Tuskegee NEXT, a nonprofit dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth explore the skies and aviation careers, will sponsor a “Young Eagles” rally on Aug. 28 at Downtown Island Airport.


The event, which will be held from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., will allow young people between the ages of 8 and 17 to fly with Tuskegee NEXT and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) pilots and experience interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exhibits related to flight.


“According to a recent Brookings Institution study, the majority of economically disadvantaged African Americans will remain so, and a large plurality of middle-class African Americans will see their economic prospects decline over their lifetimes,” said Steve Davis, founder of the Tuskegee NEXT program.


“Meanwhile, another recent study forecasts that nearly half a million new commercial airline pilots will be needed to fly all the new airplanes entering the world fleet over the next 20 years. Tuskegee NEXT aims to address both of these needs by exposing young people to careers in the aviation industry.”


Tuskegee NEXT, based in the Chicago area, was founded six years ago by Davis, a Knoxville native who also is the president of GEM Community Development Group, the organization proposing the new multi-use stadium development in East Knoxville near downtown.


“I want to do something to help my hometown,” Davis said. “I want to show young people from Knoxville that they can have an exciting and fulfilling career in the aviation industry.”


The rally will provide an opportunity for young people to take a 30-minute flight with Tuskegee NEXT and EAA pilots. It will offer a drone demonstration, flight simulator, displays, corporate jets and more.


Tuskegee NEXT is named in honor of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of primarily African American military pilots and airmen who fought in World War II.


“During a time in which many people thought that Blacks lacked intelligence, skill, bravery and patriotism, the Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America’s first black military airmen,” Davis said. “Their courage of conviction, undeniable talent and love of country allowed them to pave the way for Tuskegee NEXT students.”


In addition to the airplanes and exhibits, the Saturday, Aug. 28, rally will feature remarks by Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie; Jeannette Mills, executive vice president and chief external relations officer for TVA; and Nikitia Thompson, coordinator of minority and women business enterprises for Knoxville Utilities Board. Davis and Dominique Scott, executive director of Tuskegee NEXT, also will speak.


Youths who want to register for the rally can do so at youngeaglesday.org/?2203. Masks are recommended but not required. Lunch will be provided.


The Young Eagles rally is being held in partnership with Pellissippi State Community College and Knoxville Aviation Collaborative Initiative.


About Tuskegee NEXT
Honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, Tuskegee NEXT, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, transforms the lives of at-risk youth through aviation education and career path opportunities, so they can transform their communities. Visit tuskegeenext.org for more information.