SMO ‚Äî Claire Goldberg started her senior year this fall with almost 20 hours of recorded flight time, about to take off on her first solo trip. The Santa Monica High School student won a scholarship in March to pursue her pilot’s license, and the program is now accepting applications for the next award.

The Flying Scholarship for Girls gives one high school winner 30 hours of airplane and instruction time at the Santa Monica Airport, valid for 30 months from the award date, to work toward a sport pilot license. The deadline is Sunday, Oct. 5, and the winner will be announced in December.

“So many pilots, especially at my lessons, are all male,” Goldberg said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for young women in the sense that it’s still almost an untouchable occupation for females.”

The scholarship is open to girls 15 years and older, currently attending Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District high schools, Venice High School or Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets High School.

Kambiz Taleghani helped start the scholarship program because his daughter was interested in learning how to fly.

“Typically, women have had a more difficult time entering this field,” he said.

About five finalists will be selected, he said, based on application essays on why they want to become pilots. Taleghani said about 50 people applied last time.

The scholarship is a Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM)-related program, as in-flight and on the ground training teaches everything from aerodynamics and geography to engineering and communications.

“The judges ask, ‘How can this individual benefit from this in the future?'” Taleghani said. “We’re looking for the type of person who can give back to society and be a good role model.”

Goldberg said her family has a long history of serving in the Air Force, and the more she learned about pilots in her past, the more interested she became in flying. She said living in the Sunset Park area also made her very familiar with issues surrounding the local airport and its possible closure.

“The scholarship goes away if the airport is closed,” Taleghani said. “It’s dependent on many factors, but we have to keep a practical view and have the resources available.”

For Goldberg, the chance to learn to fly a plane made her think about her future, considering a possible career in the Air Force.

“There’s a stigma that being adventurous takes a lot of guts and girls don’t have guts,” she said. “I feel like I am more open to things now. It has completely changed my perspective on what I might want to do.”

To apply for the Flying Scholarship for Girls, visit

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