The following blog post was co-written by Rachel Barry and Ashlee Smith.
Tammie Jo Shults’ path to a career in aviation was strewn with naysayers. She says, “It really came down to motivation and merit. What was my motivation for being there and my merit? Was I good enough to be there?”
Tammie Jo kept going when there was no applause to keep going. Her first memory of aviation was watching it. Growing up near an Air Force Base in New Mexico, Captain Tammie Jo Shults knew two things from an early age: She wanted to serve her country, and she wanted to fly. Through her service with the Navy, she was able to be among the first group of women that were flying tactical aircraft in the military.
She met her husband while she was an instructor, and today, more than 30 years later, they are both Pilots for Southwest Airlines. As Captain of Flight #1380 last year, Tammie Jo says, “All of us learned things about ourselves. And one of those things is our habits become our instincts. So, guard your habits. Make sure that when you make a habit of something it's a good habit because that's what kicks in.”
Above everything, she learned the importance of hope. It was hope, to be in the sky someday, that inspired her to pursue a career in aviation, and it is hope that keeps her going today. “Hope doesn’t take no for an answer. Hope pushes through.”
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The following blog post was co-written by Rachel Barry and Patric Alva.
Jeremiah Skeete has dreamed of becoming a Pilot since he was a little boy. Southwest Airlines welcomed Jeremiah and other students with dreams of aviation careers to be a part of our Continuing the Legacy in Aviation program.
From time in the flight simulator to tours of our facilities, this impactful program gave him the bird’s eye view of what it really means to be a Pilot at Southwest. It also gave Jeremiah the incredible opportunity to meet the Tuskegee Airmen who shared their experiences of overcoming adversity while inspiring these bright, young students to follow their dreams. “This program really allowed me to confirm that this is what I want to do and become a Pilot for Southwest,” said Jeremiah.
The students also met Southwest Pilots who shared their experiences, inspired the students, and offered to lend a helping hand as they continue their journeys in life. Phoenix First Officer Galen Grass met Jeremiah when he came through the Continuing the Legacy in Aviation program and recently wrote him a letter of recommendation that accompanied his application to his first choice school, Delaware State University. Jeremiah has now been accepted, and will begin classes this fall. “Jeremiah is a sharp kid. He reminded me of myself,” said Grass.
Continuing the Legacy in aviation is one of the many ways Southwest works to increase diversity in aviation and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). By reaching students at a young age, our goal is to help them identify the education and training they need to achieve their career goals, and provide the resources they need along the way.
While Southwest actively promotes diversity initiatives year-round, the Company is proud to highlight these particular stories in celebration of Black History Month. Southwest hopes that stories like these will increase diversity in aviation and encourage more youth to reach for the skies and one day join the Southwest Airlines Family.
Additionally, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Black History Month Facebook frame available now. To add the frame to your profile picture, visit www.facebook.com/profilepicframes and search for “Southwest Airlines.” You should see two frame options that can be added to your profile picture.
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The following blog post was co-written by Rachel Barry and Ashlee Smith.
When an Employee starts their career at Southwest Airlines, they bring with them their own unique background, perspectives, and personal experiences. Those perspectives combined with their skills help them to do their jobs in impactful and meaningful ways. Julio Salazar joined Southwest Airlines three years ago. With him, he brought the important lessons he learned during his service in the Navy.
Julio says the best part of being deployed is getting mail—particularly hand-written letters. That’s why he regularly takes the time to write and send care packages to deployed service men and women. We’re proud to employ veterans like Julio and to celebrate them and all veterans today and throughout the year. Patriotism runs deep at Southwest Airlines. We’re proud of the more than 8,000 Employees who have served or are actively serving, and the 1,300 military spouses currently in our ranks.
Our brand colors may be red, yellow, and blue, but our support is for the red, white, and blue.
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The following blog post was written by Nancy Yap, Director of Development at LEAP
Each year, 16 participants receive 80 hours of leadership development training and 6 hours of executive coaching as part of LEAP's Emerging Leaders Program for Nonprofit Staff (ELP). In addition to tangible leadership skills and workforce tools, participants become part of a unique cohort of Asian and Pacific Islander nonprofit professionals. With Southwest Airlines' support, LEAP is able to bring a diverse group of individuals together in Los Angeles and New York. Participants who had not been able to travel for leadership training are now able to learn from other Asian and Pacific Islanders across the country. This national perspective has inspired creative solutions and professional opportunities.
Since the program, 2016-2017 Emerging Leaders Program participant Kendall Kosai was promoted to Deputy Director of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates and encouraged participant Sina Uipi to accept a fellowship that supported her pursuit of a career in policy advocacy. Kendall Kosai and Sina Uipi share their post-program experiences:
As an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) in the nonprofit space, it’s rare that you have the opportunity to interact with individuals who not only have the same passion as you, but also look like you. The ELP was an opportunity that brought a diverse set of individuals from all around the country to not only learn key skills in workforce readiness, but also about their identity and what it means to be AAPI. Many of the bonds that were formed over the days that the program convened were unique and strong. We created relationships that could give support, challenge, commiserate, and provide opportunity.
Following the program, I continued to stay in touch with many cohort members, including Sina Uipi, who was working at the Tongan Community Service Center. Her passion for the Pacific Islander community was evident in our conversations and I realized she could be a much-needed voice in Washington, D.C., where there were so few Pacific Islanders. When the Civil Rights Fellowship became available at OCA, I encouraged her to apply. I knew it would be an opportunity for her to broaden her work experience and learn the national policy advocacy landscape. This knowledge would make her an even stronger advocate for the Pacific Islander community.
The ELP has reinforced my dedication to strengthening the leadership pipeline in the AAPI community and given me an opportunity to build a national network of AAPI leaders. I am eager to see where all of our careers take us!
The ELP program challenged me to think about personal and professional next steps. I gained a close set of colleagues and friends I could relate to, who understood me, and encouraged me to push myself beyond my limits. ELP was a transformative experience for me, as I began to crave growth and change throughout the sessions. By the third session in New York, I was eager to ask my ELP cohort about career possibilities. One night at dinner, Kendall and I discussed possibilities in D.C. and he suggested that I consider moving to D.C. because of the lack of Pacific Islander representation.
In August 2017, I was finishing up my last week at the Tongan Community Service Center in Los Angeles, and unexpectedly got a call from Nisha Ramachandran, a fellow ELP alumnus. She told me about the opportunity to apply for the Civil Rights Fellowship at OCA. I took it as a sign, that this was my chance to step into the change I had been craving. I followed up with Kendall about it, and he encouraged me to apply. To be honest, I was nervous to apply for this fellowship position because, as much as I wanted change, the thought of actually moving to the other side of the country, scared me. I never thought I'd leave California, but I wanted to at least try because I knew I would regret it if I didn't. I shared these concerns with Kendall and he assured me that the AAPI community in D.C. would look out for me. I trusted him, submitted my application, and hoped for the best. The application led to an interview and the interview led to a call from the CEO, Ken Lee, with a fellowship offer.
