| Login Help
Home header left
Give button

During this time SSA staff are working from home.

Kolstad Award College Scholarship

Soaring Society of America's capstone achievement award for young soaring pilots.

Annual award of up to $5,000 for soaring pilots.  Application deadline is September 30th.

Photo #7038 | Paul KolstadThe grant is intended to help finance college-level study and is to be paid directly to an academic institution of the applicant's choice. The amount is presently $5,000, with winners chosen each year on a competitive basis. Applicant age must be between 14 and 24 (inclusive). If a winner is not yet of age to enroll in college, the grant money will be held until such time.

Winners of this one-time scholarship are selected from young soaring-pilot, SSA member, and USA Citizen applicants who are of great service at a USA gliderport. They need to make a good case via an applicant's statement and letters of recommendation for their achievements, service, and desire for academic and career progress.

The fund sponsors, from throughout the USA soaring community, hope the scholarship inspires young pilots to progress from basic glider flying to advanced sport soaring, and to attend college.

RULES for the KOLSTAD Scholarship Contest

  • OPEN TO AGES 14-24, inclusive, as of September 30.
  • OPEN TO SOARING PILOTS: Flying experience of at least FAI Silver Badge or Kolstad Century Award in sailplanes.
  • OPEN TO USA CITIZEN SSA MEMBERS: Folks who have shown a commitment to the USA soaring community and SSA/FAI badges.
  • PRIZE: $5,000 in the form of a check, co-written to the winner and an academic institution, to be sent directly to the school.
  • ENTRY DEADLINE is September 30, postmark at the SSA Office. Awards should be announced by December..
  • JUDGING will be by the Kolstad Scholarship Committee within the SSA Youth Committee.
  • APPLICATION is to include a STATEMENT, detailing the applicant's experience with soaring and flying, service to a glider Club or Commercial Operation, and career plans. Also, one or more RECOMMENDATIONS are needed from Club Officers, Flight Instructors or other mentors.
  • COMPLETED APPLICATIONS must be sent to:

Kolstad Youth College Scholarship
Soaring Society of America
PO Box 2100
Hobbs, NM 88241-2100

Application Form (PDF)

Suggested Schedule for Preparation of the Application:


  • Collect REFERENCES, names and addresses of THREE who have known the applicant for a reasonably long time.
  • Gather LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION from soaring acquaintances (THREE is good).


STATEMENT by applicant to include:

  • Present PLANS for further EDUCATION and eventual VOCATION





Bill Fenton (1971)
"I was proud to be the recipient of the 1971 Kolstad Scholarship. I can still remember where I was and who told me I had won. To me this scholarship was the end result of being involved in the sport of soaring and the camaraderie with other soaring pilots of all ages. When I won the grant, my family was not only proud of me, the whole club was proud. One of their own had been recognized for his efforts in soaring and they too had helped contribute to this pilot's success."

Steve Foreman (1975)
"The Kolstad Scholarship is a great program that promotes the sport of soaring. It encourages youth and changes lives in many ways never imagined when it was created. While I have given back to the scholarship in financial ways I shall never be able to calculate or repay the many benefits I have received."

Jan Huelsbsck Moye (1986)
"It is truly an honor to have received the Kolstad Awards. This program is very important to the soaring community. The tuition money was a huge benefit to me back when I was younger and on my own."

Gordon Boettger (1986)
"The Kolstad Scholarship is a scholarship program that first of all gave me the drive to complete my diamond badge so as to be a competitive candidate for the scholarship. It simply was a personal goal of mine in order to be a strong candidate. After winning, the scholarship was used towards my college education. Most importantly, however, I was able to put on my application package for the Navy pilot program that I was a winner of the Kolstad Scholarship, a prestigious award for junior soaring pilots. As a former Navy pilot, I am now a pilot for a major airline. For any young glider pilots, I strongly urge you to compete for this scholarship. It cannot only help you financially, but down the road with an application package or resume that can make a life changing experience. Thank you to the Kolstads for their continued support with the program.”

