a collage of Jayla Lett, her family, and an illustration of an airplane
Elizabeth Driver

Jayla Lett has been fascinated with airplanes ever since she can remember. Growing up, she loved to travel and watch airplanes fly through the sky, and she knew that, one day, she wanted to have a career in aviation.

“When traveling as a kid, I loved visiting the cockpit of airplanes,” she recalls. “To this day, I still get butterflies when I see planes fly through the sky.”

But when the Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight disappeared in 2014, she was unsettled by how many people lost their lives. Right then, Lett knew she wanted to make a difference by improving the technology and security of airplanes.

Since graduating from Lakeside High School in Evans, Georgia in May, Lett began her first semester at her dream school, Georgia Tech, in Fall 2021. She is majoring in aerospace engineering.

But her journey to college was not easy.

When she was 11, her father was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, which forced her to mature quickly. To help with her mom’s busy work schedule as a dentist, Lett learned how to take care of her father’s needs and picked up household chores such as cooking for her family. In high school, she juggled her schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a part-time job at Kroger, and fulfilling her duties as president of her school’s Spanish Honor Society, all while helping care for her father.

“My father’s diagnosis has helped shape me into the person I am today,” Lett says. “At that time, there were a lot of responsibilities I had to undertake, and I had to sacrifice things to take care of my father. But just like anything else, I kept my head high and learned how to conquer it. Even though this stage in my life was not what I predicted 10 years ago, it has helped me enjoy life and start every day with a smile on my face.”

Even though this stage in my life was not what I predicted 10 years ago, it has helped me enjoy life and start every day with a smile on my face.

-Jayla Lett

portrait of Jayla Lett standing with her sister
Jayla Lett with her sister (right).

And Lett never let these challenges get in the way of her dream to attend Georgia Tech and learn the necessary skills to pursue a career in aviation.

“When I was touring colleges, I was empowered by the opportunities that Georgia Tech offers such as internships, campus life, and research,” she said. “Georgia Tech will allow me to pursue my dreams and give me the skills I need to do what I love, and I want to be a part of the inspiring graduates that graduate from Georgia Tech.”

Once she earns her Georgia Tech degree, Lett hopes to stay in Atlanta and work for Boeing or Delta designing and building aircraft. She plans to obtain her pilot’s license too, so that she will understand what it’s like to fly and operate an airplane.

She hopes her story will encourage other students to push through life’s challenges and not give up on their college and career aspirations.