aircraft, but Above the Clouds owns a four-seat Piper Warrior for other pilots who want to volunteer their time.

Hertz is a ground-based flight coordinator for the organization but has held several positions, including member of the board of directors and pilot/mentor volunteer—the latter of which he’s found the most gratifying. Assisting with the Discovery Flyers program, he’s been paired with at-risk teenagers. “It’s like a Big Brothers/Big Sisters network, but with an aviation twist,” he said. “We use the excitement of flying to engage these kids and expose them to this whole new possibility for their futures.”

During Discovery Flights, young participants, who in many cases have never flown before, are given the opportunity to briefly fly an aircraft from the copilot’s seat. “They’re at the center of this activity, which is being orchestrated for their benefit, and it’s a powerful experience,” Hertz commented. “The kids take control of the plane. They turn, they climb, they descend. They look down at their school or home.”

The main base of operations for Above the Clouds is Norwood Memorial Airport in Norwood, Mass. With clearance from local air traffic control, the charity provides aerial tours of nearby Boston for these kids. They fly over the Charles River and do passes over Fenway Park and the city’s office buildings. Hertz observed, “Almost everyone comes away from this experience with a smile.”

Hertz and a student prepare to take a Discovery Flight over Boston, Mass.

Hertz noted that several years ago, a teenager from Quincy, Mass., came to Above the Clouds through an area social services program. In time, he earned a scholarship and graduated from a university with an accredited aviation program. Hertz remarked that it wasn’t long before this same young man joined Above the Cloud’s volunteer pilot ranks and flew another Boston-area youth from the social services program. Since then, the Quincy native has become an airline pilot.

Hertz was fortunate to develop his own interest in flying thanks to the help of his own mentor. A teacher and World War II vet, Ed McIlhenny, at his high school offered an elective class in flying. McIlhenny salvaged a 1930s-era simulator known as a Link Trainer, which he set up in the school’s basement. His course covered the basics of aviation including meteorology, and at the end of the year the students got the chance to go flying.

While in his early 20s, Hertz rekindled this interest when he ran into McIlhenny in Port Washington, N.Y., and after a brief conversation, he agreed to help Hertz earn his ratings and certificates. Hertz later quit his job and has since flown for five airlines, including TWA and US Air.

It’s been said that a mentor is someone who allows us to see the hope we hold inside ourselves. No doubt, Hertz and other Above the Clouds volunteers have broadened the horizons of countless Boston-area young people, providing them a glimpse of what could be a brighter tomorrow.


This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of Air Line Pilot.

Read the latest Air Line Pilot (PDF) 

Above the Clouds National Grant Award from JetBlue Foundation

JetBlue Announces ten program recipients of their 2021 grant awards…and, Above the Clouds is one of them!  We are excited to partner with JetBlue Foundation!

The JetBlue Foundation Announces 2021 Grantees and Opening of Next Foundation Granting Cycle

Mar 08, 2022

The 2021 JetBlue Foundation Grants Will Help 10 Charitable Organizations Continue their Critical Work Connecting Students from Traditionally Underrepresented Communities to Careers in Aviation

Applications for the 2022 JetBlue Foundation Granting Cycle are Open Now through March 25, for Grants Up to $50,000 Each

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) today announced the newest round of grants from the JetBlue Foundation, the first airline foundation focused solely on supporting aviation and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. For this round, the JetBlue Foundation awarded 10 charitable organizations with grants to support and advance their education and mentorship programs, furthering the Foundation’s mission of increased advocacy for inclusion, gender and racial parity within STEM and aviation.

In 2020, the JetBlue Foundation issued a round of rapid-response grants to 12 previous grant recipients whose programs were at-risk or severely impacted by the effects of the pandemic. This past October, the Foundation reopened the granting cycle to new applicants who are fighting for equity in aviation and STEM careers for traditionally underrepresented or disadvantaged groups.

“The JetBlue Foundation truly believes in these organizations and wants to support them as long-term partners. Early in the pandemic, we saw the need for additional support from existing partners, and in 2021 introduced several new programs and initiatives to help. With new programs like virtual programming, technology resources, mentorships, and rapid-response grants, we were able to ensure that our previous grantees could keep their doors open throughout the pandemic to support future aviators,” said Ursula Hurley, president of the JetBlue Foundation. “Once we were confident there was a clear path forward for our partners, we were excited to continue forward ourselves, reopening grant applications to new organizations, all of whom are actively working to advance diversity, gender and racial parity with the goal of increased access and interest in STEM and aviation careers. The JetBlue Foundation believes that by removing barriers to entry into careers in aviation, we can build a more diverse company, operation and industry at large.”

