Houston Forward Times

29 January 2014 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

5th Ward Native Opens Doors in Aviation for Our Youth

Aviation - JUMP - CopyKenneth Morris, 34, should serve as an inspiration for all young Black men and women in America, as he has taken on a leadership mantle that far too many people turn a blind eye to.

 Morris, who is a veteran of the U.S. Navy Veteran and a licensed pilot, has taken the lessons he has learned throughout his military service and has started an organization, Universal Elite Aerospace (UEA) that has positioned him to make a difference in the lives of our future generation of leaders from the inner-city. 

Morris began UEA as a means to educate, promote, encourage and strengthen the presence of underprivileged, under-represented, informed and socioeconomically challenged individuals in the Greater Houston area in the aviation and aerospace industry.

In order to truly understand UEA, you would have to delve into the background of this remarkable young man to fully understand the framework behind the organization and the foundation he is laying in order to achieve the overall goals of his aviation initiative.

Morris is originally from the historic 5th Ward, a traditional Black neighborhood in Houston, where he graduated from Jesse H. Jones High School and went to the Navy straight out of high school because he didn’t feel he was fully prepared to go to college. He believes going to the Navy was one of the best decisions he ever made because it changed his life and perspective on things as a young Black man growing up in an area of town where he felt he had minimal options for career choices.

Morris joined the Navy and immediately went into the aviation side of the Navy because he felt like there was more opportunity for him to advance his career there and because there were not very many African Americans in the field.  That decision paid off for him, because he made rank in about three years, which is twice as fast as one would normally accomplish that feat.

Once in the Navy, Morris began touring all over the United States and visited over 30 different countries all over the world, which completely changed his mind set and helped him understand the diversity of the world a whole lot better. He immediately knew that he didn’t want to keep this experience to himself, so he started UEA in order to teach disenfranchised, inner-city children about these opportunities in aviation.

UEA is a multifaceted, not-for-profit organization that attracts and bolsters interest in aviation in the urban areas of Greater Houston with hopes of developing a more diverse and equally demographic aviation operational environment, primarily amongst pilots and flight engineers. The organization is focused on promoting what they call their 5 Star principles: Education, Self-Worth, Aviation Opportunities, Financial Literacy, Leadership and Volunteerism.

Through his vision, Morris is focused on enhancing the image and accessibility of aviation to youth and young adults who would not know about these opportunities if not for his program.

“The ultimate goal of the project is to proactively educate, promote and direct minority youth and women on the many aviation opportunities that are available if they apply themselves,” says Morris. “Indirectly, the more individuals we are able to connect with gives us the ability to help steer them in a positive direction and away from criminal activities that will jeopardize their future.  That is my ultimate goal.”

Morris officially launched UEA in 2013 on Veteran’s Day, and to date he states that the organization has impacted over 500 kids and counting. He targets young people between 10 to 19 years of age, with the hopes of catching their attention early enough to help them consider a career course that they will never regret.

Morris states that for every 100 commercial airline pilots, only 2 of those pilots are African American; a statistic he hopes to change long-term.

“There is big disconnect between inner city kids and these opportunities,” says Morris. “In the next 10 years a lot of Baby Boomers will be retiring and we need to add more diversity to the aviation industry by training urban kids up to be the next generation of pilots and industry professionals.”

Morris says that outside of being a pilot, there are many other opportunities for African Americans in the areas of mechanics, aviation lawyers, aviation doctors and many more careers that are not currently being occupied by African Americans.

Morris is so committed to this program that he currently pays for the entire program out of his own pocket, but is seeking grants and other donations in order to reach more kids. 

“I believe in this so much because it changed my life,” says Morris. “Many of my friends are either incarcerated or have chosen a different path that hasn’t turned out favorable for them.  Most kids wouldn’t have the type of access to aviation professionals and resources like we provide if it wasn’t for an organization like this.”

Morris introduces kids in his program to key aviation professionals and also partners with select colleges and universities to give the kids training and experience on a flight simulator.

Morris does presentations at elementary, middle and high schools across the Greater Houston area and shares his aviation experience every time. UEA has been chosen by HISD to present alongside United Airlines to do presentations at various schools in HISD.

In order for the organization to grow, Morris states that he needs vehicles to transport the kids; volunteers and donation of funds. Morris is currently employed as an I.T. computer instructor, which is how he pays for the program, but his passion for reaching today’s youth is something to be admired. 

For more information on UEA, please visit their website at www.universalelite.org.

MAA WereReady