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Yorktown Student Pursuing Pilot’s License Accepted to Naval Academy

Nilah Williamson, the Yorktown High School senior who was recently featured on Good Morning America for pursuing a pilot’s license before a driver’s license, will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy next fall.

Williamson said she wants to major in chemistry, a field that she is passionate about. After four years in labs, however, she plans to go to flight school, returning to the cockpit and trading in her goggles for a pilot’s uniform.

The teen said she hopes the pilot’s license that she is pursuing will give her a leg up in flight school.

You compete for a slot at flight school and you compete for an aircraft,” she said. “You have to be at the top of your class.” 

After passing her written test this September, Williamson started flight practice. She needs at least 40 hours of flight time, culminating in a cross-country flight, to earn her license.

“I wanted to use this time to actually do something and achieve a goal I have for myself,” said Williamson, who moved to Arlington with her family two summers ago.

After enrolling in Arlington Public Schools, she took aviation as an elective at the Arlington Career Center, which she credits with helping her get on-track toward her license. This spring, she plans to use Yorktown’s three-week senior experience — when students can pursue internships and career opportunities — to finish the bulk of her needed hours at the Navy Annapolis Flight Center.

Williamson said learning from home has helped her juggle practicing flying and driving — she still has yet to get her driver’s license — as well as school and her weekend job.

“I enjoy virtual learning so much,” she said. “I don’t really think I would’ve been this successful this school year without it being this way.”

She said this year has also given her time to reflect on her future.

“The pandemic made me realize I wanted to serve my country even more,” she said. “With all the events that happened I worked hard to see the good despite all the bad happening, that made me see that this country was worth fighting for.”

She said she is paying closer attention to current events in other countries, and feels more inspired to join the Marine Corps, whose mission is “to help people who can’t help themselves.”

Ultimately, Williamson said she wants to be a pilot in the Marine Corps, which blends her love for flying with the admiration she has long held for the women of the Marines.

“Seeing female Marines growing up, they were my super heroes — my Wonder Woman and Supergirl,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been striving for. That’s why I think I would strive there.”

Williamson has many family members who served or still serve in the military. Her father, Col. Ahmed Williamson, is an active-duty Marine, and she has cousins who were pilots in the Air Force and the Marines.

“Those values are embedded into who I am,” she said. 

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