Sean Franke (1988)
"Since being awarded the Kolstad Scholarship I look forward each year to see who the next winner is."

Michael Ondeck (1989)
"In the summer of 1991 I had the experience of a lifetime working on the Island of Kauai giving `rides-for-two'. The owner of the business was very impressed that I had won the Kolstad Award. I'm sure that this honor helped me get the job."

Erik Nelson (1990)
"Many thanks to those responsible for making the Kolstad Junior Awards available to interested kids like me - it was no small help in nurturing the cherished combination of learning and flying that thrills me still. It remains an honor to be included in the company of other past recipients."

Paul Sabino (1994)
"I thank the Kolstad family very much for their concern for youth and their love of flying."

Michael Westbrook (2000)
"To me the Kolstad Scholarship has been a stepping stone throughout my career in soaring. I grew up around the Texas Soaring Association with Kolstad winners such as Dave Mockler and Fred Voltz. As I got older and started crewing at national contests I met other winners such as Danny Sorenson, Liz Schwenkler and Garret Willat. My goal was to be among this elite group of young pilots one day.”

Ryan Vihlen (2003)
"The Kolstad award motivated me at a young age to push myself in soaring. I soloed on my fourteenth birthday and that summer while my friends were playing in pools or with games, I spent most of it becoming comfortable flying and going through the Texas Soaring Association’s stringent seminar for cross-country flying. By the end of the summer I had flown our 1-26 close to 60 hours and achieved my Silver Badge. This qualified me for the Kolstad scholarship which I was awarded the following year. I started flying cross-country on a regular basis and looking forward to flying contests. When I was 16, I flew in the 1-26 Championships and have since flown in 10 contests... Soaring has been an experience I love and try to share with anyone I can. Three years ago I started going to college and the Kolstad award has helped defray the cost of ever-growing tuition. To some it may help buy books, tuition or even study abroad. For others it can make the difference of starting college at all. The Kolstad Scholarship continues to be the elite award sought after by junior pilots in the United States. To join the ranks of past winners was something I had dreamt about ever since I started my glider training at the Memphis Soaring Society in 2000. The pilots who had come before me with names like Boettger, Schwenkler, Willat, Robison and Westbrook had all dreamed too. On a cool autumn night, they were still in the cockpit imagining that perfect summer day with unending cloudstreets and distant turnpoints... The thing to value is that you are part of a small group of people that once dedicated so much to a sport that is at the least....simply, indescribably beautiful. This sport of ours is something that you can’t totally put your fingers around. What draws us to it? Few people know for sure. Whatever it is, the past winners of the Kolstad were seduced by it... I was too. I continue to be.”

Rachel Conklin (2011)
"Rachel received her Bachelors in music performance graduating with highest honors. She has since received a Master’s in music performance and is now working on a second Master’s for Arts Administration. In aviation, she is currently a Commercial Pilot - Glider and Private SEL with high performance and tail wheel sign-off’s. She spent a summer as the week-day tow pilot for the Harris Hill club doing many hundreds of tows for them. The summer of 2016 was spent as a commercial ride pilot for the glider operation at Wurtsboro Airport (yes, that same Wurtsboro airport), sometimes doing 10+ rides a day in their ASK-21. Hank Nixon, now a member of the Soaring Hall of Fame, likes to fly an ASK-21 at a few competitions each year and give junior club members a chance to ride along and learn what sailplane racing is all about. Both Rachel and her younger sister Michelle have flown with him a number of times. A few years back at one such competition at Harris Hill, Hank’s wife had a very bad fall and was hospitalized. While Hank had to spend his days at the hospital, Rachel and her sister decided they would take the ASK-21 and fly the competition task for the day. Hank was getting updates as they progressed around the task, then got the call “Uncle Hank - Rachel just radio’d - …5 miles out…” They had made the task. Hank now mentions this as one of his more memorable moments in soaring."