I was so happy, and the fact that the CEO called me made it feel even more special. I had a few days to decide and, after sharing the opportunity with my family and friends, I realized everyone was supportive, including my parents, which was all I needed to take the offer. It was extremely hard to leave my family, but this was the fruit of their labor and sacrifice. As I transitioned to living in D.C., I imagined how hard it was for my parents to leave their homeland and families an ocean away. They did not know when they would be able to return and didn’t see their families for 30 years. I have the privilege of staying in the same country and can go home at any time.
My family has come a long way, and we have a long way to go. My willingness to challenge myself will not only help me, but also my family, as I advocate for the needs of the AAPI community through my work in D.C. My experience as an OCA Fellow has been wonderful and it all began with ELP. ELP introduced me to great folks like Kendall, who I'm proud to call my colleague. I know I can always turn to him and my fellow cohort for anything, and I would do the same for them.
Through Southwest Airlines’ support, we are able to help Asian and Pacific Islander leaders uncap their talent and reach for possibilities without being challenged by distance. These opportunities help individuals to think bigger and have a network that expands beyond their local communities.
LEAP is a national organization founded in 1982 with a mission to achieve full participation and equality for Asian and Pacific Islanders through leadership, empowerment, and policy. With original programs in leadership training, public policy research, and community education, LEAP raises the impact and visibility of Asian and Pacific Islanders in all sectors. For more information visit www.leap.org.
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The following blog post was co-written by Rachel Barry and Ashlee Smith.
In 2000, First Officer Beth Polcari started her career at Southwest Airlines in our Rapid Rewards Department and then left to pursue her dream of becoming a Pilot. Beth chased her dream and landed right where she belongs, back at Southwest Airlines and in the Pilot’s seat.
Southwest Airlines is proud to celebrate International Women's Day and honor women like Beth who #PressforProgress and those who encouraged her to follow her dreams along the way.
Congratulations, Beth, on following your dream! That's what we call a perfect landing.
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The following blog post was co-written by Rachel Barry and Karen Price-Ward.
Southwest Airlines has proudly partnered with the Tuskegee Airmen on the Continuing the Legacy program for more than 10 years. Through this impactful program, Southwest has had the honor of connecting diverse students with a dream of an aviation career to the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen demonstrated courage not only in their heroic service to the United States but also in their determination to break the color barrier for military pilots.
The Tuskegee Airmen and Southwest Airlines Employees have volunteered side-by-side to show young students the opportunities available to them in aviation and encourage them to follow their dreams. Now, the Tuskegee Airmen are "passing the torch" to Southwest Employees who are eager to continue their legacy and share their powerful stories with young students.
This Black History Month, we're proud to honor the past and focus on continuing to positively impact the future.
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@DancingDavidE Thank you for your interest in Repurpose with Purpose and the messenger bag from Looptworks! Looptworks is continuing to create products, so we recommend reaching out to them at https://www.looptworks.com/community/contact to see if/when that bag might be back in stock. Thank you!
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Our People have always been the Heart of Southwest Airlines and that's why we're passionate about inspiring the next generation. In less than a month, Southwest Airlines will proudly welcome the young women of GenHERation to learn what it takes to be a Leader at Southwest Airlines and get advice on how to make their career dreams come true!
Thank you to Ramp Agent, Sara Pawlak, for sharing your career journey with these young women and helping to show one of the many ways women kick tail at Southwest Airlines!
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One of the cornerstones of Southwest Airlines’ Culture is following The Golden Rule. To do right by others, you have to understand other people’s perspectives and know more about their story. As part of our Diversity and Inclusion event for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month, we asked Southwest Employee Sunitha Cheruvu to share some of her story.
After my marriage, working at Southwest is one of the longest relationships in my life. I’ve seen Southwest go from being a domestic airline with plastic, reusable boarding passes in the shape of states to an international carrier that recently completed our transition to a new reservation system. What a journey! Southwest has been with me and my family through the birth of my three beautiful children, serious health issues, and the ups and down of life.
Staying in one place and putting down roots was not the norm for me. I’ve been traveling my whole life. I’ve moved around the world, on average changing cities once every two years, up until high school. I was born in a small town in India and moved to two of its biggest cities before I was three and made my way through other countries before arriving on the East Coast of the United States. I didn’t make my way to Dallas until after I got married. While I was exposed to a variety of cultures, none felt fully mine. I was proud of my Indian heritage as instilled by my parents, and loved my American side, too. So like any innovative American, I created my own by taking the aspects I liked from each one.
One of my more personal “define my culture” moments happened at Southwest. I noticed a Teammate wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a religious event she’d attended the previous weekend. Perhaps, it’s a holdover from moving so much as a child and never quite being at home, but seeing her so casually share such a personal side of her life made an impact on me. I mentioned the same to another Coheart who asked me what I would do along those lines if I could. For me the answer was simple. I love wearing my bottu* - that’s the dot on the forehead that Hindus wear. It is more than a religious symbol for me. Wearing a bottu completed my face and without it, I felt like I was going out into the world without my best face on. Imagine what it feels like when you forget your cellphone at home; you feel off. That’s how I felt without my bottu. I previously worked in the conservative world of Wall Street where wearing a bottu to work was not in the realm of possibilities. However, I was at Southwest Airlines now. So I headed into work the next day, feeling a little like Rocky Balboa, wearing a bottu. While it was a big deal for me, my Cohearts accepted it in stride and it was business as usual.
Sunitha giving a speech.
Since then I’ve worn the bottu everywhere. Whether serving on the board of the Frisco Education Foundation, or attending committee meeting for the Frisco ISD, or representing my faith on multicultural forums, I show up as the bottu-wearing Jersey girl from the South (of India) who has made Texas her home. It has led to great partnerships across ethnic boundaries and led the way to conversations seeking better understanding. Inspired by my Cohearts, I have strived to share the power and benefits of inclusion in all my adventures both in Southwest and in my home city of Frisco, Texas.
*Bottu is from the Telugu language. The dot is also known as a bindi in the Hindi language.
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We are proud to announce that the 2016 Southwest Airlines One Report has arrived! The One Report demonstrates our continued commitment to the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet. The comprehensive, integrated report includes information on Southwest’s financial performance, its Citizenship efforts, key events of 2016, and what’s on the horizon for Southwest Airlines. Check out the One Report at www.southwestonereport.com.
Highlights from the 2016 One Report include:
Reported record net income of $2.2 billion
$3.3 billion in cash and short-term investments as of December 31, 2016
The leader in 25 of the top 50 U.S. metro areas*, in terms of domestic passenger traffic
Gave more than $25 million total corporate monetary, in-kind, and ticket donations
Employees volunteered a total of 149,695 hours
Had 663,787 conversations with Customers through our Social Listening Center
Employees earned $586 million in profitsharing for 2016
Began offering a Tuition Reimbursement Program that provides eligible Employees opportunities for professional development, continuing education, and skills training
Improved jet fuel efficiency by 30.6 percent, on a revenue ton mile ** basis, since 2005
More than $565 million invested in fuel efficiency improvements since 2002
Kept 3,348 tons of waste out of landfills in 2016 through the airline’s repurposing and recycling efforts
Donated 5,000 surplus life vests to a nonprofit to assist fishermen in Uganda, keeping waste out of landfills
To view the full 2016 One Report, please visit SouthwestOneReport.com.
