CARBONDALE — About 120 Chicagoland students took a flight to opportunity Saturday as participants in the annual American Airlines-SIU Carbondale Aviation Career Day.

The high school and community college students landed at Southern Illinois Airport for a day of activities aimed at promoting aviation and introducing prospective students to the SIU aviation management and flight and aviation programs.

As part of career day, the students were flown to the region via American Airlines and teamed with “aviation ambassadors” who led them on tours of the facility.

Students could take introductory flights, learn about the different fields of study available and interact with program alumni, including much of the crew from their flights to and from the airport.

They also toured the SIU campus.

Ashley Harris, 16, of Chicago said she wasn’t familiar with SIU before plans were made for the trip south.

“I’m a junior so I’m starting to look at schools now. I’d never even heard of SIU before this,” she said post-landing. “I can’t wait to tour campus.” James Targosz, a freshman in aviation flight, said his participation in career day was an important factor in helping him later choose SIU.

“I liked it because it was a visit that was more aviation-based; we got to see what the programs were like,” Targosz of Orland Park said. “We also got to visit campus and I really enjoyed that, too.”

David NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, said the collaborative effort between the school, the airline and alumni has made career day a success.

“At the end of the day, these students are very enthusiastic about SIU and are happy to have participated,” he said. “It’s probably the neatest college visit they’ll get, too.”

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