Boeing Scholar Program Helps an Eagle Prepare for Takeoff

Meet Odalis Bonilla: Embry-Riddle first-year student, Aerospace and Occupational Safety major and Boeing Scholar. She was selected as one of 15 Embry-Riddle students to receive scholarship funds and additional career-boosting opportunities with the conglomerate, which is among the largest global aerospace manufacturers in the world.

Aerospace and Occupational Safety major Odalis Bonilla (’25) has an advantage in her future career, thanks to Embry-Riddle’s partnership with Boeing. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)
Aerospace and Occupational Safety major Odalis Bonilla (’25) has an advantage in her future career, thanks to Embry-Riddle’s partnership with Boeing. (Photo: Embry-Riddle / Connor McShane)

Bonilla (’25) is a member of several organizations: AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), Dancing Eagles, Latino Pilots Association, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Women in Aviation International. The future aviator is not only interested in flight; she also has a motorcycle license!

In an initiative to grow the number of women and people of color in the aviation workforce, The Boeing Company’s $3 million contribution gives scholarships to a select few Embry-Riddle students pursuing flight and aircraft maintenance.

“I could not be more grateful for the opportunity I was given,” Bonilla said about being chosen for the prestigious scholarship.

Where are you from? What was it like growing up?

I moved around a lot growing up. I was born in Houston, Texas, but finished middle school and high school in Asheville, North Carolina. Growing up was chaotic and a constant cycle of change. I had to learn to adapt and live in the moment instead of always anticipating the bad. I am extremely grateful for my parents and siblings. I’ve made it this far because of their support.

What interested you most about Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus?

I fell in love with the campus when I toured Embry-Riddle as a senior in high school. I loved the idea of being so close to the beach while having the airport view from dorms or while studying. I had also heard excellent things about their programs.

What drew you to study Aerospace and Occupational Safety?

I really love flying and it is my dream to be an airline pilot, however, I feel it is important to have a backup plan. If for whatever reason in the future I become medically grounded, I still have a career to pursue. It also serves as more in-depth knowledge of accident prevention.

What do you hope to gain from being a Boeing Scholar?

I hope to learn even more from those who have already been in my shoes. A lot of Boeing employees and leaders have gone through experiences that are valuable. I enjoy hearing stories on projects they've helped with or how they've learned to move past their mistakes and forward.

I have already been given great opportunities such as the opportunity to visit the Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, and the ability to network with Boeing employees.

How is Embry-Riddle preparing you for the future?

Classes make me dig deeper into scenarios and ensure we think outside the box. They allow room for error and correct us without being demeaning.

What is your favorite Embry-Riddle experience so far?

The connections I have made. I have met some amazing people and I get inspired hearing their stories.

I have really enjoyed my current classes. The professors are very patient when we need help and I know I have resources, so I don’t fall behind.

What’s it like living on campus?

I love how I am getting to meet and live with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I have become really close with my suitemates and roommate.

What are your plans after you graduate?

After graduation, I plan on working as a CFI until I have enough hours to work as an airline pilot. 

What is your advice for future students?

My advice for future students is to learn to put themselves out there. Socializing can be very intimidating the first couple of days, but everyone is in the same position. Just be yourself and have fun!