Stephanie Grant was mesmerized the day she toured Shaw Air Force Base with her uncle, David J. Grant. Only 10 or 11 years old at the time, Grant knew she wanted to be a pilot, but she didn't know that she was going to be part of history.
On Feb. 12, 2009, Grant, a commercial airline pilot, was on call when a pilot, who was supposed to fly from Atlanta to Nashville, called in sick. Grant thought nothing of it at first until she saw Rachelle Jones, one of the few black female captains, in the cockpit.
"It was business as usual at first, but somehow I knew that moment was special, merely because it was my first flight with Jones," Grant said. So special that Grant decided to snap a picture of her and Jones as well as her, Jones and the two black female flight attendants.
Grant said that the photos took a life of their own and became viral on the Internet. Before she knew it, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals confirmed her and her crewmates flew into aviation history - the first all-female black flight crew on a commercial airline.
Eight years later, Grant stepped into the limelight again, but this time her stage wasn't in the air but at Disney Junior, a channel on the Disney TV network.
Disney Junior found Grant through her blog, outsidethecockpit.com, and invited her to be a part of its interstitials - short programming bridging two stories or programs - on Disney Jr. and Disney XD. The interstitials highlight prominent black men and women of history and will be introduced by Doc McStuffins, the titular black character of a Disney Channel and Disney Junior show.
Where you come from is not where you are going, Grant said. She hopes that her story is able to inspire young girls and boys with similar backgrounds, as Grant herself was raised by a single mother, the now married Martha Grant-Scott. Grant graduated from Sumter schools and earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Hampton University.
By Grant's estimation, there are about 100 female black pilots on commercial airlines. Grant strives to be a role model not just for females, but also any person of color.
"Just because the world said February is Black History Month, every day I demonstrate some level of black history because I am a part of history," Grant said.
Becoming a pilot is no cake walk, but the No. 1 obstacle was money. For two-and-a-half years, Grant worked a 9-to-5 job and attended flight school at Ari Ben Aviator in Fort Pierce, Florida, on nights and weekends.
"It was a long and rough journey from being a passenger of a plane as a child to now being a pilot of a plane," Grant said.
Grant said she was humbled to share her story on Disney Junior.
"Anyone who has a dream and perseverance can do whatever they put their mind to," Grant said.
The interstitial is now airing on Disney Junior.