The JetBlue Foundation seeks out and supports programs dedicated to advancing and uplifting diverse communities traditionally underrepresented in STEM and aviation fields. Beyond grants, the JetBlue Foundation provides programs, mentors, internships, and support to help pave the way for more accessibility and inclusivity within the aviation industry.

The 2021 JetBlue Foundation Grantees Include:

  • EcoExploratorio(San Juan, Puerto Rico) is an independent science and technology education initiative in Puerto Rico that seeks to foster curiosity into a growing love and respect for science, and builds resilience through STEM education. The JetBlue Foundation grant will allow for more programming and opportunities in STEM education.
  • Above the Clouds, Inc.(Norwood, Mass.) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring joy and hope through the wonder of flight to children and teens who have a serious illness or disability, are underserved, or facing other serious adversity. This grant will help support their 2022 Cadet Programs, which will introduce at-risk youth from underrepresented communities to all the facets of aviation.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Broward County(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) strives to enable all youth, especially those in most need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. BGCBC will use its JetBlue Foundation grant to continue fostering academic success, building character, nurturing healthy minds and bodies and engaging communities.
  • Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Bayamón Campus(San Juan, Puerto Rico) has the only School of Aeronautics in the Caribbean to offer bachelor’s degrees in different areas of airway sciences, such as aircraft systems management (professional pilot) and aviation sciences management. The JetBlue Foundation grant will be used to develop new educational training programs and courses.
  • Museum of Discovery and Science, Inc.(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) (MODS) welcomes individuals from all walks of life to visit, experience, connect and discover inspiring science. Through the JetBlue Foundation grant, MODS will be able to continue supporting a culture of hospitality for all family structures, individuals and families with physical and emotional disabilities and disparities in education, social and economic status.
  • The Lower East Side Girls Club of New York, Inc.(New York City) supports young women and gender-expansive youth of color throughout New York City in leveraging their inner power to shape a better future for themselves, their community, and the world. Through free, year-round innovative programs in STEM, arts, digital media and sound, wellness, civic engagement, and leadership, they connect young people with their passions, celebrate their curiosity, and channel their creative energy. The JetBlue Foundation grant will support Girls Club’s STEM Academy for middle and high school youth, which include courses in Maker Robotics, Environmental and Food Science, Audio Engineering, as well as a 2-day hackathon event.
  • Girl Scout Council of Greater New York(New York City) (GSGNY) was founded in 1913 with the mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Serving over 25,000 girls throughout the five boroughs, GSGNY will use its foundation grant to increase access to transformative leadership development opportunities for thousands of girls in New York City.
  • Aviation Youth Mentoring Program Inc.(Washington, D.C.) (AYMP) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit committed to providing cost-effective initiatives to educate our youth about career opportunities in aviation. The JetBlue Foundation grant will allow AYMP to continue to place students with professionals and organizations to teach them engineering and business principles for aviation career development.
  • America On Tech (AOT)(New York, NY) is committed to decreasing the racial wealth gap in underserved and underestimated communities by creating pathways for students of color into degrees and careers in technology. AOT programs are structured to end cycles of poverty; put students towards a path to economic empowerment; enable under-resourced schools to deliver high quality tech-education; advance multiple career pathways for young people; and go beyond education to ensure that underestimated students are positioned for success. Of their students, 85% identify as African American and/or Latinx and 56% identify as women or gender non-confirming. Since its founding in 2014, AOT has served 3,500+ young people, established offices in New York and Los Angeles, partnered with more than 70 high schools, engaged 1,000+ tech volunteers and hired more than 80 alumni back into the classroom as peer mentors.
  • Code Nation(New York, NY) Code Nation equips students with the skills, experiences and connections that together create access to careers in technology. With a volunteer teaching corps of 300 professional web and software developers and a network of school and company partners, Code Nation provides coding courses and work-based learning programs to students who attend under-resourced high schools. Code Nation started in 2012 in New York City and now has programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and Chicago. Code Nation has provided free coding classes to more than 6,000 students. 67% of Code Nation alumni who complete at least two years of our program are majoring in computer science or a related field in college or currently employed in tech.

