Alumni in Action: Melanie Vasina
Welcome to "Alumni in Action," CCSD's new series exploring the accomplishments, journeys and Pathways of Purpose of district alums from across the history of the Cherry Creek School District!
Melanie Vasina never gets tired of piloting a giant aircraft through the skies over Colorado.
Vasina, a Smoky Hill High School alum and a First Lieutenant in the Colorado Army National Guard, first earned her pilot’s license in 2017. It was a designation that allowed her to follow in the steps of her father, an airline pilot and a veteran, as well as her mother and her brother, all of whom served in the military.
It was more recently, however, that Vasina brought her skills as a pilot into a whole new realm, piloting a craft whose scope and size stood out. Since 2021, Vasina has been part of the flight crew of the Army’s Chinook helicopter, a craft that spans almost 100 feet that can transport trucks, jeeps, and other heavy-duty vehicles.
For Vasina, the flights in the Chinook (including a recent visit to the Cherry Creek School District’s annual Veterans and Military Appreciation Community Celebration and Football Game on Oct. 1), have been the most rewarding of her career as a pilot.
“It’s awesome. It’s indescribable. I can definitely say for a fact that I’m living my dream,” Vasina said. “It’s such a cool opportunity. It’s awe-inspiring, because you’re flying such a large machine that’s so complex. I’m at a loss for words.
“I love doing it every single day,” she added.
While Vasina’s family background in the military served as a guidepost for her own path to service, she said that her time in CCSD, which included three years at Laredo Middle School and four years at Smoky Hill High School, helped steer her to her current post. Being part of the Smoky Hill community meant receiving encouragement and guidance from a dedicated corps of teachers, staff, and peers, all of whom showed gratitude and respect for Vasina’s family and their combined years of service.
That support helped solidify her own plans to join the military, Vasina said.
“I definitely attribute my path to quite a few of my teachers at Smoky Hill. They offered me a very positive influence from a young age,” she said. “They were always supportive of my family. Having those positive influences early in my life, and people telling me the military was a good thing to do, a good way to make a positive impact – it helped me get to where I am today.”
As a First Lieutenant in the National Guard, Vasina has the opportunity to play a unique role for her state and the broader Colorado community. She spoke about how her role with the Guard allows her to support fellow servicemembers and civilians alike, as the National Guard conducts search and rescue operations, equipment movements, and other tasks.
“The scope of our mission is wide. It’s exciting; there are so many great opportunities,” she said.
That broad range of service, combined with the opportunity to see her dreams of flight realized, has made her relatively short time in the service a dream come true. Being able to pilot the Chinook when it visited Cherokee Trail High School on Oct. 1 offered a special kind of significance, as she had the opportunity to revisit her home district and show communities the true scope of the Chinook helicopter.
“When most people think about a Chinook or a Blackhawk, they don’t anticipate the sheer size of it. You can fit a full-size vehicle into these crafts,” she said. “I was so incredibly excited for this opportunity, to share my current job with my former high school and district.”
-- Posted 10/26/22 at 3 PM