The way Genesis Middlebos tells it, she was just 9 years old when the course of her life was set.
It happened on an average day as she walked up the front porch steps to her home. Genesis looked up and noticed a jet flying by.
The girl had surely seen airplanes before, of course, but this one gave her pause.
“I couldn’t understand what kept it up there,” she said. “It went against every bit of physics that I knew.”
And that’s all it took. No matter what, the precocious child knew that she, too, would one day defy gravity and soar.
“I caught the bug,” said Genesis, who is now 15.
Excuse me. I meant Capt. Genesis. That’s the rank the Spokane teenager holds in the Civil Air Patrol.
Genesis is also the cadet commander of the Coeur d’Alene Composite Squadron. The group, with 32 cadets, meets four times a month at the Coeur d’Alene Airport.
The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
In a military-like setting, CAP gives youth (ages 12-21) real-world responsibilities in disciplines like search and rescue, radio communications and providing disaster relief.
More importantly, CAP cadets like Genesis can learn how to fly for free.
I met Genesis on a recent cold Tuesday night when her squadron was meeting at the Coeur d’Alene Airport on the outskirts of Hayden.
Dressed in a crisp, dark uniform, Genesis escorted me through the CAP facilities and introduced me to some of her squadron’s adult leaders.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my tour guide was no ordinary 15-year-old kid.
Genesis has always been quite advanced for her age, explained her mom, Jasmin, who cited some amazing examples, like …
At age 2, Genesis helped pack baskets at the food bank. At age 4, she was reading, and she had her own email address at age 6.
Two years later, the youngster was studying the precepts of online banking.
“It’s not always easy raising such a go-getter,” said Jasmin, laughing. “Sometimes I’m pulling my hair out.”
Turning serious for a moment, Jasmin added that her daughter possesses “a heart of gold and lots of humanity.”
She also knows the importance of research.
Listening to Genesis tell me her life story, I couldn’t help but notice a commonality. Anytime she had a question or an obstacle to overcome, the girl would turn on her laptop and figure out a solution.
“How do airplanes fly?”
Genesis Googled that question after her front porch eureka moment. She’s been studying the science of aerodynamics ever since.
Her computer also led her to the Young Eagles. The program gives youths a taste of aviation with a free airplane ride.
Genesis signed up. Sure enough, the experience was everything she dreamed it would be.
“It was the most amazing feeling. I had not made the wrong choice,” she said.
“You feel weightless. I could see tens of hundreds of miles pouring out before me. You realize you have the world at your fingertips.
“I knew I had to find a way” to become a pilot, she said.
Even more importantly, however, her investigations led to the Washington Virtual Academies. An online public charter school, WAVA allows students to take classes online at an individualized pace and schedule.
Genesis, a 10th-grader, is taking coursework in subjects like French, honors algebra and honors literature.
“I prefer the online schooling,” said Genesis, adding that it has freed her up to pursue some of her additional interests, like Irish dancing, Civil War re-enacting, figure skating and barrel racing.
“It’s a way to go fast,” she said. “Plus, I love horses.”
Her father, Daniel, a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy, was the exception to the cyber rule. He gets credit for telling his daughter about the Civil Air Patrol.
Genesis has already flown over 30 hours, with solo time included.
Remember that name, Genesis Middlebos.
Write it down. Tuck it away. I’m willing to bet that we will all hear it again someday, and associated with something really big.
Who knows? Maybe Genesis will be on the first rocket ride to Mars.
Being an astronaut, she told me, is one of her major goals. Well, after she makes it into the Air Force Academy, that is.
“It’s an honor to be part of the aeronautical community,” she said, adding that she hopes telling her story will inspire other kids. “I want them to realize – they can!”
Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.