Our special series "California Dreaming" takes a close look at the issues that are threatening the California Dream and the people working to keep the dream alive.
As the aviation industry works to recover amid the on-going pandemic, the demand for airline pilots is on the rise. Major airlines are working to meet the high demand, but also to improve the huge gender and race gap - where only 5% of pilots are women, 1% are captains, and there are even fewer pilots of color.
Here in California, there's an accessible path to an aviation career at various community colleges, such as the state-of-the-art program offered at Southern California's Cypress College.
"I didn't know anything about aviation. So Cypress walked me through the whole process," said Captain Anond Thairatanakul, a former student at Cypress College and current pilot.
"They told me everything I needed to know, including that it was very difficult to achieve," said Elizabeth Arias, a former student at Cypress College and current pilot. "It was nice to see that that goal is achievable. Here I am a student with my professor, living the dream that I want."
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"I always dreamed about it. It was always on my mind. My dad was in the Mexican Air Force," said Captain Ed Valdez, a professor at Cypress College and a former United Airlines pilot.
Valdez is the head of the aviation program at Cypress College, where he teaches students about various aviation careers.
Over the years, the program has seen hundreds of students succeed in the industry.
"You could do this too," said Arias.
"All students if they have the desire and the will to put in the effort -- you can make it in this career," said Valdez.