SUCCESSES for the KOLSTAD Scholarship

Kevin Christner, in 2004, held the Silver Badge, FAA CFI Glider Certificate. He won the Bultman award for line crews service to the Brokenstraw Soaring Club. In 2005, with Mike Westbrook, Slyvia Szafarczyk, and Mike Riley, Kevin founded the non-profit “US Junior Soaring Assoc., Inc.” to try to network young pilots better and acquire sailplanes for them. He also attended the first US Team Junior Camp held in Sugarbush, VT.

Sylvia Szafarczyk, in 2004, held the Silver Badge, FAA Private Glider Rating. She won the Bultman award for line crews service to the Soaring Club of Houston. In 2005, Sylvia flew the Region 9 Contest in Hobbs, in Sports Class in a Twin Astir with Mike Westbrook, leading the first few days. She also attended the US Junior Team camp in Moriarty, NM, and has earned the FAI Diamond distance, Century III, and NM feminine records.

Ryan Vihlen, in 2003, held the Silver Badge #6307, FAA Private Glider Rating. Ryan published, in SOARING Magazine, February 2003,a persoanl narrative entitled "Ryan's Journey". He started soaring training at age 14. He attended a youth soaring camp at Sugarbush Soaring Association and a week at Soar Minden. Ryan has won all three Kolstad Century Awards. He has earned the legs toward Gold and Diamond badges: Gold Distance and Diamond Goal. Ryan crewed for Mike Westbrook at the 2005 World Juniors in UK, and is a contender for the 2007 team.

Walter Brink II, in 2003, held the Silver Badge # 6051 and the FAA Private Glider Rating. Walter was a sailplane passenger at age 9 at Sugarbush Soaring, then a few days after his 14th birthday he soloed. His article about flying at Soar Minden was published in SOARING Magazine. He holds the Kolstad Century I Awards, a single Lennie, altitude legs for the Gold and Diamond badges. Walter did National Guard service and used his grant for A&P studies.

Josh Burczynski, in 2002, held the Silver Badge # 6170, FAA Private Glider and Commercial Glider Ratings, and FAA Private Power Rating. He has flown many different types of sailplanes, as a member and, in the summer, a flight instructor of the Harris Hill Soaring Club. He attends Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL. As a CFI, Josh was a major force in revitalizing the ERAU Sport Aviation collegiate cub.

Chris Saunders, in 2002, held the Silver Badge # 6146, FAA Private Glider and FAA Private Power Ratings. He holds three State soaring records and has participated in Regional Soaring Contests. He has chosen Penn State University, studying aerospace engineering. Chris has been National Junior Champion three times and was the overall winner at the 2006 18m Nationals.

Kathy Fosha, in 2002, held the Century Award. She received the Gogos Youth Soaring Scholarship in 2000 and flew at Owl Canyon Gliderport, Fort Collins, CO. She graduated Colorado State University as a mechanical engineer. Kathy was selected by the Youth Committee to take a “Plain Soaring” Course in Australia with 3-time World Soaring Champion George Lee. She flew the 2004 and 2006 Standard Class Nationals and Region 9 Sports Class, and was selected for the 2007 Junior Team.  In 2009, Kathy claimed six national feminine soaring records.

Michael Riley, from 2000, of Glen Burnie, MD, had his first glider ride at the Mid-Atlantic soaring Association (M-ASA) in Frederick, MD. He has been an active member since. He participated in encampments of the International Aviation Cadet and the Civil Air Patrol in '99. For the past two years, he traveled to Minden, NV, to soar on the GOGOS Scholarship. He holds the Gold Badge #2292 with two Diamonds, Silver Badge #6075, the Single Lenni Pin #21603 and a private pilot certificate, with glider rating. Mike was selected by the Youth Committee to take a “Plain Soaring” Course in Australia with 3-time World Soaring Champion George Lee.

