Sky is the limit for first Black female pilot at Sterling HS in 16 years

The engine is the heart of the plane, but the pilot is its soul.

This rings true for Sterling Aviation Early College High School graduate Tryniti Ernest, the first Black female to graduate from the school with a pilot’s license in 16 years.

Ranked fifth in her class and serving as student body vice president, Ernest soars high above the rest walking away with not only her diploma and pilot’s license, but also the $2,500 Superintendent’s Scholars Award.

“She has done extraordinary work in the cockpit as well as in the classroom,” Principal Tabitha Davis said. “She’s excited about the new opportunities that this will bring her. And being one of the few African American women who have accomplished this, we are so very proud of her.”

Ernest was among hundreds of Sterling seniors who gathered at Butler Stadium on Saturday night for their graduation ceremony.

As the seniors walked onto the field cheered on by their friends and family, Ernest said she reflected on her education thus far and how much she has grown as a person over the past four years. Ernest said she hopes her accomplishments will inspire others to believe in themselves and pursue difficult things.

“Where I come from, you don’t hear a lot of people say they want to be pilots or go to college,” she said. “I think that what I’ve done so far will inspire someone else to dream big, do the unordinary, and do the uncomfortable things because it will help you grow.”

Ernest said she always loved flying. So, when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s definitely therapeutic,” she said of the experience of flying. “I feel powerful and grateful because not a lot of people get to experience things like that.”

This fall, Ernest will continue her education at Prairie View A&M University, where she plans to major in nursing and join the ROTC Navy Program.  

Joining Ernest on Saturday night was her mother, Kenya Ernest. Her daughter, she said, was making not just their family, but their whole community proud.

 “She’s a pillar of the community,” the proud mom said. “She’s doing what she loves and soaring high.”