Here's an opportunity for a lucky teen to have a pretty extraordinary experience this summer.
Organizers of the WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest are offering a local student a full scholarship to the Junior Balloonist Camp at Millersville University in Pennsylvania this summer. The camp runs from July 12 to July 16 and is open to ages 13 to 18. Previous ballooning experience is not required.
The Balloon Fest runs Memorial Day weekend in Zebulon and north Raleigh. The free event will feature dozens of balloons in the sky and lots of other activities. It's the first balloon festival in the Triangle area in nearly 25 years.
The Great Eastern Balloon Camp is part of the Balloon Federation of America and run by its volunteer members. All counselors are FAA certificated pilots and experienced hot air balloon crew.
Robin Person, a Raleigh native and Meredith College student, attended the camp twice in high school. She'll return in summer 2016 as a counselor with her younger brother, who will be 13. Person's mother is an avid ballooner. Person caught the bug when she was about 12 and has been ballooning ever since.
"I just love ballooning," she said. "It was so fun. ... You can get out and be active, meet new people. [You're] traveling to another state, meeting strangers and having a blast with them."
While campers spend plenty of time up in the air, they're also learning important skills on the ground, Person said.
'It teaches you valuable lessons," she said. "Not just how to fly, but things you might want to know forever. How to read a map when you get lost; how to look at the weather and know what that means. How to look at things with more of a scientific mind and be able to analyze that. It’s really cool what you learn. It’s not the average camp."
The camp is open to just 20 campers. The scholarship includes meals and housing in the campus dormitories. The application deadline is April 15.
The Balloon Fest's website has an online application and more information about the program and scholarship.