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Amelia EarhartFLYING HIGH
Role model Amelia Earhart is inspired
to follow her famous namesake

By SHARON ALMIRALL
Photography KIT WILLIAMS

Having the name of a famous aviator gives her cachet and instant recognition, but this 24-year-old role model doesn’t accept that prestige without putting hard work into it. She takes her name and its associated significance seriously.

“I still have to prove myself even though my name is Amelia Earhart,” says this high-flying journalist. Not only does she give her all to her profession of traffic reporting, but she also takes her message to the classroom, where she talks with students about becoming successful in the fields of both reporting and aviation.

“Having the name of Amelia Earhart plays into so many things,” she says. “When I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to learn how to fly, and my mom paid for my first flying lesson.” Though Earhart’s parents were interested in horses and had not ever suggested she learn to fly, she knew as soon as she finished that first lesson that she wanted to learn how to fly. She expects she will be completed with her flying lessons a few months from now.

She learned of the common heritage of the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart and herself through her family. When her mother was planning to name her at birth, she first chose the name Amy but then decided to name the baby Amelia. Both the original Amelia Earhart and our role model came from German families that had immigrated to Pennsylvania. Though the genealogy is still being sorted out, today’s Amelia Earhart is proud and pleased to have her famous name. She is thrilled to have a name that her parents said no one would forget.

Once Earhart was studying at the University of Colorado at Boulder, her name attracted some attention, and a college newspaper featured her. A Newsradio 850 KOA employee, news director Kathy Walker, called her to ask if she’d like to be interviewed about her interest in aviation. Though it was Earhart’s plan to become a teacher, and she was actually working at a restaurant while in college, she sent in a résumé and was hired. “My first traffic report was in February 2003, and I went on the air at KOA. I stuttered my way through it, and it was an amazing feeling,” she recalls.

A week later, while she was in the office with her boss, she was handed a cassette with her voice on it. She began a three-year stint with the Clear Channel Communications radio station doing traffic reports while she was studying at CU. Later, she would work for KBCO 97.3 in the Tech Center and KOA, 630 KHOW and
KKZN-AM 760 radio, occasionally substituting for a reporter who did traffic reporting in the helicopter. From this, an audition would result, and Amelia Earhart would become the in-air traffic reporter for KOA.

Patty Dennis, vice president and news director at 9News, provided an example of how to be a television reporter. Earhart tried out for the television position when there was a vacancy. “I treated this as though it was already my job. I treated it as a job that was indefinite. I think this is important for all kinds of things you do — to work as though you have the job,” she comments.

Amelia EarhartNow, flying high over the metro area in a helicopter, Earhart reports for KOA and, since June, has had a role as a Sky 9 reporter covering traffic and breaking news because the two media entities share her time. She says that sometimes people say to her, “Of course, you got the job, as your name is Amelia Earhart. But I don’t think I’d have gotten this job if I hadn’t worked hard.”

Earhart credits Kathy Walker with giving her the chance to become what she is as a reporter — “for teaching me how to be an all-around reporter, for general news, breaking news and traffic reporting. “Kathy never made me think that my age or the fact that I was a woman would be a problem for me. She understands why I ask questions,” says Earhart

She continues, “It’s exciting to be in a position where people listen to you on a daily basis. If I’m walking into a school to talk to kids, they automatically have a little bit of respect. I can teach about the aviation side and the news side, too. The kids e-mail me with all kinds of questions, especially the girls 10 to 18 years old. They feel comfortable with me.”

Students arrive at the hanger, where she can talk about the helicopter. She says, “They want to know how far the camera can zoom, how fast the helicopter is. Aviation is a great career. You can’t be lazy. You can’t do drugs; you really have to be on top of your game. The boys have technical questions; the girls ask, ‘Are you scared?’”

She goes on to say, “I’m a role model even with my own friends. ‘How did you do that?’ they ask. Getting that one foot in the door can be so helpful. It’s pretty neat. I love speaking. In high school, I was on the debate team. I’ve always liked speaking in front of people.

“But I also found I love photography. I started putting my own pictures on my Web site, and people responded. People ask me to take pictures of certain things. I’ve also figured out that I love to fly. I’d love to take my training as far as I can and maybe someday be a flight instructor. I see if you train hard enough and
learn how to take a flight like that, it’s completely possible.

“Someday I’d like to retrace Amelia Earhart’s flight. Every time I say my name I think about it, and it’d be really neat to retrace her flight. People ask me if Amelia Earhart is really my name. But now, they are saying, ‘Oh, you’re from 9News.’”

The original Amelia Earhart was asked to join pilot Wilmer Stultz and flight mechanic Lou Gordon on a trans-Atlantic flight. She became the first woman to ride in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. Later, she decided to trace the first Atlantic crossing, made by Charles Lindbergh. She wanted to be the first woman to do that.

It was a dangerous crossing. Flying through a lightning storm, she almost crashed and had to make an emergency landing. It fueled her passion for adventure, and she began a circumnavigation of the globe. Just two days short of completion, the plane disappeared and has never been found.

Today’s Earhart, following in the footsteps of the original Amelia Earhart, knows that success has a lot to do with hard work. In college, she felt a lot of pressure. She knew that she didn’t want to be mediocre, she wanted to do something spectacular. She feels more confident now. At first, being in the helicopter was exciting to her. But the helicopter now feels like “an office; I’m in there with my pens, paper and headset.”

She is aware of the competence of the pilot, Jimmy Negri: “He’s a huge influence in my life. He is meticulous as a pilot. The things he photographs are amazing.”

Earhart passes her expertise and experience on to the high school kids she addresses. “I stress that college planning is very important. The kids come in and talk about planes and helicopters, but I like to talk about college planning,” she says. She mentions the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in Denver as it is a center that specifically does radio training.

Amelia EarhartShe also advises students to ask other people for help: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or learn from other people. I’m still in the process of learning how to be a reporter. If I can learn from someone who does it, it’s more valuable than learning from a book. For girls, I think it’s helpful that they can see I’m like them. I laugh with them, talk with them.”

While work consumes much of her time, she makes time for her other interests. Earhart flies through the morning rush hour, then takes six hours off during the day, which works well to allow for other pursuits. She enjoys living in Boulder with her dog, Choppy, whom she adopted. She spends free time working on photography and uploading pictures to her Web site. She hopes to continue working on photography and do more with it.

As it becomes more and more clear this ambitious and successful young role model is highly motivated to do her best, fulfilling the dreams of her own role model, the first Amelia Earhart, seems quite possible.