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 Airport to Donate Books to All Elementary School Libraries

​The San Diego International Airport is donating a new children’s book to all public elementary school libraries in San Diego County.

“Laverne, the Runway Stowaway” was written and illustrated by airport staff members Judy McSweeney and Sharon Gonzales, respectively, and it tells the story of Laverne the Least Tern, an endangered California Least Tern who nests at the airport.

It’s the latest in a series of books published by the airport as part of the Airport Explorers program, an ongoing effort to encourage students’ interest in aviation. The book will be available for purchase in the spring next year.

In a ceremony at Perkins Elementary School, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority President and CEO Thella Bowens said, “We are pleased to offer this educational resource to our county libraries and schools. “Told from the perspective of an adventurous dog and his feathered friend (Laverne), the story of this endangered chick helps our local students understand the importance of ecological preservation and sustainability at the airport.”

At Perkins School, author McSweeney read a portion of the book to an excited group of youngsters. Before McSweeney spoke, the students heard from Zoological Society of San Diego Least Tern Biologist Robert Patton, who explained some of the bird’s habits and where and how they next at the airport. Also in attendance at Perkins was the book’s illustrator, Sharon Gonzales.

The airport works closely with Patton and staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on its preservation efforts. And as a result of those efforts, the airport’s least tern nesting site is one of the most productive in Southern California. The site is located at the southeastern end of the runway, close to San Diego Bay.

A total of 139 least tern nests were established at the airport this year. The airport has established guidelines for all airport, tenant and contractor activities near those nests during the months of the birds’ nesting season, which runs from April to September.

The Airport Explorers program, coordinated by McSweeney, provides educational opportunities for children of all ages, helping them gain an understanding and appreciation for aviation achievements. The program offers air field tours, a YMCA summer camp for 5-8-year-olds, and an airport station at the Junior Achievement organization’s BizTown. For more information on Airport Explorers, go to