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When his English teacher at Evanston Township High School asks junior Joseph Karriem to write an essay about what he did this summer, he’ll be ready to share a summer to remember.

Karriem, it turns out, participated in a seven-week program through Tuskegee NEXT that resulted in a pilot’s license, a wealth of life lessons, and an opportunity to fly with aerobatic pilot Sean Tucker during a rehearsal for the Chicago Air and Water Show.

“There is not a day when I am not thinking about flying,” Karriem says. He was the youngest cadet in Tuskegee NEXT’s 2015 summer program that introduced participants to the aerospace industry through educational initiatives, life skills, and mentorship collaborations as well as a formal flight training program.

While working toward his professional aspirations to become a pilot, Karriem’s passion for flying has given him a deeper understanding of leadership concepts such as networking, pushing one’s self to do better, being part of a group effort, and bringing new ideas to the table to be successful.

“Aviation opens up doors to anything you want to do in life,” said Karriem, who has met people from various personal and professional backgrounds, from agriculture to medicine – all connected by the world of flying.

Karriem acknowledges that he is fortunate to be part of the next generation of aviators and he is looking at ways to give back and help change the narrative about what students – especially students of color – can strive for as career options.

He wants to start a club at ETHS that enables students to collaborate and share their leadership skills and provide a way for adult mentors to help young people accomplish success at whatever they do.

Karriem, for example, now knows an astrophysicist at Boeing and an airline captain, among others, who are willing to help him and other students reach their goals.

Karriem also plans to return to the Tuskegee NEXT program next summer as a paid intern to be part of the program’s efforts to help strengthen math and science skills in students of color who have been identified as showing interest in the aerospace industry.

 Karriem said he looks forward to more flight hours as well, and will continue to set his sights on a future in aviation.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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