FREEPORT – Navigating the rough waters of high school can be a challenge, but for Freeport High School senior and licensed airplane pilot Olivia Fowler, those challenges represent possibilities.

“Olivia is extremely self-driven and motivated,” said Jim Lincoln, Fowler’s guidance counselor at Freeport High. “She colors outside the lines and keeps you on your toes.”

Fowler is one of 142 Freeport High School seniors – the largest graduating class ever – who will receive diplomas during ceremonies Saturday, June 15, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

Fowler began her senior year by taking engineering classes at Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland, and spent three months this spring pursuing her love of aerospace engineering through an internship in Belgium with Lambert Aircraft, a based in the Kortrijik-Wevelgem airport.

“I was working on a few different projects, including the instrument panel for a new airplane, the Mission M108,” Fowler said last week during her final few days in Belgium. “It involved reading a lot of manuals and wiring diagrams.”

For Fowler, aviation has always been a passion. She started taking flying lessons in the sixth grade after attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. Eventually, Fowler joined the Civil Air Patrol and got her pilot’s license on her 17th birthday, the youngest age one can be licensed in America.

“I actually had my pilot’s license before my driver’s license,” said Fowler. “That meant my parents had to drive me to airport for another year, which they probably weren’t thrilled about.”

According to Freeport High engineering and design teacher Jonathon Amory, what makes Fowler unique is her determination and work ethic.

“Olivia is a student in the purest form. She loves learning and experimenting,” said Amory. “She is someone who is absolutely determined and doesn’t let things stand in the way, like going to Belgium because she wants that level of experience and knowledge.”

Fowler, who returned to Maine on June 9, is part of a flight club that shares a Cessna 172, a four-seat, single-engine airplane, out of the Lewiston-Auburn airport. So far, Fowler has flown mostly in the Northeast, including a trip to Potsdam, N.Y., for a college visit to Clarkson University. She has also flown to Maryland with her father David, a fellow pilot.

“I really enjoy flying around to the little airports in Maine,” said Fowler.

What makes Fowler unique is her self-motivation and dedication to community service through the volunteer arm of the Civil Air Patrol, said Dede Bennell, service-learning coordinator for Freeport High School.

“She is not looking for extrinsic rewards, just doing what she is passionate about while understanding and demonstrating the importance of service,” said Bennell.

Fowler, who lives in Freeport with her family, has always been an aggressive learner and took an online science class in eighth grade so she could be eligible to study biology as a freshman. She was done with all the standard science requirements by the time she was a senior and, looking for bigger challenges, enrolled in physics and chemistry at SMCC.

Fowler will be attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., the “Harvard of the skies,” said Amory.

Though driven by her passion for aviation, Fowler admits that things can change.

“One things I want to do is work at the CERN,” said Fowler, referring to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a Geneva-based laboratory dedicated to studying physics.

In generations past, Fowler would have most likely worked for NASA, but the lack of funding is a turnoff, she said, as space exploration moves toward private ventures.

“The government isn’t supporting NASA at all so I’ll most likely go into the private sector,” said Fowler. “I don’t think space travel is practical unless you’re a billionaire and just want the thrill of being in space. There’s really not that much to do once you get up there. Plus the cost of fuel alone is prohibitive unless we find cheaper sources.”

Looking back on her time at Freeport High, Fowler said the support of a few, especially Lincoln and Amory, enabled her to chart her own academic course and pursue her passion.

“Flying is freedom,” said Fowler. “It’s the coolest feeling in the world to be flying in an airplane solo. You are literally in charge of your life and can go anywhere.”

Olivia Fowler, one of 142 Freeport High School seniors who will graduate on June 15 at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, pilots a Cessna 172. Fowler has been flying airplanes since the sixth grade and will be studying aeronautical engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., this fall.

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