*As measured by the Department of Transportation O&D Survey for the 12 months ended September 30, 2016 based on domestic originating passengers.
**A revenue ton mile is one ton of revenue traffic (passenger and cargo) transported one mile
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At Southwest Airlines we build resilient communities by making connections that empower communities to thrive. We are proud to celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and highlight stories like this one from Nancy Yap.
As the Director of Development at Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP), I have had the opportunity to work with a wide range of student leaders through Leadership In Action (LIA). LIA is an eight-week paid summer internship program designed to develop emerging young leaders by providing college students with practical leadership skills and the opportunity to work hands-on in the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community in Southern California. Because of Southwest Airlines’ support of the program, LEAP has been able to provide travel for the out-of-state participants. In addition, LEAP also invites these participants to bring a guest to their program’s graduation.
2016 Leadership In Action Alumni
Last summer, LIA had seven participants. Two participants joined the program from out of state — one from Oklahoma and the other from Minnesota. Two months after the close of the program, LEAP checked in with the participants. After speaking with the summer program alumni, I was inspired by the impact that Southwest Airlines’ support has had on the participants, especially Angie Tran.
Angie applied to LIA from Oklahoma. In her application, Angie gave her reasons for applying to the LIA program.
“As a person of color in the Midwest and a predominately white community, it is important for me to find resources outside of my home state so that I can gain different perspectives and strategies to incorporate in my local (API) community. Resources are very limited in Oklahoma, and I believe that this voucher will ease my finances, and LEAP will enable me to become more exposed to Asian and Pacific Islander issues and prepare me to represent my community with stride.”
Angie was placed at the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) where she had a chance to work closely with the Executive Director. From community organizing to urban planning, Angie learned about the different aspects of running a nonprofit organization and advocating for a small community in Los Angeles. In addition, Angie mentioned that the staff at Thai CDC was supportive of her aspirations to someday run for office in Oklahoma. She saw the value of growing her network and tearfully expressed her gratitude to both Thai CDC and LEAP for the opportunity to participate in the LIA program.
In addition, Angie chose to use Southwest Airlines’ support to bring her mother to Los Angeles for the LIA’s graduation. When requesting the voucher, she shared what it would mean to have her mother in Los Angeles.
“The last time my mom was on an airplane was when she arrived to the United States from Vietnam 25 years ago. Since then, she has worked 40 hours a week to raise my brother and me so we can pursue an education. She has never had the opportunity to travel, attend many of my school events, or enjoy herself. This voucher will allow my mom and I to spend time together in another state and expose her to other places outside of Oklahoma. Furthermore, she has never been able to attend any school events or ceremonies because of work. My Leadership in Action graduation will be one of the first times she gets to see my accomplishments. It is difficult for me to express my experiences to my mom because of our language barrier. With this opportunity, my mom will witness first hand my passion for social change and meet individuals who have made a lasting impact on me.”
From Left to Right: Steve Lin (LEAP Program Manager), Angie Tran, Linda Akutagawa (LEAP President & CEO)
As a senior, Angie is involved in many student organizations and in student government. She is using different skills and tools she learned during her internship to help her organize on her campus. She also spoke about the impact that the program has had on how she is planning for her future. She now seeks opportunities she had not recently considered. With the guidance of mentors from Los Angeles, she feels she has a stronger and more diverse network to turn to for advice. Lastly, she shared more about her experience with her mom in Los Angeles and mentioned that she is closer to her mom than she has ever been before. Having her in Los Angeles helped them to understand one another and gave them a chance to explore together.
As LEAP continues to partner with Southwest Airlines, I am reminded over and over again of the value of bringing people together from around the country. With a diversity of perspective, LEAP’s programs become richer for the participants. However, the opportunity to travel and experience new things together continues to strengthen relationships and communities.
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This blog post is by Southwest's Managing Director of Communication and Outreach Laurie Barnett
At Southwest Airlines, it’s always been about Heart. It’s about Loving People and putting others first. It’s about being more than an airline. It’s about finding that one way to serve that makes each person feel special. It’s about Building Resilience through connections that last and being part of a community that helps one another because distance shouldn’t keep us from being neighbors.
It’s about Living Responsibly and doing things the Southwest Way, which means we do it because we want to, not because we have to. Because whether in the air or on the ground, we believe community is more than a place; it’s at the heart of what brings us together.
We have a strong history of investing in our communities. Southwest is much more than a partner; we champion causes and build connections that help cities thrive. Our heart is to do what’s right. Our Heart doesn’t simply give back; it gives forward because we know that the most resilient communities are the ones with the strongest connections and we believe the act of connecting can make the world feel a bit smaller and the future a little brighter and it all starts with Heart.
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Southwest Airlines is passionate about giving back to the communities we serve. We recently teamed up with Plano Academy to provide a unique learning experience for the senior class of Plano Academy High School. In this series, senior student Chancei White shares how an experience at Southwest Airlines provided hands-on experience and real world business understanding!
Click here to read Part One.
As my fellow Plano Academy seniors and I continued our learning experience with Southwest Airlines, we spent the majority of the week planning, researching, and pre- designing prototypes. After our seniors took a tour of Southwest, we continued to stay in contact with our department mentors for questions or concerns with our assigned projects. Most teams took time out of their day to schedule follow-up conferences with their mentors by joining Skype calls, or the traditional route ... cell phone conferences, and there are even Teams who had the opportunity to revisit with their mentors in person. I’m sure they all received invaluable feedback.
Meanwhile, my Team was coming up with a solution for our business project. We contacted our mentor and showed her a rough draft of our idea. She was pleased. Although my team and I were nervous, agreeing on a probable solution was the easy part. (Crazy, right?) Now we were really getting the dice rolling!
Our week was dedicated to compiling research into a solutions document, so that we will know what will be needed to perform our task. From there we began to problem solve the logistics of our plan. We created graphic design ideas, commercial ideas, and various advertising techniques to improve our design. There were still a few bumps we had to get over, but for the most part, we were working together and collaborating effectively as a good Team should do.
I chose a mentor from Visual Communications with the intention of having a challenging problem to research. I hoped that it would also allow me to expand my knowledge and skills of design programs I may have to use in the future. With my expectations having been met so far, I grew more excited to see this project play out successfully. Producing good ideas out of thin air is easy, but to actually follow through and design an entire plan around it, now that’s a whole different ball game. We are taking on this challenge and I hope both mentors and students learn something great throughout the completion of this project.
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Southwest Airlines is passionate about giving back to the communities we serve. We recently teamed up with Plano Academy to provide a unique learning experience for the senior class of Plano Academy High School. In this four-part series, senior student, Chancei White shares how an experience at Southwest Airlines provided hands-on experience and real world business understanding!
