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The Sky’s the Limit: Cypress College’s Jovan Rodriguez Student Success Profile

June 27, 2019

Jovan Rodriguez always had an eye on the sky. But he never would have dreamed that the fastest runway to a career in aviation was right in his backyard.

The Cypress College student’s dream of flying began while he worked a security job at children’s hospital in Long Beach, where he would watch the emergency helicopters zooming in to save lives. The image stayed with him.

“Seeing the helicopter land every day made an impression on me that I can’t explain unless you’ve flown an aircraft,” says Rodriguez.

Having previously taken general studies and photography classes at Cypress College, Rodriguez returned to test his wings with classes in drone operation within the Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. Later, when he realized he needed to take aviation classes in order to fly larger drones, he knew he was in the right place.

“Looking at aviation schools and programs, there really wasn’t too much of a question after looking at Cypress,” says Rodriguez. “It’s a really good program. The staff here is dedicated to the students.”

For Rodriguez, part of Cypress College’s advantage was its state-of-the-art equipment. In 2018, a generous, anonymous donor gave $1 million to Cypress’s aviation department, which helped transform the school’s flight-simulator lab into one of the region’s best, offering aspiring pilots outstanding training.

“Cypress has amazing simulators,” Rodriguez says. “They’re set up with a 50- or 60-inch TV in front of you, two on the side, and then the same-sized, realistic controls you have on an airplane, the same yoke and throttle.

“We even have a full simulator for a Boeing 737 cockpit at our school.”

Having the right equipment makes all the difference in getting the right experience, according to Rodriguez. Because flight hours are costly and difficult to schedule, access to realistic tools that simulate real-life situations is critical.

“Having flown in the simulator room, it’s helped me as a pilot,”; says Rodriguez. “If I want to practice basic maneuvers or turns I can do that, so when I get into the aircraft, that muscle memory is there, and I’m more in tune with the airplane that I’m flying.”

Rodriguez is grateful to study with mentors who are not only experts in the field, but completely dedicated to the support of their students. Instructors in the Cypress College Commercial Pilot program include multiple active aviation professionals, including a full-time Delta 737 pilot.

“He’s super supportive, and he’s the kind of teacher you want to have if you want to become a pilot because he answers all of your questions,” says Rodriguez. “We have some talented people who teach at our school.”

The challenging classes at Cypress command Rodriguez’s full determination and help fuel his passion for flying. “There are different levels to it,” he says, requiring proficiency in all aspects of aviation, from mechanics and engine performance, all the way into complex subjects like meteorology and FAA regulations.

“[It’s] not just, ‘let’s go fly.’ There are different levels to it,” says Rodriguez. “So, as a whole, it’s very interesting to me.”

When it comes to Rodriguez’s goals for the future, the sky is the limit. Set to finish his associate degree next year, he plans to transfer to Cal State LA for its well-regarded aviation program.

He doesn’t plan on stopping there. Upon earning his bachelor’s, Rodriguez aspires to go into space or to build systems that go into space, as commercial opportunities expand for ordinary travelers to reach the stars.

“Aerospace is the top limit of aviation,” he says. “The first passenger that went into space was in December 2018 — she’s actually a NASA engineer, and she was the first to go up in the Virgin Galactic Spaceship.”

What excites Rodriguez most about aviation are the opportunities that the field affords. On top of the high regional demand, an aviation degree opens doors to many different industries, outside of passenger travel. Possibilities include work with space programs, geographic information systems, emergency programs, and more.

But there’s something intangible – not to mention exhilarating — that keeps Rodriguez in the cockpit.

“When you fly an airplane, nothing else can compare,” says Rodriguez. “You’re in the air and moving in space on a different level. We get to see stuff that most people don’t get to see.

“If you want to know what it feels like to fly, get into [an] aircraft.”