Michael Westbrook, from 2000, of Midlothian, TX, had his first sailplane ride when he was five. He is an active Junior member of the Texas Soaring Association, and soloed on his fourteenth birthday. He holds the Silver Badge #6107. Mike was selected by the US Team for the 2005 World Juniors contest, where he team flew with Garret Willat (Kolstad 1996). Both won one contest day at the UK event. Mike was on the team again in 2007.  Michael is working for Sikorsky Helicopters.

Garret Willat, currently a full-time glider flight instructor at Sky Sailing in Warner Springs, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, accumulating over 5000 hours in gliders. As a Junior pilot he won a regional contest.  Garret has flown in two Junior World Gliding Championships, one World Gliding Championships, 12 Nationals and the 2009 Pribina Cup in Slovakia. Garret claimed the 2005 Rudolf Mozer Trophy for the highest Junior pilot in any US Nationals, the 2005 and 2006 Larissa Stroukoff Memorial trophy for the fastest speed during the US Open Class Nationals. The 2009 Richard C. duPont Award for winning the US Open Class Nationals.    He has served one term on the US Rules Committee.  Garret was on the US team for the World Gliding Championships in 2010.

Past Recipients

Kolstad Recipients Then and Now (PowerPoint Show)

Kolstad Recipients Then and Now (Windows Media)

Support for the KOLSTAD Scholarship Program

Paul and Ken Kolstad, 1966The fund was established in 1968 by the members of the Colorado Soaring Association (CSA) and the Black Forest Soaring Society (BFSS), principally Mid and Ken Kolstad, soaring pilots since 1941. Their sons Ralph and Paul, as well as daughter Marg, soloed young in gliders (later, even sons Dave and Andy became pilots), making for a remarkable soaring family.

The grant serves to honor the memory of Paul Kenneth Kolstad (1951-1966), holder of Gold Badge #288 with two Diamonds. Paul still holds the Colorado State Record for Junior Goal with his flight of 208 miles from Black Forest to the Scottsbluff, NB, airport on 11 July 1966. He earned the Goal Diamond with this flight. He earned the Altitude Diamond at Westcliffe, CO.

In 1989, the Kolstad trust was transferred to SSA, along with management of the annual scholarship grant and the Century Awards badge program. Members of the SSA Committee that provided oversight to the program included the Chair of the SSA Youth Committee, the Chair of the Awards Committee, and members of the Kolstad family. In 2005, the Kolstad Committee was relocated within the Youth Committee and it is presently brilliantly chaired by Ralph Kolstad, Paul's older brother who went on to be a naval aviator and airline pilot -- and Hilton Cup asset!

Initial income for the endowment was generated in large part by sales of a large wall poster of USA soaring sites and significant soaring flights. For many years, the Colorado Soaring Association held a Labor Day chicken barbecue fund-raiser, featuring Ken's favorite “Cornell chicken” recipe. Most often, this was in conjunction with the Black Forest Soaring Contest, and ticket sales and gifts at this event went a long way to keeping the fund healthy. More recently, Texas Soaring Association has been a similar benefactor, and Chris Woods is presently donating income from the sales of his several documentary DVDs.

Funding this top achievement award should be an undertaking of the whole soaring community, much as the flying of any glider is a cooperation between pilot, launch crew, and whole clubs or staffs of people. Accordingly, all soaring pilots should consider themselves invited to contribute to the endowment fund.

Tax-deductible donations to
"SSA" for the "Kolstad Youth College Scholarship"
may be sent at any time to:

Soaring Society of America, Inc.
PO Box 2100, Hobbs NM 88241-2100.
development@ssa.org. (575)392-1177  

Or you may donate online at
Kolstad Award Scholarship

  • 2007 saw the passing of both founders and parents, with Ken, 96, departing us June 18, and Mid, 93, following on October 30. They joined the sport in its infancy and left it a legacy of three generations of inspiring pilots and contributors.
  • 2016 saw the 40th year since Paul's passing, and the 60th grant since inception.


Posted: 1/15/2020