The JetBlue Foundation is also excited to announce that the application process for the 2022 granting cycle is now open here through March 25, 2022 for grants up to $50,000 each, based on criteria, need and project scope (a).

The JetBlue Foundation is separate from JetBlue, with its own Board of Directors and an Advisory Committee both comprised of JetBlue crewmembers from across the airline. Grants are provided directly from the JetBlue Foundation. Although the JetBlue Foundation is separate from JetBlue, both are aligned in efforts to help diversify the STEM fields that fuel the airline.

For more information on the JetBlue Foundation, visit or JetBlue’s 2020 Social Impact Report, which can be found here.

About the JetBlue Foundation

Since 2013, the JetBlue Foundation has built lasting relationships with nearly 100 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and aviation-focused programs, providing over $2 million in grants and in-kind support to help these programs take off. The JetBlue Foundation furthers JetBlue’s work to place aviation top of mind as a future career choice for students. The JetBlue Foundation provides financial, in-kind and mentorship support to education and pipeline initiatives focused on STEM to ensure that even more women and traditionally underrepresented groups are present in the hangars, boardrooms, airports and airline corporate offices of the future. To learn more visit


The JetBlue Foundation will award grants up to $50,000 each to qualifying educational organizations (i.e. schools, educational institutions, or educational alliances), as described under the grant proposal criteria. Once the JetBlue Foundation has received an organization’s completed application, the organization will receive a confirmation email. Due to the volume of grant requests received, the JetBlue Foundation is not able to individually reach out or award grants to every applicant. Should an organization be selected to receive a grant, a representative of the JetBlue Foundation will reach out directly.

About JetBlue Airways

JetBlue is New York’s Hometown Airline®, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Juan. JetBlue carries customers across the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America, and between New York and London. For more information, visit

Media Contact

JetBlue Corporate Communications

Source: JetBlue

Above the Clouds Receives Grant from American Tower Foundations’ Social Justice Committee!

Above the Clouds is excited to announce a partnership with the American Tower Foundation.  Our partnerships with local businesses and their employees are invaluable to this little organization.  We are able to serve hundreds of children and teens through the work of volunteers whose employers support their dedication to the community.  Like, American Tower and their Social Justice Committee! American Tower Corporation is an American real estate investment trust and an owner and operator of wireless and broadcast communications infrastructure in several countries worldwide and is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.  Above the Clouds has the good fortune to have had an employee of American Tower nominate the organization for this grant award.  American Tower has placed a high priority on social justice and has dedicated resources and funds to support local organizations.

Through our Discovery Flyers and Cadet Programs, Above the Clouds introduces communities that are underrepresented within the aviation industry to careers as private or commercial pilots, certified flight instructors, engineers, mechanics, airport managers and air traffic control.  We are thrilled to have the support of American Tower to continue our mentoring initiatives and to launch NEW programs in 2022.  Each of our programs focuses on inclusion and equity within aviation fields, but also in inspiring hope for children and teens facing serious adversity.  Check back on ATC’s social media and website to read testimonials and stories of youth served within Above the Clouds’ programs that have gone on to become pilots.  With this grant, Above the Clouds hopes to engage more American Tower employees as volunteers in our Dream Flights and Cadet programs.  Also, partially supported by this award, is the launch of a new speaker series and STEM programming.  The first Dream Flight Day of 2022 will feature a booth from Cape Cod Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program, hosted by one of our pilot volunteers.

If you work for a local business or corporation that supports volunteerism and community engagement, please volunteer with us!  If your employer encourages employee nominated charitable organizations for funding, please consider Above the Clouds!

Thank you American Tower Foundation for your support.

The Sky is the Limit with Above the Clouds’ Volunteers!

During a time of few in person events and limits on fundraising opportunities for non-profit organizations, Above the Clouds has been fortunate to benefit from volunteer led fundraising! Through birthday fundraisers on Facebook, participation in the Rodman Ride for Kids by over 39 riders and events-we are focusing this post on our volunteers.  

A volunteer pilot First Officer for American Airlines, Matt Sheehan, has drawn support from local restaurants, businesses, First Responders and his pilot colleagues to participate in a fun event to support Above the Clouds.  This fundraiser, to be held at the Dedham American Legion #18, is a wonderful opportunity for a volunteer to speak from the heart about what Above the Clouds means to him.    Even more valuable than donations, this event is certain to draw interest from the guests to also volunteer with Above the Clouds.  

