It was a day of firsts for three students at Palmer Pillans Middle School on Wednesday morning at Mobile Regional Airport.

Eighth graders Nicole Goodwin, Alexis Vander and Al’Landria Jackson, who were all participants in the Airbus Foundation’s Flying Challenge, have left for Munich, Germany to meet other program participants from around the world and celebrate the nonprofit organization’s 10th anniversary.

None of the three local girls had ever traveled out of the country and only Vander had ever been on a plane before. For Jackson, the whole experience will be exciting.

“Everything is going on,” she said. “I’m really excited.”

Goodwin said she shared Jackson’s excitement, but was also a little nervous.

“I’m most excited about seeing Germany,” she said. “I’ve never been there …. I’m kind of nervous, but more excited than nervous.”

The students embarked on the trip Wednesday with two chaperones, including Jacinda Hollins, the school’s principal.

Mobile’s version of the Flying Challenge program is in its third year, said David Trent, site director for Airbus Engineering at the Brookley Aeroplex. The program gives 50 Palmer Pillans students the opportunity to be mentored in the principles of light as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities by 35 Airbus employees, Trent said.

“We’re trying to get students to realize staying in school is important,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to realize good grades are important.”

Vander, Jackson and Godwin were chosen from the 50 participants because of their enthusiasm and how well they represented the school and the program, Trent said.

The students will return on Monday, after attending the anniversary ceremony on Friday and interacting with Flying Challenge students from Wichita, Kansas, China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain. The students will also have an opportunity to tour Germany’s third largest city and observe an Airbus air show, featuring parachute jumpers and vintage aircraft.
While all the events sound exciting, Vander said she’s excited about the trip because it will make her mother proud.

“It means a lot to me because it should make my mom very proud, which I like to do,” she said.

The Flying Challenge is a collaboration between the Airbus Foundation, the United Way of Southwest Alabama, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, the Mobile Area Education Foundation and the Mobile County Public School System.