Going the Extra Mile to Serve Others

Dec 23, 2019 – By: Megan Allen, Communications Specialist

"To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, 
to gain all while you give, 
to roam the roads of lands remote: 
to travel is to live."

-Hans Christian Anderson

To fly, to float...

Wenya Lee, New Mexico State, has been working for Delta Airlines as a flight attendant since 2015 - a career she admits wasn’t at first on her radar… but has been one of the greatest choices of her life.

The story goes like this: After graduating, Lee, a 28-year-old New Mexico native, began applying for jobs in the airline business after becoming interested in the industry through a family member’s career. After a Deltasig brother came back from a trip and insisted Wenya would be a fantastic flight attendant, she still wasn’t fully committed. After posting in a Deltasig Facebook group inquiring about open positions and receiving a response from a brother whose company was hiring flight attendants, she decided to take a chance! Lee recalled the power of networking and brotherhood and how grateful she is for Tullivan Begay, New Mexico, who not only encouraged her to apply for the job, but gave her tips, recommended her and ultimately assisted her in getting the position! The position offered to Lee was based in Minneapolis, so she now calls Minnesota home, after deciding to “fully embrace the adventures and all this career has to offer.”

Fast forward a few years and Lee is not only thriving in her career, but was nominated by her peers and chosen out of 80,000 employees as one of 100 to be welcomed into the Delta Chairman’s Club. Now in its 23rd year, the Chairman’s Club is the most prestigious peer-to-peer employee recognition program, honoring women and men across the company’s worldwide operation who embody reliability, innovation, thoughtfulness and servant leadership and who demonstrate the highest standards of service to customers, coworkers and the communities Delta serves. After an employee is nominated (typically nominations hover around 5,000), they go through a rigorous interview process, where the company also calls upon additional peers, managers and customers in assisting with the selection process.

As a member of the Club, Lee had the honor of attending a red carpet gala in November at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, fit with a police escort and dinner with Delta CEO Ed Bastian. Looking back on the event, Wenya recalls “The red carpet was an experience I’ll never forget. I asked my brother to be my date, and latched onto him because I had this fear of falling on the carpet! My sister, mom and ‘build buddies’ were in the crowds cheering me on. To be ‘extra,’ my sister ordered a dozen confetti cannons and when I stepped out onto the carpet, I knew exactly where my support system was.”

Wenya 1
Lee is congratulated by Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian for earning a spot in the Delta Chairman's Club at the red carpet gala last November. 

Additionally, Wenya had the honor of traveling with fellow Chairman’s Club members to France and delivering a brand new aircraft back to Delta. Another cool perk? If you’re flying with Delta this year, you may just find yourself in an aircraft that is fit with Wenya’s signature in the cabin, an honor bestowed upon each Chairman Club inductee for the year they were chosen. Having interviewed Wenya briefly, and hearing about the countless service initiatives she has participated in, it is absolutely no wonder why she was given this prestigious honor.

To gain all while you give...

For Lee, the spirit of service began to take shape during her time as a member at New Mexico State, serving as vice president-community service for the chapter. But that isn’t the only thing she is grateful to the Fraternity for. She remarks, “Some of my best friends to this day are Deltasigs.” While the Fraternity not only gave her friendships to last a lifetime, she also credits the organization with giving her valuable life skills she carries with her always, such as proper interview skills and networking experience. “Meeting someone and saying hello is one thing,” she says, “but knowing how to ask meaningful questions and making that impact is another.” In fact, she remembers attending a LEAD School in Denver and upon arriving back home sending personal emails to the leaders and fellow collegiate brothers she met while there.

For many, service and volunteer opportunities are juggled with their career, typically separate entities. But for Lee, the two are hand-in-hand. Working for a company like Delta Air Lines, service is paramount. Donating one percent of profits annually to communities (which in previous years has amounted to $37 million), Delta has a long history of serving communities worldwide, an opportunity Wenya has taken very seriously.

Each year, the company partners with Habitat for Humanity and builds six homes globally. During her time at Delta, Wenya has participated in two of them. Last year, she helped construct a home in China. “I was born in China, so it was special that I could go back to where I grew up. To see these homes falling apart and knowing I’m making a difference, changed my life. It’s humbling.” In 2019, she assisted in building six homes in Brazil and immensely enjoyed learning more about the families and building lifelong relationships with them. “I keep in touch with them. One of the homeowners I built for has five boys, and the impact will be eternal for them,” she says.

Wenya (right) and her best friend, Summer, lay bricks while building homes with Delta in Sancun, China. 

To travel is to live...

With a jam-packed schedule and truly never being in the same place for more than a couple of days, Lee has always made the Fraternity a priority in her life. When asked how she manages it, the lesson to be learned is this: do what you can with the time you have. No two fraternal experiences, or avenues of involvement, look the same. For Wenya, it means proactively seeking out brothers living in the cities in which she travels, even if it means catching up during a layover, making it a priority to stay connected. “Sometimes it can be as simple as calling up a brother you haven’t spoken to in awhile and catching up.”

When asked what travel means to her, Wenya answers, “It embodies who I am. It’s the people and the connections. Nothing brings people closer together than giving back. Materialistic items come and go, beauty comes and goes, but it’s the connections you gain through travel that you will never forget. If someone pays for your coffee… it’s a simple act of goodness that makes the world a bit smaller.”

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