Polytech grad becomes first African American female student to get a pilot's license.
It was never Moriah Graham’s intention to break barriers when she started on the path to her pilot’s license.
But the 17-year-old Polytech High School student achieved new heights, becoming the state’s first African American woman to obtain a pilot’s license while in high school, said Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame officials.
Now, the 2015 graduate is on her way to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. It happens to be the alma mater of Patrice Clarke, the first black woman to fly for a major commercial airline.
“Finding out I was the first in Delaware was pretty cool,” she said. “It put a little bit of pressure on me. But I don’t fly to impress other people and I didn’t fly to make this historic accomplishment. I fly because I love flying and I have a passion for it.”
Graham’s ambitions were originally aimed at fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.
“When I was little I was really fascinated with space and things like that,” she said. “They picked the best pilots to start astronaut training so I figured if I got a head start on being a pilot I’d be one step closer to maybe even becoming an astronaut.”
Graham, a cadet with the Air Force JROTC, obtained her license in May. She started in the spring of her junior year. It took her 14 months, said Raymond Ott, an aero science teacher who has been mentoring Graham.
He said her accomplishment is a testament to her work ethic and ability to dream big.
“It says that she’s immensely focused, she’s able to stay on task, obviously goal oriented and mature beyond her years,” Ott said. “I think that she was able to dream big but she was also able to achieve big.”
Her ambitions fit well at Polytech since it has a flight program. Ott said they have a deal with the Aero Club at Dover Air Force Base. But before Graham started club flying she had to pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s private pilot written test. Then she was allowed to fly with an FAA examiner.
“Once he officially told me that I passed I was so excited,” she said. “I was crying, it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had.”
Obtaining her license was no easy task. “The hardest part about the whole thing was keeping my drive and my determination and reminding myself on why I’m doing it,” she said.
Graham said she had to keep on moving forward to make sure future pilots had someone to look up to.
“It’s bigger than me,” she said. “Once I found out I would be the first, I kept reminding myself that I’m not doing this just for myself I’m doing this for other little girls who look just like me.”