Students sample aviation jobs at JFK fair

By Betsy Scheinbart

Thousands of Queens public school students got a taste of what a job at an international airport would be like during the Port Authority’s two-day career fair at JFK last week.

“Our annual Career Day programs provides an entertaining way to give school children from the communities surrounding the airports a unique opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about the wide variety of jobs in the aviation industry,” said William DeCota, director of aviation for the Port Authority.

At John F. Kennedy International Airport last Thursday morning, junior high school students toured the cargo and energy facilities while high school students attended presentations by several airport-related agencies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s administrative offices on the airport.

“We hope these events will inspire some of them to pursue rewarding careers in this growing field,” DeCota said.

Students from both Queens aviation-theme high schools, August Martin High School in Jamaica and Aviation High School in Long Island City, were on hand for the event and Aviation High School’s ROTC cadets participated with color and rifle demonstrations.

Aviation High School draws students from all five boroughs and offers Federal Aviation Administration licensing so that students can become airplane mechanics.

The ROTC, a voluntary program, instills a sense of responsibility, accomplishment and develops leadership skills, said Cadets Andrew Deschong and Jose Allmender. “And it’s fun,” they added.

Representatives from the FAA spoke about air traffic control and electronics jobs and found August Martin students a captive audience.

Many at August Martin are enrolled in the school’s flight program, including Martin Chichester, who hopes to become a pilot.

“I think it’s great,” Chichester said of the August Martin program. “It gives us a chance to become something special.” He said Career Day at JFK gave him an idea of what to expect from an airport job.

Hilary King, an air traffic research management specialist with the FAA, said the program exposes students to the variety of aviation jobs available.

“It also helps different agencies have a future pool of job applicants,” King said.

Other information booths focused on public health, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the U.S. Postal Service, Port Authority Maintenance, the National Weather Service and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Port Authority Traffic management coordinator Kevin Harris helped supervised the student workshops.

“It gives kids an opportunity to gain insight from professionals on different careers that they probably would not be exposed to,” Harris said, noting that the College of Aeronautics, based at LaGuardia an Stewart airports, also had an information booth at the event.

Students from Hillcrest High School in Jamaica had plenty of questions on the AirTrain, a $1.9 billion light rail system that is scheduled to connect JFK with the A train at Howard Beach by the end of next year and the E, J, Z subway lines at Jamaica by the middle of 2003.

It will also connect with 740 Long Island Rail Road trains in Jamaica. The trip from JFK to Howard Beach will take six to eight minutes and from Jamaica to JFK will take eight to ten minutes.

“It’s going to be something good,” said Hillcrest student and Jamaica resident Julio Diaz about the AirTrain. He said he found Career Day interesting even though he is not planning on a career in aviation.

The Port Authority’s Police Department K9 unit caught the attention of students from John Adams High School in Ozone Park. Nero, a German Shepherd, helps Officers Steve Montgomery and Kevin Collins find drugs on the airport.

Students asked what the dog was trained to find and were told marijuana, cocaine, heroine, Ecstasy and other drugs, but not bombs.

Forest Hills High School students Steven Carthan and Christopher Johnson were lucky to get a feel for the pilot’s seat when they climbed into a fighter plane.

“I think I might want to fly one,” Johnson said. “It’s inspiring and really cool, too.”

Carthan said Career Day gave him a greater perspective on possible future jobs and new goals.

“As a young black man, I need something like this,” he said. “There is more to life than just police officers and mail carriers.”

Forest Hills High School teachers Shelly Gluskin and Angela Mosco were almost as enthusiastic about the event as their students.

“It is great exposure to different jobs, so they can start planning for their future,” Gluskin and Mosco said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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