PHOENIX, Ariz. (KNXV) — Her feet may be back on the ground, but Xitlali Vazquez’s thoughts and eyes remain on the sky.
The 17-year-old recently returned to her home in Arizona after spending eight weeks in North Carolina. She was selected as one of just 20 high schoolers across the nation to attend the elite National Flight Academy.
“You just feel this warm rush of heat running through your body. It’s really this excitement that you feel. You feel a sense of freedom,” said Xitlali.
Soaring thousands of feet in the sky, she sees her future as a military combat pilot on the horizon. Xitlali said she would be the first in her family to serve.
“When I first expressed interest in the military to my family, they were surprised, they were like, 'Ok, you're the first one to join the military, or show any interest in joining the military and you want to be a pilot,'” said Xitlali.
Since then, they’ve been on a mission to make her dreams come true. But flight time and training are extremely expensive. That’s why the straight “A” student applied to the Navy’s program.
“It was just an amazing opportunity, my family didn’t have to worry about paying for my flight training and that’s just amazing,” said Xitlali.
The eight-week camp hosted at Elizabeth City State University combined rigorous air and ground training from top instructors. Xitlali eventually left with 46 flight hours, something that would normally cost $48,000.
Xitlali’s NJROTC Chief Corey Stevens says it’s her dedication and determination that will lead her to achieve her private pilot's license before her 18th birthday.
“She knows how to get there, and if there’s an obstacle in her way, she’ll either go around it or blow right through it,” said Stevens.
But it’s her ambition and ability that’s sure to land her in the cockpit of a fighter jet flying for our country’s military.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. It’s worth it to me. There’s a lot of pride when you put on that uniform,” said Xitlali. “I can’t wait to serve my country and I can’t wait to wear that flight suit for my day job.”
Xitlali hopes to be accepted into the Air Force Academy when she completes high school.
This story was originally reported by Cameron Polom on abc15.com.