The following blog post is written by Regina Jackson, President and CEO, East Oakland Youth Development Center.
I love Southwest Airlines! For the past decade, the East Oakland Youth Development Center, where I am President and CEO, has enjoyed a robust community partnership with Southwest.
For our college bound students, Southwest adds life-changing, invaluable experiences to these eye-opening college tours by introducing the world of travel and its accessibility to first-time fliers. So many of our youth have barely been outside their own zip codes. The wonder and excitement on the face of a first-time flier is something to behold, and I feel blessed to be able to see it so often.
Beyond this experience, we’ve had the opportunity to celebrate with Southwest and their Leadership for activations like their expanded services to San Jose, Chamber of Commerce luncheons, and my personal favorite—a surprise raffle of travel vouchers during our own 40th anniversary celebration! As Southwest has grown, so has our relationship. Excitedly, it feels like I am witnessing it all from a window seat on a Southwest flight.
Recently, I was invited to experience history by journeying to Maui on Southwest's inaugural flight. It was an honor as I was sure to point out to my aviation crazed firstborn. As we inched closer to the airport, I could feel myself getting more anxious to land in the paradise that is the Islands of Aloha.
Upon landing, we were greeted with a lei, goody bags, and an extravagant feast. I forced back tears listening to Employees and community members share stories about their excitement to have Southwest flying the sandy shores of the Aloha state. I witnessed a celebration 20 years in the making. After we deplaned the aircraft, we sat and watched as Lei of Aloha, a local organization, blessed the Crew and aircraft. I watched in awe as a cultural ceremony of an 80 ft. garland was wrapped around the nose of the plane. And the best part? Affordable and competitive flights would finally be available, and this was just day one!
Day two began in the majestic Hawaiian sunrise. Twenty-five Southwest Employees and community Partners drove south for an early morning volunteer project. After a safety address and distribution of vests, we broke into teams of five and got to work. We used tools and gloves to hack weeds, sweep the ramps, and remove waste. When we looked back at our work, we had created clear, clean, beautiful trails that dazzled like diamonds with the ocean as a backdrop.
I felt so connected with my team through this volunteer effort and giving back made the experience that much more special. The result was so profound that it gave me chills. I love service—it's because you can see the fruits of your labor, immediately.
Southwest is the people's airline; their middle name is service; they do it everywhere they go and any time they call, I will come running!
... View more