Mojave Unified School District- The Annual 4.0 Banquet that has been a staple for years at MSUD about this time of year used to be just for honoring the very brightest and highest grade average students with a 4.0 GPA or above. It was to honor excellence and above average intelligence and the will to achieve them. Some might consider it to be a rather exclusive engagement and one that overlooks lower GPA success stories of ‘Grit and Steam’-a reference to the highly touted STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) program, and now the added ‘A’ for Arts making STEAM out of students drive. A new vision of inclusion was offered up and took root in Mojave this year to honor those students that have shown greater determination than most regardless of GPA.

Last Thursday evening at the Mariah Inn in Mojave the first such event took place as MUSD supplanted the old 4.0 banquet with the new more inclusive “grit and Steam Challenge Banquet format. A brainchild of the Mojave Transportation Museum, MUSD, MASP and many of its more famous clients such as Burt and Tonya Rutan, Scaled Composites, The Spaceship Company, Norm Hill Aviation of Cal City, Golden Queen and many more all sponsored the awards banquet. The ‘winners’ all came from MUSD-Mojave and Cal City, and their mentors got to explain just why they feel these students showed more grit and drive than other higher GPA students offering humorous insights into the local successes.

MTM’s own Cathy Hansen was on hand to co-host the event with Mojave civic supporter Rebecca Reeder of the Do Good Bus program out of Los Angeles, and wife of Zach Reeder of Scaled Composites fame where he is a test pilot. Zach was the guest speaker of the evening telling his own tale of determination and passion for aviation that has led him to his current job which is more joy than work based on that early drive for aviation. Mr. Reeder first flew in a glide he built for about $100 dollars and he’s been flying ever since. Reeder told the students that he was not a valedictorian by any means growing up in humble circumstances I Texas.

His story is one of both drive and passion, but also good fortune to have met mentors and supporters along the way that ultimately helped to shape his career from a guy that didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up to the renowned test pilot he is today. Reeder is currently not just a test pilot but also Flight Test and Project Engineer at Scaled Composites Strato-launch after graduating from Texas A &M in 2005 with a BS in aerospace engineering. He told the students that he was in no way an honor student but just followed his own passions and was fortunate enough to find mentors that helped pave his way to where he is today.

Mayor Jennifer Wood of Cal City as well as field Representatives from Jean Fuller’s office, Zack Scrivners office, and Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s office were on hand to award the driven students with certificates of recognition from the California state Senate among others. Two $500 dollar Scholarships were awarded along with Medals of Achievement from MTM. The new banquet will return next year when they honor more ‘driven students’ with both Grit and Steam in them.