Here at Plano Academy, we foster an innovative, project based learning environment through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) based learning. Our school is a wonderful example of students acquiring 21st century skills. Recently, our senior class of Plano Academy High School got the wonderful opportunity to receive a specialized tour from Employees around Southwest Airlines Headquarters. Southwest is one of our biggest cheerleaders! They have given our school unique learning opportunities and provided internships to some of our learners, showing huge support to our interdisciplinary community.
One specific way Southwest Airlines supported our learners this year was by partnering with our seniors for one of our projects. We were able to choose a department of interest and from there our Southwest Airlines mentors came up with business challenges for us to potentially solve.
Thankfully, our wonderful mentors know that all work and no fun makes for a dull senior year and granted us an amazing behind-the-scenes tour. As a senior class, we started a general tour into the hangar. This is where they house planes for their maintenance check-ups. During the tour, we had the opportunity to see what a dismembered plane looks like. A few engineers took us into the plane and showed us some important components needed to ensure safety and comfort. After that, we viewed a couple of the Culture Centers. We learned that a Culture Center is basically like an upgraded version of a break room; Southwest has them all over their campus! Each Culture Center is uniquely designed with a certain theme. My favorite was the Halloween Culture Center (mainly because of CEO Gary Kelly’s life-size Halloween costumes). After that, we walked to the training center of Southwest Airlines. We went over the process of becoming a pilot, and we even got to try out some of the safety training equipment hands on! When we walked through the facility, we ran into multiple pilots at different stages in their careers still learning and practicing—amazing! Let’s just say ... all the cool, up-to-date equipment isn’t there just for decoration.
Once we finished our general tour, we split up into departments of our interest to take a specialized tour by some of the senior managers. It was an amazing experience getting to witness some of our dream careers first hand. It gave me such a rush of happiness and motivation to work hard and stay dedicated! I’m sure my whole group felt my same joy from being in such a welcoming environment. Thanks to my mentors, Sonia Avila and John Jones! You guys truly rocked my world!
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This year 260 volunteers and 431 registered golfers participated in 31st annual LUV Classic by playing a round of golf or by volunteering their time to ensure that the event ran smoothly and that fun was had by all. In true Southwest fashion, the rain couldn’t wash away our drive to raise funds for deserving children’s charities!
With the spirited participation of our Employees and sponsors, we were able to help further the initiatives of four outstanding children’s charities including Children’s Hospital Colorado, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Knights of Heroes Foundation, and Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). All proceeds raised from the event will directly benefit the health and well-being of children helped by these incredible organizations:
Since 2010, Children’s Hospital Colorado—a national and international leader in pediatric health—has been a partner of Southwest’s Medical Grant Transportation Program (MGTP).
With 111,000 annual patients, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has dedicated itself to create hope and build healthier futures for children through compassionate patient care, leading-edge medical education, and innovative research. Since 2011, CHLA has also been a partner of Southwest’s MGTP.
Since 2008, The Knights of Heroes Foundation has been a military partner of Southwest. The foundation empowers children who have lost a parent during military service by providing positive adult mentorship, character development, and lasting friendships forged during an annual wilderness adventure camp.
Since the inception of LUV Classic more than 30 years ago, Southwest has helped Ronald McDonald House Charities serve more than 185,000 children and their families.
Since its establishment in 1985 by SWA President Emeritus Colleen Barrett, LUV Classic remains dedicated to giving back to our customers and community by supporting charities that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. Over the last 31 years, we have donated more than $16 million to a variety of children’s charities, and we know these deserving charities will continue their impactful work with the funds they receive in 2016.
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Southwest Airlines is proud to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month all year long through our support of impactful organizations like MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. Guest author Rohnny Vallarta shares her story below. I remember when I was first invited to perform at the 19th Annual Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV). It was going to take place in Washington, D. C., and all I could think was “That’s where the White House is at!” My name is Rohnny Vallarta. I am 16 years old, Mexican-American, and the only girl from our slam poetry team at MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, located in downtown San Jose, CA, invited to attend Brave New Voices. On our way to the Southwest terminal, I felt a bit uneasy about the trip. It was my first time in an airplane and traveling out of the state. My mother made me even more nervous when she said, “I’ve never been this far away from you ... ” It made me realize I wouldn’t be home the whole week! While we boarded the airplane, I thought I would relax, but it was just the opposite. I am the youngest sibling in my family, as well as the only girl. My hobbies include poetry, writing songs, and playing the ukulele. My family is musically inclined; both my brothers play the keyboard and guitar. My parents love music and take me to local music festivals. You can always hear someone singing or playing music in my house. And until this trip, I never thought about flying. All of my family members live within a driving distance. I never thought that I’d have a reason to travel across the country. When the plane took off, the feelings of uneasiness slowly left. The Southwest staff was friendly, and their smiling faces allowed me to relax. I got excited about my trip to Washington D. C. The views from the plane were amazing; you could see everything, and it felt like a dream. When we landed, I couldn’t believe we had really traveled across the entire country! After landing, we checked into our dorm rooms at George Washington University. I was thrilled to see so many youth who share a passion for poetry. All of the students were supportive of each other’s work. This made me feel comfortable to share my poetry. Even though I was nervous about opening up about myself, it was inspiring to see others overcome their fears too. My poem was about my upbringing, the challenges I’ve faced as a girl, and my future opportunities. My favorite part of the festival was that everyone wanted to share their poems! Students shared stories that enlightened me and inspired me to learn about bigger issues that impact youth. Students shared poems that dealt with issues like racism, sexism, health, and gender inequality. The workshops taught me how to improve my writing skills, how to convey a clear message, and how to serve as a community leader with my poetry. I can create poetry and spark a dialogue about a specific issue that is important in my community. I have started working on a poem about Type 2 Diabetes and how the junk food we eat is impacting our health. Overall, going to Washington, D. C., was an awesome opportunity. Meeting other youth and being encouraged to express my opinions was enlightening. Every performer, guest speaker, and coach inspired me to write more and to share my voice. Thank you to Southwest Airlines and MACLA for giving me the opportunity to dream big and be a part of something bigger than I have ever imagined.
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THIS IS A GUEST POST WRITTEN BY LILY CLAYTON HANSEN, AUTHOR WORD OF MOUTH: NASHVILLE CONVERSATIONS AND ALUMNI OF THE ARTS & BUSINESS COUNCIL OF GREATER NASHVILLE’S PERISCOPE ARTIST ENTREPRENEUR TRAINING PROGRAM SPONSORED BY SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
Pleasure to meet you. My name is Lily Clayton Hansen and I am a writer, interviewer and curious creature located in Nashville, Tennessee. While I am a diehard, native Chicagoan, I have made Music City my home for the last three years. Since trotting down from the Windy City, this cultural epicenter has absolutely stolen my heart and embraced my passion for the art of conversation. I’m writing to share a bit about my journey so far and my recent experience in the Periscope: Artist Entrepreneur Training program that was developed by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville in partnership with Metro Arts Commission, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, and Southwest Airlines, a key supporter since its inception.
