Qatar Airways inspires local youth to pursue science

Local members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington headed to the airport last week for a taste of air travel, and they never had to leave the ground.

Qatar Airways hosted a few dozen children at Dulles International Airport to show off its 335-passenger, Boeing 777 airplane and to encourage the students to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

After the kids were bussed to the airport, Dulles and Qatar Airways staff ushered them through a passenger experience. The children received boarding passes from the ticket counter, went to the respective gate and boarded one of the world’s largest commercial airplane models.

Though the plane never took flight, the kids explored the cockpit, lounged in the flashy business class seats and played video games on the plane’s seat-back entertainment systems. After Qatar Airways staff answered questions, the children had dinner at the gate, and Dulles staff gave the group a behind-the-scenes tour of the airport.

For the past few years, the Qatar Airways has forged partnerships and sponsorships with nonprofits in Washington region, including groups focused on animal rights, muscular dystrophy, the arts and breast cancer. This event kicked off the company’s effort to address the growing concern around American students and STEM education.

(Qatar Airways, the second largest airline in the Middle East, has its U.S. headquarters in the District.)

Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington officials said that a number of students were afraid of flying because they have never been on a plane.

“To go from not flying to spending a day with Qatar Airways, you close that fear gap for them,” said Eric Liley, spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs. “We got them on the plane and they didn’t want to get off.”

Boys and Girls Clubs have also started their own STEM program this year, adding an “A” to represent the arts. Liley said that working with companies with similar initiatives helps bolster its programming.

“We try to provide STEAM -based experiences like this from supporters like Qatar Airways to bridge the gap and give the kids access to mentors in the hope that they can use this and it can inspire them to pursue careers in, [for example], aviation,” Liley said.

The airline also donated 160 backpacks. The two organizations have not formed an official partnership, but the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington regard the invitation as a success and remain hopeful it could turn into a bigger opportunity.

“Anytime you get someone who is overseas to develop a relationship with, we’re always honored,” Liley said. “That tells us that our name and brand is out there.”

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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