Learning to fly

Kadeen Hazel, Valedictorian 

Kadeen Hazell was chosen as valedictorian of his graduating class, representing his cohort of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario. In his address he spoke about how far he’d come, both geographically and conceptually, as well as the challenges he faced. He implored those gathered to “do what you feel passionate about, take chances, go the extra mile, and don’t be afraid to fail.” He began by quoting the Greek poet Horace on the effect of adversity: 

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” 

Horace 

Faculty, family, friends and graduands of the class of 2019, good afternoon.  My name is Kadeen Hazell and it is my pleasure to address you on behalf of the Essentials Fixed Wing Flight Training Program on this remarkable day. Allow me to give a brief insight into my journey towards my development in this program and highlight a few of the challenges that I’ve faced and overcome to become the person I am today.

I migrated from my home island, Bequia, which measures only 7 miles long, 1 mile wide and has a population of 10,000, to the south of Canada to pursue my dreams. I must admit that getting from there to here wasn’t a smooth journey.

My aspirations of becoming a pilot, as a youth from Bequia, was beyond a dream; it was beyond the realm of possibility. But I’ve dreamt of being a pilot since I was the age of 5 and it was my objective, my deepest desire to make that dream a living reality. I grew up in a poor and turbulent neighborhood. When my “friends” asked what I would like to be in the future, they all laughed at me when I said a pilot and shook their heads indicating how foolish they thought I was.

The one feature that I loved about where I lived was that my house was located a minute’s walk from the airport, so I would look at pilots trying to get their planes on the ground with the vigorous Caribbean trade winds. At the age of 15, when my only goal in life was to further my studies in aviation, I took courses in social sciences.  However, coping with these subjects was only one of the many challenges. I had to travel at 6:00 a.m. via ferry to mainland St. Vincent and I would not return home until 8:00 at night.

At age 18, I graduated from the St. Vincent Community College with a distinction in Pure Mathematics, Physics and Geography, but these accomplishments meant very little to me because at that time in my life I did not have sufficient resources to fund my studies in the aviation industry.  I therefore began working with my father, knowing well that this would not be the end of my dream of becoming a pilot. I then met my Canadian guardians Dave Anderson and Christine Anderson, both of whom helped me reach where I am today. At this time, I am publicly expressing my heartfelt gratitude to you both for all that you have done for me, making my dream a reality. With what would seem as the most difficult of challenges conquered, I had visions of myself flying soon.

However, to ensure this was what I really wanted, life threw at me some other challenges. For example, the temperature in St. Vincent stays around 25 degrees throughout the year, and this being my first winter, I would say that North Bay has welcomed me with its opened arms. Another basic challenge that I faced was simply living on my own with no family around, and don’t get me started on my cooking skills!

I could recall the first time I met Elaine Ross, a devoted individual who also helped me with my transition into the program. Elaine was very enthusiastic and passionate about the flying side of the industry and she told me everything that I needed to know to become not just a pilot but an outstanding pilot. At the beginning of the program, my colleagues and I were very isolated, and being the only international student with a tad bit of language variation made it even more difficult for me to socialize with the others. However, as time progressed and the studies began my class blended and we became close friends, probably too close for the instructors to handle from time to time.

The Canadore program was flawlessly outlined with the bulk of the theory in the month of November, but with consistency comes perfection. At this point of my life in Canada I was beginning to feel comfortable with the weather, the new lifestyle and all the various new customs. I will like to say thank you to Rob, our senior flight instructor, who stuck with us throughout all of the obstacles that we encountered in the Fixed Wing side of the program. He was strict at times when the job had to be done, but always a comedian in the classroom; a true inspiration and role model.

In December of 2018, the fixed wing side of the class was already prepared to write our private license exam. The competition was on in January, infusing the final touches to mold us into the figure we needed to be to pass our exams. I recall a quotation my Dad used regularly as I was growing up. It is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous words.  He said and I quote “The heights by great mean reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” As a little boy I never truly understood what my dad meant by this quotation, but as time progressed I learned that nothing in life worth having comes easily. Nothing in life worth having is given to you without a challenge and I urge everyone here today to face your challenges with a positive and confident attitude knowing that anything is possible if you set your mind towards it.

In this program we worked untiringly throughout the week and even on weekends, not because we were forced to but because these were the types of sacrifices that we had to make to succeed in our quest to become commercial pilots. A wise man once said that the fruit of everything good in life begins with a challenge, and if it’s not difficult then it’s not worthwhile.

I would like to encourage the families and friends, and the graduating students to do what you feel passionate about, take chances, go the extra mile, and don’t be afraid to fail. Many of you might know who Thomas Edison was; the man who invented the light bulb after 1,000 unsuccessful attempts. He was once interviewed and was asked how he felt about failing 1,000 times and replied and I quote “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” So, it goes without saying, do not be afraid of failure.  Your attitude is what matters and will determine whether you bring light to the world or not. Never let your challenges nor fear of failing deter you! Always remember, when everything seems to be going against you, that when we are in those Cessnas, we take off against the wind, not with it.  May we all achieve our goals for successful take offs and landings.