Community Connections Sow Seeds of Advocacy


Nakia Savage Shares Lessons from Aviation Academy, Airport Community Roundtable With Community

For Nakia Savage, it all started with a question. “What is going on with our Airport?”

After moving from Baltimore 17 years ago seeking a life change, this former nonprofit director, community organizer and advocate settled into a home off Shopton Road, just southwest of CLT.

A financial industry member, Savage completed the City of Charlotte’s Civic Leadership Academy in 2021. There, she learned about the Aviation Academy. The Airport’s annual program provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to better understand the inner workings of CLT and its contributions and impacts on the economy, transportation system and community.

It was that connection, not at the terminal but in the community, where Savage sowed the seeds of advocacy for the Airport and the City of Charlotte.

“I was interested because I live close to the Airport. Also, Charlotte has grown by leaps and bounds since I first relocated here, and I just had a really great interest in finding out what's going on with our Airport,” Savage said “Why are we expanding? What are we doing to accommodate all this new growth in Charlotte? I felt the best way to do that was to join the Aviation Academy.”

It didn’t take long for Savage to learn the Airport is more than a place to hop aboard a plane.

It’s a place that connects many people working tirelessly behind the scenes so the travel experience is positive and safe and so passengers have access to amenities throughout the travel journey.

“I went into this thinking of the Airport as a place for me to get on the plane. get off and go about my business. But it really changed my thinking. The Airport is culture. It’s art. It’s business. It was all just a wonderful, wonderful experience.”

Savage was surprised to learn how Charlotte arts and culture intermingles with the Airport.

“I had no idea about the various art installations and how that connects to the arts and culture scene in Charlotte. That was probably the biggest a-ha moment for me.”

After graduating from the Aviation Academy in March, Savage wanted more. When she learned a spot on the Airport Community Roundtable (ACR) needed to be filled, she jumped at the chance to join.

The ACR is a broad-based community initiative. The group provides input into airport-related noise impacts and finds, where possible, practical solutions and recommendations for the Federal Aviation Administration to consider when determining aircraft operating procedures at CLT. It includes members from Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the surrounding towns and counties in the region.

What made Savage want to join a committee that is a complex subject that some perceive negatively?

“The knowledge that I gained by being a part of the Aviation Academy just made me even more interested in expanding the knowledge and continuing to connect and contribute to the community,” Savage said.

“The fact that the Airport and the City of Charlotte believe strongly enough to create the Airport Community Roundtable is very impressive. The interest of the community members, whether they surround the Airport or not is important in its operation. I do believe that is a wonderful connection. There are people represented from all over, and I think that is important because everyone is affected by our Airport.”

Savage said ACR is a big step toward a continued community connection and understanding its importance. Its purpose is helping the community understand the ACR ‘s work and goals. “The more positive and accurate information that is relayed to the community, the better,” she said.  

Through the Aviation Academy and the Airport Community Roundtable, Savage want to be an advocate for Charlotte and the Airport. She carries the lessons learned from both programs and applies them to her everyday life.

“As a mortgage professional by day, the biggest connection that I see as part of my job is to help all the new people coming into Charlotte, a lot through our airport. It’s just a part of helping our community grow."

“It’s imperative that all of us as community members try to do our best to advocate for the city that we live in. I want people to see the Airport with a broader lens.”

Now that Savage knows “what’s going on with our Airport,” she can connect the people, information and the inner workings of CLT to her neighbors and beyond.