Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives DERRICK Interviews by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you insightful perspectives from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.
Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Kenneth Morris who was born and raised in Houston, Texas, 5th Ward to be exact. Kenneth graduated from high school and soon thereafter joined the United States Navy. After separating with an Honorable discharge He went to college and got my degree in Computer Information Systems. After college I returned home to start my nonprofit, Universal Elite Aerospace, to educate the disengaged youth, teens and adults about rewarding aviation careers and more positive options and choices in life.
D is for Dream. What is your dream, goals or what have you achieved?
As an Aviation Philanthropist my goal is to diversify aviation operations by exposing more disengaged youth, teens and adults to the positive and rewarding career fields the industry offers. I would like to infuse more African-American, Hispanic and Female pilots, aircraft mechanics, Aerospace Engineers, Airport Executives, Air Traffic Controllers, Aviation Lawyers, Aviation Doctors, Customer Service Agents, etc. into the aviation/aerospace industry.
Currently for every 100 commercial airline pilots less than 3% are Hispanic, 2% are African-American and even less are women. My dream is to multiply these numbers by ten-fold within the next decade through our grassroots outreach effort today! I hope to show our urban youth that they can attain this career and do not have to be professional athletes, Hip-Hip superstars, entertainers, celebrities or even worse, habitual criminals.
Our company launched on 11/12/13 and the progress has been amazing! We have mentored over 1,000 disengaged urban youth. We were the only nonprofit invited to participate in Houston Independent School District Aviation week alongside United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Houston Airport System employees and other major aviation companies. We have built solid relationships with premier aviation groups and organizations around Houston and gained the support of others throughout the country. We have gained media exposure to help spread the message about the program and also great feedback from other nonprofits who have been in the business for decades!
E is for Education. What is your educational background and how do you use it daily?
I graduated from Jesse H. Jones HS and went to the United States Navy three weeks after graduation. In the Navy I studied the behaviors and propagation paths of acoustic sound signatures produced by diesel and nuclear submarines. I earned the title of Anti-submarine Warfare Systems Operator and Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist. After separating from the military I attained my degree in Computer Information Systems. I use these achievements to motivate me to keep going, because in high school I was an average student and the success afterwards really pushed me to excel.
R is for Resource. What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out?
I bring a unique set of resources, education, knowledge and experiences that most people in the aviation field lack. I work with a wide range of military veterans who are very interested in seeing this company remain a positive staple in the community. I have access to various airports, aviation companies, executives, leaders and program participants. Growing up in 5th Ward the values and lessons of hard work were instilled in me early. I grew up poor so I learned quickly how to make the most of my situation regardless. When I speak to students and teens I share my personal story of setbacks and triumphs to inspire them to get through whatever may be holding them back.
R is for Ready. When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now?
I realized I was ready to start my company, Universal Elite Aerospace, when I was sitting in an advanced aviation seminar and I was the only minority and the ‘new’ information they were teaching was already 5 years old to me. I didn’t seek permission or approval to start my company; I did the research for about 10 months, interviewed many people, noticed the need for a program like mine and the rest is history at this point.
I is for Individual. Name at least one individual in your network that others should learn more about and why?
Very tough question! I can name so many people that were vital to the development of the organization as well as my own foundation.
C is for Challenges. What challenges have you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge I have faced so far is de-programming the mindsets of our urban youth and teens who never even considered a career in aviation. I anticipated this obstacle so I prepared myself to deal with the resistance. Besides getting the youth on board, funding is a priority.
K is for Key. What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?
When it comes to success as an entrepreneur, especially in a non-profit, you have to remain persistent and willing to work harder than anyone else to promote your cause. It is important to be honest and have the utmost integrity in all dealings with others. Communication is vital and be punctual for all events, meetings, conference calls, etc. Never miss an opportunity to learn and listen before you speak! There will be tough days, but get through them, always finish what you start and regardless of how tough it gets, never quit!
Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like to inspire others with?
Universal Elite Aerospace aims to provide more positive options to the disengaged people throughout urban areas and communities throughout every city and state. Though we continuously make great progress we are always interested in contributions and quality volunteers. Also, our fundraising effort can be found at www.gofundme.com/UniversalElite.
Visit Kenneth Morris for more information.