GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — West Michigan Aviation graduate Hope Johnson is nothing short of an idol in the eyes of Julie Hoek's fifth grade class at Orchard View Elementary School.
After spending the last year as pen pals, she’s now showing students what their future can hold.
The idea came together on Veterans Day when the class did a video conference with Johnson.
"We were all thinking about how we wanted her to be recognized because she was really cool and awesome," says Aluet Deng, one of the students.
So the class started sending Johnson letters, highlighting her experience at the West Michigan Aviation Academy and her plans to become a military pilot.
"All the kids wrote letters to Hope just encouraging her and wishing her well and thanking her for her service as she was getting ready for boot camp," says Hoeks.
And her responses are already making an impact.
"Hope is just a like a really inspiring person," fifth grader Breslin Waite says.
"She has done a lot of cool stuff like right after high school and I wanna go to the same high school so I can get my pilot's license and then go right into the Navy after that," Waite said.
The class has kept up with Johnson as her journey shifted south when she was accepted into the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in Alabama.
Showing the students that a little encouragement, can go far.
"It's really nice to know that they're inspired and they have someone to look up to cause I had a lot of role models in my life and it's very cool that this early in the game being able to turn around and kind of bring them up too," says Johnson.