“I found the HC through my high school BRACE advisor. Coming from a medium sized high school, I did not want to attend a huge university and be just a number among thousands of students. My mother and I attended an Open House session at the HC and from that moment I knew this was the place for me.”
Evan Edward “Golf King” Jackson was a 2015 graduate of the Honors College and a very close friend of mine who made a huge impact on the FAU Jupiter community. He started out studying English literature but after a class with Dr. Corr his freshman year, he “decided to forgo English and focus on [his] new fascination with cultural anthropology”. He said that “the HC equipped [him] with such knowledge of other cultures, languages, and religions that it influenced how [he] looked at [his] own culture”. Though he spent the majority of his undergraduate career concentrating in anthropology, he knew that nothing was going to stop him from his ultimate goal of becoming a pilot. He made it very clear as a student that this is where the future would lead as he and his dear friend, Rebecca Peter, dressed as a pilot and a flight attendant respectively for their freshman year Halloween Ball. His dreams were made even more apparent in his senior year when the orientation week theme was “taking flight” and he was able to give wings from a number of different airlines to each of the orientation leaders.
There were a number of other moments when it became clear what his future had in store. When we traveled abroad to France, he told us exactly what kind of plane we would be flying on, what it would be equipped with, and how many aisles and rows there were. After landing in Alabama for a research trip, I turned on my phone and immediately received a text message that was the entirety of the Delta landing announcement that nearly brought me to tears because it was not only incredibly thoughtful but hilariously well-timed. There was also the casually dressing up as flight attendants to go to class on Wednesdays because themed days are the best days. Then he told me his thesis topic. His thesis would be on “national airlines and how they serve as aerial ambassadors of their country's culture and identity through dress, design, and language.” He chose this focus “after reading an article about the loss of the first Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 and its cultural impact on the country and people of Malaysia”. I could not even wait to hear his symposium presentation. My parents sat on the floor of our living room pining through all of our National Geographic Magazines so they could send Evan a care package of all the ones that had airline advertisements in them so he could use them for his research. His friends and family were ecstatic that he would be doing his senior thesis on something we knew he was so passionate about.
Fast forward to April of his senior year. It was getting closer to the end of the semester and students were finalizing their after-grad plans whether it was graduate school, medical school, a new job, or a gap year. Evan knew that if he wanted to become a pilot he needed to start as a flight attendant. And so he did. After a few Skype interviews with a smaller airline, he found out that Allegiant was asking him to attend their interviews in Orlando. His trusty car, Oliver, had recently broken down so I offered to take him. We drove to Orlando whilst listening to Michelle Branch, Jessica Simpson, and the entire Hairspray soundtrack and then settled in at the hotel the interviews were taking place at. The lobby looked like a flight attendant convention with dozens of people walking around in ascots and little roll-y suitcases (dress for the job you want, not the job you have). The interview process was a few hours long and as I saw a majority of the interviewees leave the conference area, Evan was yet to be seen. I frantically checked my phone (which was on its last legs of life) to find a series of text messages saying he got the job. Evan and one other person, a woman named Mandy who we had met earlier that day, were both offered jobs right on the spot. I immediately started crying in this lobby full of absolute strangers and couldn’t wait to give him a congratulatory hug.
A few weeks after graduation, Evan set sail to Las Vegas where he would spend six weeks training to become a flight attendant with Allegiant Airlines. From then, he has been on a whirlwind adventure and experienced stories that would make you laugh, cry, and want more than anything to get to be a flight attendant just like him. Below is an excerpt from a conversation I had with him about his experiences:
“…I will let everyone know that being a flight attendant is more than serving Cokes and peanuts. We are trained for every type of emergency imaginable--water landings, land evacuations, remote landings away from cities, medical emergencies, inflight fires, and rapid decompressions. Safety is our number one priority, and it is my job to make sure you have a safe flight and to get you and 150 other people to safety in less than 90 seconds in an emergency. With my degree in cultural anthropology and French, I am able to use my education to my advantage on board the plane. I'm a translator when needed on our flights to Montréal and I am able to view other cultures on board with respect and understanding. I serve on the airline's culture committee which fosters relationships between my company and the cities that serve as our operating bases through non-profit organizations, the Make-A-Wish foundation, and other community programs like charity walks and runs. Eventually I would like to transition to a larger airline to work international flights to use my French on a more regular basis, but I am very content at my current airline where my colleagues are more like family members than strangers. I've met interesting people and have been in interesting situations during my almost two years of flying. From finding a cat in the lavatory to welcoming nervous first time flyers (kids and adults), each day on board is exciting and different. Even a bad day in the air is better than any day working on the ground, and once you have a taste of flight, you're hooked.”
Evan continues to send me updates on his stories but if you’re ever interested in reading more about them, you can find them here
at his blog. As of this publication, Evan has been with Allegiant for about a year and a half and can still be found flying the friendly skies at 35,000 feet.