Abdullah Khuder, a 2023 Westbrook High School graduate, will study aviation at the University of Augusta this fall. Contributed / Abdullah Khuder

Abdullah Khuder of Westbrook took his first flight at age 4, when his family left Iraq for the United States in 2008.

That flight immediately ignited a passion in the young Khuder, whose parents had told him the U.S. was a land of opportunity where he could grow up to be anything he wanted.

“Right away, I said I wanted to be a person that flies planes,” he said in an interview. “At the time, the word ‘pilot’ was not a part of my vocabulary.”

Khuder’s dream of flying has never wavered, and thanks to the generosity of the Westbrook community, he’s taking a flight class this summer at the University of Maine Augusta, where this fall he will pursue a bachelor’s degree in aviation.

“My ultimate goal is to become an airline pilot,” he said.

He’s working hard to make that happen.



He and his family have lived in Westbrook since 2014. While in high school, Khuder also took college courses and accrued some flight time. When he graduated in June, he had a full semester’s worth of college credits and about 15 hours under his belt.

This summer he’s working at the Portland International Jetport, and he started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay for his flight lessons. He has received $1,565 through 33 donations.

His flight instructor, Greg Jolda, said Khuder started flight training with the school last spring and has continued this summer.

“He’s doing exactly what he should be doing,” Jolda said.

This fall, while attending UMaine Augusta with the help of a scholarship and financial aid, Khuder hopes to create a fundraising event to raise money for more flight lessons. The details, he said, have not been figured out yet, but he’s hoping to raise $7,000.

As a first generation college student, Khuder said his family is incredibly supportive. In fact, the family moved to Maine in 2014 to support his oldest sister as she became the first member of the family to attend college.


“My parents have always told my siblings and I that education is the only weapon in life that no one can take away from you,” Khuder said.

His sister, Nora Khuder, said his passion for flight is deep-rooted.

“I remember coming to the United States, and it was Abdullah’s first time on an airplane,” Nora Khuder said. “His face lit up and he asked to sit by the airplane window.”

Fourteen years later, his face is still lighting up the same way, she said.

“But this time, he’s the one flying the airplane.”

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