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Colleges highlight opportunities in aviationColleges highlight opportunities in aviation

Cairo Regional airport Left to right: Guy Alongi, Chair of the Illinois Community College Board; David Ardrey, ASN Volunteer, Carbondale Airport; State Sen. Gary Forby; Susan R. Shea, Ph.D., Director of Aeronautics, Illinois Department of Transportation; State Rep. Brandon Phelps; Geoffrey S. Obrzut, President/CEO Illinois Community College Board; and Larry Peterson, President Shawnee Community College

While the economic outlook for students today can seem gloomy, an aviation career day in one Illinois community this month showed area teens a way to rise above.

Cairo Regional Airport drew 1,200 students to a May 7 event that promoted a new partnership between Shawnee Community College (SCC) and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC). Organizers hope that the partnership will make aviation careers more accessible while also attracting economic development to the area. The partnership would enable students to hold dual enrollment in the schools, with an associate’s degree in aviation science at Shawnee leading to a bachelor’s degree in aviation technology at SIU-C.

Students may think only of pilots when considering aviation careers, but the field has more to offer. Attendees at the event visited school officials to find out more about the program and about the variety of careers in aviation. Dr. Larry Peterson, president of SCC, said that Cairo Regional Airport is an “underutilized resource” that can be put to use with a new facility that would attract businesses and train workers for careers in aviation. In the program, students will be able to fulfill their general education requirements at Shawnee while taking aviation-related classes from SIU at the airport’s training center.

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