Angela's First Flight

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  • Angela Washington had never been on an airplane. And she thought she never would. Until the unexpected happened.

    In the fall of 2022, Mountain Brook Schools (MBS) Superintendent, Dr. Dicky Barlow, set his sights on getting to know each one of the district’s employees on a personal level. This began his journey spending 10-15 minutes talking with each of the nearly 800 Mountain Brook Schools employees, a feat at which he is still chipping away.

    In the spring of 2023, Barlow sat down at Brookwood Forest Elementary with Washington, who was nearing the end of her fifth year as an employee in the school’s cafeteria. The two discussed family and Angela’s travels to support her daughter’s passion for basketball. Washington mentioned that she had never flown on an airplane before and has journeyed as far as Orlando to watch her daughter play basketball.

    Inspired by Jesse Cole’s book Fans First and Will Guidara’s Unreasonable Hospitality, Barlow began to brainstorm what he could do for Angela since she had never been in a plane before.

    Cue Institute Day, August 1, 2023. Barlow spoke to all MBS employees in his annual address and called Washington on stage for a surprise. He told the crowd about this year’s focus as a district on hospitality and serving others. He then told Angela, in front of nearly 1,000 people, that she would be going on an airplane for the first time ever!

    Mike Culwell, a Manager at Brasfield and Gorrie, has been working alongside MBS Facilities Director, Tommy Prewitt, the past few years on capital projects around the school district. He owns a four-seat, Cessna 182 plane and Barlow asked if he’d be willing to take Washington around Birmingham for her first flying experience. Culwell obliged and on September 8, Angela took off with Mike from the Birmingham Airport.

    Washington is an avid Alabama fan so they flew to Tuscaloosa and back where Angela was able to see Bryant-Denny Stadium, the University of Alabama campus and other landmark spots from thousands of feet up in the air.

    “I really thought I would be nervous,” Washington said after landing back in Birmingham. “ But thankfully, I was not. It was thrilling!”

    The experience was one she said she’ll never forget.

    “No more driving,” Washington joked during the plane ride.