In the world of journalism, as a mentor once told me, you either move to New York City to claw your way to the top or establish yourself in a smaller market. I chose the latter prior in 2012 when this little-big town was still flying under the radar. Upon first sight, I realized that the rock ‘n’ roll vibe perfectly matched my personality. I was charmed by the friendliness and support of the arts community. My desires and reality coalesced when my boyfriend, at the time, was offered a job that afforded us an excuse to relocate. In three weeks time, we took a total leap of faith, packed our bags and opened ourselves up to a new journey. Ever since, I have dug in my heels and documented this burgeoning culture.
Straight away I began collecting interviews and black and white portraits of local movers-and-shakers for what has since been coined “the coffee table book of the year” by locals. Word of Mouth: Nashville Conversations dives into how a smorgasbord of creatives have made a living by monetizing their talents.
A year into the project, I applied for Periscope: Artist Entrepreneur Training, a program of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville. Southwest Airlines generously sponsors Periscope by donating plane tickets and vouchers to help connect artists in the program with opportunities across the country. It is a testament to their commitment to investing in thriving creative communities.
When I applied for Periscope, I had recently faced a major challenge—While I had a hundreds of beautiful images and interview text, there was no publisher. I also didn’t have the ability to pinpoint where my book stood in a hyper competitive marketplace. While I was an excellent saleswoman I had zero business savvy. If I wanted to distribute my passion project then I needed guidance in a different arena. This program changed the way I looked at my art and abilities. It allowed me to see myself as a brand and my book a business.
As artists we often focus so much on the craft, that it’s easy to neglect basic business guidelines like creating set prices and contracts to protect our work. After a lifetime of working when I felt “inspired,” the idea of strategizing a game plan was revelatory. For the first time, through Periscope, I had mentors who cared about the wellbeing of my finances. After a lifetime of “winging it” I was challenged to create long-term career goals. I was finally on a track that instilled an incredible amount of confidence and respect within myself.
I will forever be grateful to Periscope and Southwest Airlines for shining a light on the skills that needed sharpening and proving that even the most right-brained individual can maintain their checks and balances. It’s been an invaluable funnel for someone like myself whose brain is constantly churning out ideas. The program filtered and fine-tuned my visions into concrete action plans. By leaning more heavily on the pragmatic part of my mind, I also became clearer on what it is that I would like to contribute to the creative world. Whether it is bringing the Word of Mouth brand to other cities or writing a children’s book, I want to tie my talents to endeavors that move others and myself. Ideally, it will be something unique to this planet. Whatever sticks, I can promise you’ll be the first to know.
Thank you to Southwest Airlines for partnering with the Arts & Business Council and other nonprofits to offer programs such as Periscope that redefined the way that I see the world. Creatives such as myself are indescribably appreciative of the opportunity you’ve given us to learn about the business world. Your altruistic investment in Nashville’s artistic community is one of the reasons that I look to your brand for inspiration.
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This weekend marks the 70 th anniversary of the end of World War II. Although the second Great War predates the history of Southwest Airlines, our home of Love Field played in an important role in supporting the efforts of the allied forces and the march to victory following the surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945.
Love Field’s very name derives from early Army aviator Lt. Moss Lee Love, who was killed in a crash during the buildup to World War I. Prior to the United States entering the second War, pilots from the Royal Air Force trained at Love Filed and other nearby airports in North Texas. It offered much better weather for flying, and was also far enough removed from active combat to alleviate the fear of attack from German fighters and bombers. The 5 th Ferrying Group, with men and women from the civilian and military ranks, also established a home at Love Field to support the movement of aircraft from stateside factories to bases and fronts throughout the conflict.
In honor of the 70 th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II, Southwest Airlines has the privilege of flying Elinor Otto (pictured above), who is referred to as the longest working “Rosie the Riveter,” to San Diego to celebrate at the USS Midway Museum. The name 'Rosies' were given to women who took on the thousands of jobs left, after men had departed for the war. Elinor built airplanes for more than 50 years. In November 2014, Ms. Otto was honored for her contributions to the military with the Lillian K. Keil award from the American Veterans Center. Southwest Airlines is a proud community partner of the USS Midway Museum and we are honored to welcome Elinor Otto onboard.
Here in Dallas, the Frontiers of Flight Museum (home to the Southwest Airlines Heart of our History exhibit) will also be paying tribute to the Rosies with their “Greatest Generation’s Greatest Day” event. They will be attempting to set a Guinness World with the largest gathering of people dresses as Rosie. It’s another way to celebrate those who served both at home and on the front lines, preserving many of the freedoms we cherish today.
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This summer, Southwest Airlines announced the LUV Seat: Repurpose with purpose program, a global initiative to upcycle 43 acres of leather seat covers that were removed when we retrofitted our aircraft. We knew we didn’t want to just discard it in a landfill or shred it, and thus, the LUV Seat journey began. We called on Employees and Customers to help us find organizations that could turn the seats that once carried our Customers from place to place into beautiful new products, all while making a positive difference in the world. We are proud to announce that our collaborators in the LUV Seat program have done just that! This week, we successfully distributed hundreds of leather soccer balls and shoes in Nairobi, Kenya. The Kenya distribution completes the second phase of this impactful, multi-year program. In Nairobi, nonprofits SOS Children’s Villages Kenya, Alive & Kicking, Maasai Treads and Life Beads Kenya have provided vocational and skills training for young adults and community members by making shoes, soccer balls, backpacks, wallets, and make-up bags from the used leather. Young adults, ranging in age from 17 to 22, from SOS Children’s Villages Kenya apprenticed in leather works and produced 2,100 pairs of shoes with the local sustainable shoe company Maasai Treads. The shoes are being donated to SOS villages and Ahadi Trust as part of an anti-jigger campaign, and to Cura Orphanage, a residence for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. These young adults also learned how to hand-stitch 1,000 soccer balls with partner Alive & Kicking. In addition to making soccer balls, Alive & Kicking uses sports education campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention. Kenya-based GoodMakers Films and the Gina Din Foundation are at the helm of managing the project in Kenya and were instrumental in bringing the diverse organizations together. Additionally, Creative Visions Foundation was an invaluable resource in getting the LUV Seat program off the ground. In the U.S., Southwest Airlines partnered with LooptWorks, a domestic upcycling company, to create high-quality duffle and tote bags, which provided skills training by creating jobs for disabled adults. Each LUV Seat bag by Looptworks saved more than 3,000 gallons of fresh water and will be available for sale to the public starting this month (http://looptworks.com/LUV/). Enter promo code LUVSEAT to receive a 20 percent discount. Additionally, a limited number of the soccer balls produced by Alive & Kicking will be for sale at the Freedom Shop (www.swafreedomshop.com) in the near future. To learn more about the LUV Seat program, please visit http://www.swamedia.com/luvseat or join the conversation by using #LUVseat.
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This guest post from Catherine Arambula, President of MANA de San Diego, originally appeared in the August 2014 edition of our onboard magazine, Spirit.
What I LUV most about my role as president of MANA de San Diego, a local chapter of the national Latina organization MANA, is seeing the young women we mentor on their high school graduation days, as they realize the positive results of all their hard work.
The Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program offers yearlong mentoring relationships to Latinas in grades seven through 12. Our hope is that we will inspire our hermanitas (Spanish for little sisters) to graduate high school and pursue higher education. Additionally, we award first-year college scholarships to qualified high school graduates who have participated in the program. Since Hermanitas began in 1987, we have served more than 700 girls in the greater San Diego area.
At MANA de San Diego, 100 percent of the student participants in our Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program have gone to college since 2006. We attribute much of that success to the dedicated mentors who strive to make a meaningful, lifelong difference in the lives of the Hermanitas. But the truth is the mentors can’t do it alone; students must be willing to put in the hours and the effort to take control of their lives into their own hands. Once they do that, it’s truly amazing to see what they can accomplish.
WATCH & LEARN Hermanitas students explore the sciences at UC San Diego.
In addition to the Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor program, MANA de San Diego has another scholarship initiative that rewards students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, community involvement, educational aspirations, and career goals. We also take grade point average, special circumstances, and financial need into consideration. About $30,000 in scholarships is awarded annually.
Without invaluable community partners, our work to promote leadership and education among Latina students would not be possible. So I’m thankful for companies like Southwest Airlines, one of our top corporate sponsors, that allow us to continue to make the Hermanitas Youth Leader-ship Mentor program an annual success
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At Southwest Airlines, we’re proud of our talented women Employees who have made history not only at Southwest, but in the aviation industry as a whole. During Women’s History Month, we salute the many women who are blazing trails all over the globe and right here in our corner of the world.
Colleen Barrett, Southwest Airlines’ President Emeritus
In 2001, Colleen Barrett was named the President of Southwest Airlines, making her the first female President in the aviation industry. Colleen’s focus on LUV, following the Golden Rule, and providing the Positively Outrageous Customer Service for which Southwest is known is ingrained in the Southwest Culture.
Sherri Maple in the Flight Deck
Captain Sherri Maple made history at Southwest Airlines by being our first woman Check Airman, and she also became the first female pilot to become a Chief Pilot at Southwest at our Phoenix base and one of the first female Chief Pilots in the US airline industry in 1997.
It’s not just up-in-the-air where women make their mark as “firsts!” Joni Taylor and Tennina McAnany are two of many female Station Leaders at Southwest, but they broke ground years ago by being among the first female Ramp Supervisors and Provisioning Agents, respectively, at Southwest and in the industry.
L-R, Megan Konkler, Customer Service Agent; Rebecca Sanders, Flight Attendant; Stephanie Walker, Flight Attendant (on Captain’s right); Darlene Poe, Operations Agent; Cindee Goes, Captain; Claudia Borrayo, Flight Attendant (to Captain's left, kneeling); Rose Castillo, Flight Attendant, (to Captain's left, standing); and Doris Hackett, First Officer.
Today at Southwest Airlines, women make up more than 40 percent of the Company. Additionally, nearly 35 percent of the Company’s total Leadership roles are held by women. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see an entire Flight Crew of women. Oakland Captain Cindee Goes happened to notice on a recent flight to Las Vegas that her entire Crew, as well as the Operations Agent and Customer Service Agent at the gate, were all women!
Captain Sherri Maple flying with an all-female Flight Crew
Thank you to the talented women of Southwest Airlines for all you do!
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This is a guest post from Patricia Whittemore, Marketing Professional and Green Fitnesspreneur, who won the Cocktail Napkin business concept challenge during last September’s Southwest-sponsored Denver Startup Week.
I think of myself as an innovative marketing professional who is passionate about fitness and sustainability. I always thought it would be great to meld my two passions together to make the world a better place. That’s how I came up with my small business idea of opening a green gym where the ellipticals, treadmills, and bikes create electricity to power the gym and community. Therefore, I decided to attend Denver Startup Week in September 2013.
The week consisted of sessions, presentations, and networking time in celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver. As a sponsor of the week, Southwest Airlines held a Cocktail Napkin Challenge in which participants submitted their business concept on a cocktail napkin—a nod to how Southwest’s business model was first outlined. At the end of a great Startup Week, the panel of four judges reviewed the 80+ submissions and chose my business concept as the winner of the Cocktail Napkin Challenge! The prize was an all-expense paid trip for two to Dallas, overnight stay at the Wyndham, and a visit to Southwest Airlines Headquarters to spend a day touring the facilities and learning from key Executives.
With my husband as my guest, our morning started out wonderfully by meeting the CEO, Gary Kelly. We discussed the start of Southwest Airlines and state of the airline business. We also talked about my green gym business plan. Mr. Kelly was kind enough to meet with us for 30 minutes longer than we were scheduled.
We then met with the Senior Director of Marketing and discussed advertising in a nontraditional airline concept. We also met with the Senior Director of Corporate Outreach & Preparedness and the Vice President of Communication & Outreach who shared ideas about corporate communications during positive and negative times. We were also able to meet with the Senior Manager of Corporate Communication to discuss sustainability efforts in the airline industry.
It so happened that we were there on the same day that the Communication & Outreach Team celebrated Thanksgiving, and the Team was nice enough to invite us to their annual “Feast” where we experienced the Culture of Southwest Airlines. The huge potluck lunch included turkey and all the trimmings. There was even a competitive green bean casserole cook-off and a contest for the best hat!
Overall, everyone at Southwest was a delight to meet as they discussed their roles and my business idea, which was very well-received. It is nice to see a welcoming group and positive work environment in a large corporation. This whole experience gave me confidence that my business idea is worth researching more and entering in more business idea competitions. Thank you to Southwest Airlines for such a great experience!
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This is a guest post from Jim White, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Volunteers of America, Colorado Branch.
When I walk by the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park in Denver, I’m immediately drawn in by the great music that’s always playing, the sound of children laughing, and the sight of people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying their day together.
You might see a skating party, downtown workers at lunch, students, or other members of the community out and about. (We’ve even seen the mayor take a spin on ice skates!) The rink draws a diverse crowd because of its great outdoor location, and even those who don’t want to try their luck on ice skates can enjoy the ambiance. To me, there’s nothing else in the city that’s quite like the rink.
The best part of the Southwest Rink is that it’s free for everybody to enjoy. The skate rentals are usually a nominal $2, but, just like last winter, if you bring mittens, gloves, or stocking caps for the Volunteers of America’s homeless mission, Southwest will waive the fee. Additionally, Southwest will donate 50 percent of the proceeds from broomball games played at the rink to the VOA.
Last year, the VOA served 250,000 individuals in 30 programs—from three- and four-year-olds in our Head Start program to community members in their 90s who receive Meals on Wheels. In order to make this kind of a difference in our communities, we count on wonderful volunteers to help us achieve our mission.
This year, Southwest donated funds that the VOA used for holiday and winter relief programs. And we were lucky enough to win a basketball-shooting contest that Southwest hosted, where the winning charity received a $5,000 check from the airline. That money has helped us feed thousands of people and provide hundreds of nights of shelter for homeless women and their children. Our staff and volunteers enjoy time together at the rink and not just the scenery and skating. Knowing also that our charity is being helped makes the rink a spot that really works for us.
