The Founder and CEO of Elevate Aviation gives us a masterclass in the power of mentorship and the sincereness in helping others to overcome life’s toughest challenges.
Kendra Kincade changes lives everyday across Canada by providing a platform for women and underrepresented groups to succeed through careers in aviation. She has founded educational programs, nationwide mentorship programs, bursary programs and more. Currently in expansion at Edmonton International Airport, Elevate Aviation will offer even more programming come the Fall.
You’ve talked openly about your struggles growing up, including being part of the foster care system. When did you know you could absolutely turn your life around?
There were numerous times I’ve struggled with where I was, and how I would create change in my life. I’ve learned it’s really hard to do so without support. I was first married at 18 and had my 4 children by the age of 27. I was busy raising my family and I didn’t spend any time on self-development. Out of the many attempts and steps I took to change my life, I would say discovering Pillsbury Dough Bitch (PDB) was the number one thing that changed everything. PDB is what I call that horrible little voice inside my head that I used to think was real, the one that would tell me I was not good enough and not smart enough. Once I realized I didn’t have to believe what it told me, my life changed.
Your bio reads, “the pathway to her own salvation lay in helping others find theirs.”
I was at the lowest point in my life and sat in front of a computer and typed out, ‘What to do when you want to kill yourself’ – I felt so alone. I had my children so I knew I had to find help. Volunteering came up from that search which led me to Make A Wish.
I was in Leduc delivering a wish – a hot tub. That one wish changed the trajectory of my life. I was walking in a parade that consisted of Leduc fire trucks, ambulances, a mascot, volunteers….and the hot tub. I was watching the little girl and saw the moment she saw her hot tub. The joy on her face made me feel her joy. It was the happiest I’d felt in a very, very long time. It was like finally seeing a bright light at the end of a very long tunnel for me. I guess it became a little bit of an addiction – that feeling that you get when you do something for someone else. It started the path toward Elevate Aviation.
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Talk to us about building out the dream of Elevate Aviation.
Volunteering helped me find my way out of that dark place and led me to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Royal Alexandra Hospital. At the time I was a single mom with four children and I needed to raise $5000 for the hospital to be able to participate in the climb. I decided I would create a calendar to sell with the help of some women that I worked with. A few years later I decided I wanted to build a play area in El Salvador. Another calendar was made to pay for that.
Finally, a mentorship program was formed. Elevate Aviation was created as a nonprofit organization in 2015. It hasn’t stopped growing since.
Talk about your belief and passion around mentorship.
My belief in mentorship comes from a man named Mr. John Bright. Back at the beginning of my career as an air traffic controller, the success rate was 7%.
I was being recommended to cease training (fired). John stood up for me and said he wanted a chance to work with me. He knew I could do the job. He also knew I didn’t have the confidence to do the job. That confidence is what John helped me build up. I will never forget him for doing that and will always be grateful.
With Elevate we have a five-tier mentorship program so we can meet people where they are – whatever stage that is. The mentorship journey continues for people who want to become mentors (any gender).
My belief is that if you can surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and who want to lift you up, then you can do whatever you set your mind to.
Aviation seems inaccessible. How are you breaking down this barrier?
Awareness is the number one barrier. Many people can’t think past a pilot and a flight attendant. But there are a plethora of careers including air traffic controllers, engineers, different pilot careers, lawyers, duty managers, RCAF positions, etc.
We have many things we are doing to break down this barrier; for example, our cross country tour. We go across Canada to bring girls into the aviation industry and let them get hands-on experience. We have our ACE program at the Edmonton Airport (opening at the Calgary Airport in the Fall as the next location for our Canada-wide plan) where we bring students
from grades 6 – 12, and underprivileged adults to the airport for an entire week of exploration. The participants get to visit the air traffic control tower and center. Canadian North turns their Boeing 737 into an escape room.
They visit the Edmonton Flying Club with the opportunity to sit in an airplane and play in the simulator, and much more. High school students get credits for this program. 77% of the students who come through our program say they want a career in aviation.
Another exciting thing we are working on right now is a documentary following six different women and exploring why there are not more women in aviation. We are hoping to take this documentary all across Canada and into schools to show students the amazing opportunities available to them.
How do you find time for everything?
When you are doing something you love, it doesn’t really feel like work.
The secret to growth of an organization is the team. Our team at Elevate is one built on passion. It’s not always fun and games. We work very, very hard and sometimes we have different opinions. But the bottom line is, we love each other and want to see each other happy and succeed – whatever the definition of success looks like for each individual. I couldn’t do what I do without my team. They are my cheerleaders, confidantes, and advisors.
Do you have a favourite memory?
When I had my children. I am so lucky to have an
incredible family. I have four children, two bonus children and three grandchildren.
I’ll share another memory. I was not close to my family growing up. In the later years, my mother and I re-connected. I had the opportunity to take her on a trip she always wanted (Paris, Venice, Rome) a year before she passed away. The last thing she told me was how proud she was of me.
What legacy do you hope to leave?
I hope I can show people that it does not matter where you are in life; if you aren’t happy – you CAN change it. You can remove the self deprecating thoughts you tell yourself and you can create a life you love.
Kendra is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the 2019 SHEInnovator – Global Innovation Coalition for Change (a partner with United Nations Women); Woman of Inspiration – The Universal Women’s Network and the Trailblazer Award – Northern Lights Aero Foundation.
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