From Vaughn College to the top of the tower

As a young girl Jessenia Diaz dreamed of seeing the world, and she figured the best way to do that would be to become a flight attendant. That is until she read an article about air traffic controllers. “I figured I could have this great career and see the world,” she said.

After a little research she found Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. For a Brooklyn girl whose family couldn’t afford to send her away for an education, the school was a match made in heaven.

“It was close to home, and the experience was great because it’s a small college,” Diaz said. “The teachers are more like mentors because a lot of them are also professionals. They bring the real world into the classroom.”

In 2011, she graduated with a degree in airport management and found herself at the FAA training academy in Oklahoma City. After over three months of intense air traffic controller training, she received her placement: JFK Airport. The Brooklyn girl was returning home.

“I couldn’t believe it, I had to call three times just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake,” said Diaz, who is still in the tower guiding pilots in and out of Queens. “I love it, no day is the same.”

As for those dreams of seeing the world? “I’ve been traveling ever since I became a certified controller,” she said. “I enjoy it every chance I get.”

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