Life Connected

Record-Setting Pilot Inspires Youth at Airport in Compton

"There's going to be a lot of people who have stereotypes about you, but you can't focus on that," Kimberly Anyadike said

When you think of airports in the Los Angeles area, LAX and Burbank come to mind. You might not realize there's an airport in Compton.

Kimberly Anyadike, from nearby Inglewood, made history at the Comtpon airport years ago. Now she volunteers her time at the same airport, helping the next generation realize they can do anything they dream. 

"When I was 15 years old, I set a world record by becoming the youngest person to fly a plane across the country, from Compton, California, to Newport News, Virginia, and back," Anyadike shared with a group of middle school students. "There's going to be a lot of people who have stereotypes about you, but you can't focus on that."

Joining her on that historic journey in 2009 was 86-year-old Tuskegee legend Maj. Levi Thornhill.

"I was in essence flying with history. It's said that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and he was literally in the plane with me. It meant so much," Anyadike said.

Together they landed in 23 cities in 13 days, celebrating the groundbreaking accomplishments of the African American pilots who bravely flew in World War II.

"Landing at that field in Tuskegee, Alabama, was such an emotional experience for me. Imagine your parents being told that they couldn't do something, and imagine 20 years later being afforded the opportunity to do the exact same thing. It's really powerful," Anyadike said.

She is now a UCLA graduate preparing for her medical school entrance exams, but she frequently volunteers at Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum in Compton and teaches at Charles Drew Academy, a place she fed her own passion for science and technology when she was younger.

She loves her community, but admits, when she was a girl, she felt ashamed of growing up in Inglewood. 

"But what I've learned and what I've embraced is that success for me is going to mean returning to my community and contributing to the effort of helping these communities change," Anyadike said.

And the support she's received at the airport reaches far beyond just learning to fly.

Museum founder Robin Petgrave is committed to helping Anyadike reach her lifelong goal of becoming a neurosurgeon, awarding her a $15,000 scholarship to help her pay for her medical school applications.

Setting lofty goals and exceeding them is something she is now paying forward.

"I feel like you're more compelled to make big strides in life, and bigger goals and bigger dreams when you see people who look like you accomplishing great things," Anyadike said.

Contact Us