Southwest Airlines Co. yesterday celebrated 25 years of its bridge-building Adopt-A-Pilot® Program by unveiling an aircraft adorned with a nose decal and fuselage artwork dedicated to nearly 14,000 Pilots and half-million students that participated in the award-winning Program.

In a quarter century, Adopt-A-Pilot has impacted the lives of more than 556,000 fifth-grade students in classrooms across the country. The aircraft, unveiled at a celebration at the Southwest Airlines® Maintenance Hangar in Dallas, brought together fifth-grade students enrolled at a local elementary school who have “adopted” a Pilot, along with current and past participants of the Adopt-A-Pilot Program.

“Southwest Airlines leads with Heart, whether in the sky or with the communities in which we serve,” said Linda Rutherford, Chief Administration & Communications Officer at Southwest Airlines. “The Adopt-A-Pilot Program allows our dedicated Pilots to share their vast knowledge, experience, and life lessons with students who are the future leaders of America. It’s inspired more than half a million kids over the past 25 years, and we are honored to have a window seat view to watch these students soar. Our Pilots get as much out of this program as the students do.”

Adopt-A-Pilot, which began in 1997, brings Southwest® Pilots into classrooms to engage students in interactive, aviation-related lessons that help define future successes, and sparks interest in aviation careers. Each school year, students in more than 1,500 classrooms across the country “adopt” Southwest Pilots who mentor students in the fifth-grade. As part of the award-winning Adopt-A-Pilot Program, students research careers and develop life skills, while Pilots underscore the importance of staying in school. The Adopt-A-Pilot curriculum is a supplementary way to educate students through aviation-themed activities related to science, geography, math, writing, and other core subjects.

Southwest is committed to bringing America’s future leaders unique learning opportunities by committing resources and time to inspire students and help them define, articulate, and plan for future success. Students who were in classrooms which adopted Southwest Pilots have gone on to pursue careers in aviation, including:

Southwest First Officer Joe, who joined the Southwest Family in 2022. His fifth-grade classroom adopted a Southwest Pilot and completed the Adopt-A-Pilot curriculum in 2009.

Southwest Destination 225° Program Cadet Jett. His longtime Adopt-A-Pilot mentor of more than ten years, Captain Nancy, inspired him to pursue aviation.

High school students, Josh and Philip. They are continuing their mentorship with Southwest Pilots Wendy and Nancy to pursue pathways into professional pilot careers.

Continuing its commitment to bring resources to support education and student development, Southwest announced a $10,000 donation to Ethridge Elementary School in The Colony, Texas. The school intends to use the funds to procure necessary supplies and equipment for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Fifth-grade students at Ethridge Elementary School adopted a Southwest Pilot for the 2022-2023 school year and attended the unveiling event.

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