Another Dream Pilot, Christopher Donovan Jr. from Boston Executive Helicopters has raised more $2,741 as he runs each day, posting to his Rodman Ride for Kids fundraising page-he is running for Above the Clouds!  Led by Founders Gary and Martha Oberstein ATC’s Rodman Ride team is about to surpass the fundraising goal of $55,000 toward our programs.

Other volunteers, like Marti Kung and Board Director Jim Andersen, serve as Flight Coordinators every Dream Flight Day providing invaluable support to the families, Dream Flyers and the Executive Director.  We would like to thank ALL of our volunteers, pilots, joy maker ground crew members, flight coordinators, radio and Flight Path volunteers, Rodman Ride participants and students who have devoted time and their tech expertise to assist with our communications.

Dream Flights Take Off on July 11th!

After a brief hiatus, Above the Clouds’ signature Dream Flyers Program took flight on July 11th at Norwood Memorial Airport.  For the last year, Above the Clouds has only been able to provide Dream Flyovers to hospitals, shelters and children’s residences.  Now, the children have taken the “yoke”, determined their flight paths and experienced joy and hope from the Pilots’ seat.  We have provided two Dream Flight Days and on July 11th, welcomed new Dream Pilot Tom Nery.  Founders Gary and Martha Oberstein, Board Members, Ground Crew volunteers, “joy makers” and Dream Pilots were all smiles as Above the Clouds provided flights for youth referred to us from Lucy’s Love Bus, Wildflower, Afrimerica Academy, Boys and Girls Clubs, Lifeworks and the Jimmy Fund.  Please see the July 11th Dream Flight Day video and amazing photos taken by ATC’s volunteer photographers and videographers.  More to come!

Tis the Season…Part 2!

Above the Clouds brings joy and hope through the wonder of flight. Our Dream Flyover, Dream Flyers, Cadet Flyers and Discovery Flyers programs are intended to to help youth through difficult times or even realize a passion for aviation. This has been one of the most challenging years in history, but at Above the Clouds we have been determined to continue bringing joy and hope to those that need it most.

November is the beginning of the season of giving but it’s always the season of giving at Above the Clouds! Listed below are three stories that inspired us this year and we hope will provide you with some feel-good news this holiday season. Thank you for your continued support of Above the Clouds during these unprecedented times.

  1. Families are Coming Together to Spread Extra Holiday Cheer in 2020 by Ringing a Bell Outdoors at the Same Time
  2. Labrador “Stumpy” is Britains Biggest Blood Donor
  3. Conjoined Twins Successfully Separated in Landmark Surgery that Took 24 Hours

Check out Tis the Season…Part 1 for more feel good new stories 🙂


Aviation Day 2020

Wednesday, August 19 was National Aviation Day. The power of flight is truly a magical thing. Yet, some scientific and technological marvels become so commonplace that we seldom take the time to re-examine their revolutionary impact with an open and inquisitive mind. In just a handful of generations, aviation went from pure, pie-in-the-sky speculation to a mundane reality that inspires about as much wonder as a trip aboard a Greyhound bus.

It’s that ho-hum attitude to the miracle of flight that makes National Aviation Day such an excellent national observation. Plus, it takes place on Orville Wright’s birthday! In order to celebrate National Aviation Day, here are a few high flying fun facts:

  1. Although it may seem like a lot of people are afraid to fly, aviophobia afflicts only about 6.5 percent of the population.
  2. Worldwide, only about 5 percent of the population has been on an airplane (we are doing everything we can with our programs to change that 🙂
  3. The first U.S. president to fly in an airplane was the adventurous Theodore Roosevelt, who flew in a Wright Flyer on October 11, 1910.
  4. The Wright Brothers got their mechanical training as owners of a bicycle shop.
  5. A Boeing 747 without engine power can glide about two miles for every 1,000 feet or so that the plane is above the ground.
  6. The Wright Brothers — with Orville at the helm and Wilbur making a final wing adjustment — completed the first sustained flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft on a spit of land four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December, 17, 1903
  7. Legend has it that Chinese Emperor Wang Mang ordered a soldier to strap two wings to his back. The soldier, covered in bird feathers, flew 100 meters in 1st Century AD