SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The sky's the limit. We've all heard the saying, but for one Minnesota woman, it's not just a saying.
Neda Kellogg is making what seems like the impossible possible for young girls, helping them live out their dreams and reach their full potential.
She's only 12, but Leeanna Pineda is setting her sights pretty high. For the first time, Pineda is flying a plane.
"It's a lot of feelings going on right now," she said. "I'm going to feel like I achieved every single thing that I wanted to do."
The rising eighth grader is a member of Project DIVA International, a Minnesota-based program started by Kellogg. Now in its 15th year, the program has impacted the lives of 5,000 girls like Pineda.
"If we were able to give them these life experiences along with school, like now Leanna, when she goes to school, she's going to be pulling out what she needs towards the vision," Kellogg said.
A daughter following in her mother's footsteps.
"She gets the braveness from me," Karen Pineda, Leeanna's mother, said.
A second generation connecting their biggest dreams with support to realize them.
"I'm the oldest daughter of a working family, so I had to learn about myself as I was growing up because my parents were always at work," Karen Pineda said. "When I got to high school, God blessed me with this new program that Ms. Kellogg started. She didn't know where the program was going to go, but somehow the program allowed me to come out of my shell."
"Our whole goal is that they really have a good footing on their inner being," Kellogg said. "Mental health is so critical for our girls right now."
Research shows the pandemic has only increased the need for mental health help among young girls. Kellogg hopes her program can be a space for girls to heal and figure out who they are and who they want to be.
"We give Black girls, the native American Black girl, the descendants of slaves, a space to really just be," Kellogg said. "It is teaching the girls early on that they can own what they feel and what they envision early, they don't have to wait until they're grown to do that."
Tony Cadotte is a community partner and the owner of Cadotte Aero.
"Every kid wants to learn," he said. "It's the confidence that you get from doing this ... Whether she stays in flying or not, it's kind of a metaphor for everything else she might do in life."
And just like that, a dream is fulfilled.
"I feel amazing. I feel relieved. I don't know, it's a lot of emotions. I just got back from my first flight," Leeanna Pineda said.
A girl taking it all in, coming face to face with what's possible.
"When you go on your first flight, its good like to touch a cloud and I touched four or five clouds," Leeanna Pineda said. "There's not very many other 12-year-olds who can say, 'Oh yeah, I'm with this group, I can fly a plane.' Once I turn 17 I'm going to have my pilot license. I never thought I was going to be able to say that ... It feels so good on so many different levels. You can't really explain it."
The aviation club is just one of the many offerings for Project DIVA International. Others include an entrepreneurship club and academies focused on travel, investment, business, real estate, career exploration and self-love.
The organization fundraises to make these experiences possible. To donate, learn more or get involved, click here.
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