In 1959， when Jean Harper was in the third grade， her teacher gave the class an assignment1 to write a report on what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Jean’s father was a crop duster2 pilot in the little farming community in Northern California where she was raised， and Jean was very interested in airplanes and flying. She poured her heart into her report and included all of her dreams. She wanted to crop dust， make parachute3 jumps， and be an airline pilot. Her paper came back with an“F” on it. The teacher told her it was a “fairytale4” and that none of the occupations5 she listed were women’s jobs. Jean was heartbroken and humiliated6.
One day in her senior year of high school， her English teacher Mrs. Dorothy Slaton gave the class an assignment. “If you had unlimited7 money， unlimited access8 to the finest schools， unlimited talents and abilities， what would you do？” Jean felt a rush of her old enthusiasm9， and with excitement she wrote down all her old dreams.
The next thing that Mrs. Slaton said changed Jean’s life. The teacher leaned10 forward over her desk and said， “You do have unlimited abilities and talents. When you leave school， if you don’t go for your dreams， no one will do it for you. You can have what you want if you want it enough.”
The hurt and fear of years of discouragement11 went away because of what Mrs. Slaton had said. Jean felt excited and a little scared. She stayed after class and went up to the teacher’s desk. Jean thanked Mrs. Slaton and told her about her dream of becoming a pilot. Mrs. Slaton started to get to her feet and hit the desk. “Then do it！” she said.
So Jean did. It didn’t happen overnight. It took her l0 years of hard work. It wasn’t in Jean’s nature to stand up for herself when someone refused or laughed at her. Instead， she would quietly try to find another way.
She became a private pilot and then flew planes as a copilot12. In 1978， she became one of the first three female pilot trainees13 ever accepted by United Airlines and one of only 50 women airline pilots in the nation at the time. Some years later， Jean Harper became a Boeing 737 captain for United Airlines.