When the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park first opened four years ago, I knew it was a place I would LUV. Thank you, Southwest Airlines and the Downtown Denver Partnership, for making a positive difference in Denver and for creating a place where our community can gather.
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Southwest Airlines is proud to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). In addition to recognizing the abilities of all of our Employees, we asked some of our Customers and Employees to share their personal experiences with Southwest Airlines.
The first story is guest-authored by Alex Montoya, Manager of Latino Affairs for the San Diego Padres, while the next comes to us from Connie Roberts, professional blogger, advocate, and review writer.
The Straw that Stirs
As a person with a disability—I wear prosthetics on both arms and my right leg due to being born a triple amputee—I am used to extra challenges. This is especially true when flying.
Bags aren't very easy to carry. Airports seem especially long and cavernous. And security checkpoints can be rather intrusive. (If you're going to wave your wand there, at least buy me dinner first.)
So even the smallest conveniences, benefits, or surprises are actually quite huge for people like me.
Preboarding is a Godsend, particularly since I can pick a seat with good legroom and get assistance with my carryon.
Also, I usually will ask that my (scrumptious) honey roasted peanuts be placed in an empty plastic cup—makes them easier to consume because I can just grab the cup lid instead of each individual nut. And, without fail, a Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant will cheerfully provide the cup and maybe an extra bag of deliciousness.
But one thing I've always known and accepted is that most airline flights do not provide straws. They're considered a security risk, I was once told in the 80s, when I was younger, thinner, and had really big hair.
So, for much of my life, on Southwest flights from Southern California to South Bend, from nirvana (San Diego) to New York, I've accepted this like taxes and Sylvester Stallone movies: Just in case. Be prepared, and bring my own straws.
What if not every flight had them? Or what if they run out?
Then my life changed on October 3, 2013. I preboarded and eased into my window seat, preparing for a wonderful weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. My Notre Dame Fighting Irish were playing Arizona State University in neutral-site Arlington, and the Passenger next to me was way too eager to engage in a trivia battle.
As I prepared for this battle of wits, I also knew my soda was coming. The usual order was taking place. Bags of peanuts. Empty cup. And here comes the beverage, so I'll just reach into my pocket for my str-- ... "Oh don't worry, Alex," said the Attendant, who remembered my name from when I boarded. "We got this. We've had straws on flights for a while now."
Angels sang. Clouds lifted. The lady next to me shut up. SWA, lest there were any doubts, had straws. And one was going in my cup of Coke on a bed of crushed ice. I was stunned. I was speechless. Seriously, I was really, really happy. It made it much, much easier to consume my soda. No spillage. No straining my neck to reach my cup.
I love Southwest. In a “straw” poll, they win every time.
Alex Montoya is the Manager of Latino Affairs for the San Diego Padres. He is the author of two books via Tate Publishing, "Swinging for the Fences" and "The Finish Line." Both are available on tatepublishing.com.
Southwest Airlines Treats People with Disabilities Well
Besides airports and airport screenings, how does an airline treat people with disabilities? Recently, I flew with Southwest Airlines and was surprised at their Customer Service from the staff at the checkin counter, to the Gate Agent and the Flight Attendants.
Remember that with Southwest there are no assigned seats. But, when reserving my flight, I ticked a box that said I needed assistance getting to and from the gate. My boarding pass had an “A” on it which meant I was one of the first to board, but more information was needed at the gate.
At the airport, either at the curbside or Southwest counter, I reminded them of my need for a wheelchair. Within minutes, one appeared. I was scooted off to the gate where the Agent was told I required a blue preboarding sleeve for my ticket. Besides preboarding, a wheelchair aide appeared as if I had rubbed a genie’s lamp. While being pushed down the ramp to the plane, chatter filled the air—from other Passengers and aides.
Then the most astonishing thing happened—the aide passed my carryon bag to the Flight Attendant who helped me load it in the overhead compartment. Since I have trouble lifting my arms, I was so grateful. Having the choice of any seat helped me as well. Since it is difficult to walk long distances, sitting toward the front of the plane is the best area for me. And it is close the front restroom. My flight wasn’t a nonstop, so bringing healthy snacks helped me throughout the day. I was glad that there were no issues with waiting for a wheelchair when I left the plane. This, by far was one of the best airline experiences I’ve had.
Connie Roberts writes as Disabled TravelingMom and edits the product reviews for TravelingMom.com. She is a professional blogger who uses her words to advocate for others. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses and a daughter with chronic medical conditions, her goal on TravelingMom.com is to support and encourage people with disabilities to travel.
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Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Southwest Airlines celebrated the Hispanic culture all throughout our system.
On September 24, Southwest Airlines Employees enjoyed a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration featuring a performance by Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico. This event honored Southwest’s dedication to diversity and inclusion as Employees celebrated the Hispanic culture at our Headquarters.
But our celebrations didn’t stop there. Our Fort Lauderdale Station celebrated the Puerto Rican culture with the first flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan on September 29.
In addition to our celebrations during Hispanic Heritage Month, we are proud to have community partnerships that positively impact the Hispanic community all year long. We partner with more than 65 Hispanic-focused organizations that work hard to make a positive difference in the communities we serve. Through those partnerships, we continue to connect People to what’s important in their lives.
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Ellen Torbert, Southwest Airlines’ Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, was honored Thursday with the Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award. This award, presented by the Women’s Transportation Seminar San Francisco Bay Area (WTS), honors women and organizations that have made a significant contribution in promoting diversity and cultural awareness within their organization, the transportation industry, or in a project/activity that supports the WTS goals and mission.
“Ellen is the architect of the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at Southwest Airlines which aims to equip the leadership to better identify the talents, skills, abilities and unique perspectives of all of the Southwest Airlines Employees,” said Megan Wessel, WTS San Francisco Awards Chair. “For her leadership in promoting diverse talent, her vision for Southwest Airlines and for blazing the trail for others who will come after her, Ellen Torbert is a clear choice for the Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award.” “It’s truly an honor to be recognized by the Women’s Transportation Seminar San Francisco Bay Area. I feel privileged to work for a Company that recognizes that our unique cultures make us who we are, therefore, we value and embrace the diversity of all our Employees and Customers,” said Ellen Torbert. “Southwest Airlines has a long history of celebrating its People, and I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of my Company.” In her role, Ellen provides leadership, vision, and advocacy as Southwest continues its work to foster an inclusive work environment. As part of Ellen's responsibility for Southwest's diversity and inclusion efforts, she provides coordination and leadership to the Company’s supplier diversity, diversity recruiting, and training efforts.
Congratulations, Ellen! You make us proud!
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Last week, we took you to New York City on a journey with Nellie’s Youth Village from Florida. This week, we’re taking you under the sea where you’ll learn how an Illinois-based organization used 40 roundtrip tickets on Southwest for a unique scuba diving experience: Jim Elliott, President and Founder of Diveheart We were recently given the amazing opportunity of providing two groups of people who have made extreme sacrifices to our country, a chance to bond and share and heal a bit. My name is Jim Elliott and I am the President/Founder of Diveheart. We are located in Downers Grove, Illinois, and we offer scuba diving opportunities and adventures to children, adults and veterans with disabilities. We have, over our eleven year history, found that the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of scuba are beyond measure. Last year, we started working with Gold Star families who have lost a loved one in the military. These are parents, spouses, children and siblings of our service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and whose lives have consequently been forever changed. We hoped that our work with them would help them believe in a life of hope and happiness and adventure. We have for many years, worked with military wounded, and we decided to design a trip to Florida, specifically for Gold Star families to dive alongside veterans with disabilities. Our wounded veterans are facing what may be their new normal which might include missing arms, missing legs, dealing with traumatic brain injuries or loss of vision. The Gold Star families are dealing with what is their own new normal, which certainly also includes a painful loss. It’s obviously not the same, but the Gold Star families and wounded veterans have in common, the fact that they’re all facing difficult transition resulting from immeasurable loss. As we planned this trip, we learned something else...that oftentimes; families of fallen troops lose their treasured connection to the military at the death of their loved ones. This trip was a great way for them to regain their ties. The trip was made possible due to the generosity of Southwest Airlines which provided roundtrip airline tickets to us as part of its 40 th anniversary celebration “Showing LUV to our Communities for 40 Years”.
Participants on the trip spent six months together training and learning together prior to the trip. While they were spending time together, they were learning to depend on each other while they grew and healed together. We have four Gold Star families from Illinois, a group of Diveheart volunteers including an active Navy corpsman, and three veterans with disabilities: two who are blind and one who is a paraplegic and in a wheelchair. Rick Olson, a veteran who is blind, wrote his reflections on the trip when we returned.
“What drew us together for the trip aside from our deep connection to the military is the fact that we have all endured a loss. All of our lives have changed dramatically and irreversibly and we are all seeking to live with what we call our new normal. All of us have a burden to carry but you would not notice any challenge or disability after spending the week seeing, talking and listening to each other. Yes the scuba diving was some of the best that I have done, but what was really special was the camaraderie between everyone including the children. We all laughed, cried, and most of all, we listened to each others’ stories.”
I feel so blessed to have been able to bring these wonderful, brave, selfless people together for this experience that changed their lives, and my life as well! Be sure to tune in to NUTS About Southwest for one final story about our winners! To learn more about all that Southwest Airlines is doing in the community, please visit www.southwest.com/citizenship.
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When we celebrated our 40 th anniversary, Southwest Airlines decided to give flight to the dreams of nonprofit organizations across the nation. We did that by giving away 1600 roundtrip tickets—40 roundtrip tickets for 40 nonprofit organizations. We asked nonprofits to send us a photo and an essay describing what they’d do with 40 tickets from Southwest Airlines, and with only 36 hours to submit their entry, they had to think fast. We were overwhelmed by the amazing response we received and after evaluating each essay, we chose 40 deserving winners. We filled FedEx envelopes with 40 tickets each and shipped them to different cities throughout the country. We gave the nonprofits 18 months to use their tickets and we asked them to share the details of their trips once they arrived back home. We’re pleased to say that 18 months later, their amazing stories are rolling in and we’d like to share a few of them with you:
Nellie’s Youth Village was formed to create a safe place to provide various educational and recreational services to low-income at-risk children ages 5 to 16. They work to teach these children to grow into responsible, self sufficient adults by providing them with the tools to develop constructive practices and goals. The following story comes to us from Nelli's Youth Village founder, Nellie Bogar. Nellie Bogar, founder of Nelli's Youth Village It all began with Lauren Magli, Events Manager, Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. Lauren informed me in July of 2011 about the Southwest Airlines ticket giveaway. 40 tickets each were to be awarded to 40 nonprofit organizations across the nation as part of the airline’s 40th anniversary celebration. The contest, which was open for less than two days, asked applicants to explain what their organization was about, why they should be chosen and what trip they would take if awarded the tickets. After consulting with the children, we decided to make New York City our destination because of its diversity as well as its educational and recreational sites.
When we got the call that we had won, I was stunned! Even behind the closed doors of my office, the children could hear me screaming with joy! It took many months of planning and fundraising for hotels, food, and attractions, and planning to make it work. We took off for New York City on June 4, 2012. One of my most memorable moments came when brothers Herbie, age 9, and Isaac, age 8, were sitting across the aisle from me when the plane was about to take off. Isaac and Herbie hollered with joy while grabbing each other’s faces saying "look at us... we’re flying!" We weren’t even off the ground yet; we were taxiing down the runway! Thinking back on our trip, I am filled up with so many wonderful moments like that one.
Every day was so special. My sister, MaeRetta, who lives in New Jersey, bought tickets for everyone to see The Lion King on Broadway. I cannot describe how happy and thrilled the children were to actually sit in a theater and see a live show in NYC. One of the girls asked if we could stay and see it again! The kids also got to see the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero which was VERY moving. I’m originally from New Jersey and have been to New York literally hundreds of times, but this was the best because I saw it all brand new through the eyes of my kids!
This was a trip of a lifetime for these children. At least 90% of them are from low-income single-parent households. From donated meals for a picnic in Central Park to chaperones volunteering their time, I was overwhelmed by the support we received from companies and individuals who made this trip possible for us.
Thanks again and again Southwest Airlines, you made a difference in the lives of many children.
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Throughout my life, I’ve had the rare opportunity to have living history at my fingertips. My grandfather (whom I’ve always called Tops) is a veteran of World War II, and I’ve been able to ask him questions about the war and get his firsthand memories as my answers. As a Purple Heart recipient and former Prisoner of War, you can imagine that he has some pretty moving stories about his experiences in Europe. Since today marks the 68 th anniversary of D-Day, I decided to ask Tops about his memories of the day. He said that he was already far from home, the small east Texas town of Sulphur Springs. He was assigned to the Army’s 3 rd Division and was in Washington, D.C., waiting to make the trip overseas with his Division. Not knowing where exactly the ship was headed, his mind was full of questions and naturally, worries. He remembers hearing about the events of D-Day while he was in D.C. and feeling sorrow for so many who lost their lives. According to D-Day.org, “On June 6, 1944,150,000 Allied troops’ (from 12 allied countries) ‘landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft supported the invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in France. The D-Day cost was high with more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded as the march across Europe to defeat Hitler began.” Tops says that he didn’t personally know anyone who lost their life on D-Day, but he, of course, felt the pain of losing friends throughout the war. Being from a small town himself, he had a particularly soft place in his heart for the fallen soldiers in Bedford, Virginia. According to Tops, Bedford was a town of only about 3,200 people and they lost 19 soldiers on D-Day (the biggest loss per capita of any town on that day). It is for that reason that Bedford is the home of the National D-Day Memorial. Nearly 70 years later, it’s hard to find many people who can share their personal memories about D-Day or even World War II, but it’s important for us to keep the memories alive of fallen soldier throughout our country’s history, as well as find any opportunity to honour those both past and present for their service to our country.
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