"The two years that I’ve been here so far have been quick. The time is flying by because it's not just learning, it's having fun and learning."
After growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Cheon moved to Queens, New York, where he earned his A&P certificate. Thanks to an articulation agreement with his previous school, Cheon's credits transferred to Penn College where he’s pursuing his bachelor’s in Aviation Maintenance Technology—the next step in his plan to become a pilot. “I figured if I know my plane inside and out, I can be comfortable flying," he says.
Q&A with Cheon
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO TRANSFER TO PENN COLLEGE?
At my previous school, I couldn't advance my degree. I could only get a certificate. So, I decided to come to Penn College, which, even though it's a technical school, you get your degree here instead of just a certificate. The people at Wilson Tech already had a connection with Penn College because when you graduate from Wilson, Penn College is one of the only schools you can go to around here if you want your bachelor's. I told them I was looking to advance my degree and they said, "Call this number. Talk to this person. They'll guide you from there." And I called the school and they gave me somebody to help me see what transfer credits I had, and what classes I was going to need to take, and he guided me step by step.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMING FROM QUEENS TO WILLIAMSPORT?
I was driving here and was like, "All right. I'm seeing mountains. I'm seeing corn. I am seeing a lot of land." I'm from the city, so normally I see buildings all around. When I came to this school, I saw a lot of trucks and a lot of things different than what I'm used to, and a lot more space. And then being one of few African Americans, it was kind of hard my first day. I just kind of stayed in my room, went for food, and kind of just scoped out the place. And then I was like, "All right, cool. Let's see what this school has to offer me."
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE? HOW ARE THINGS GOING NOW THAT YOU ARE SETTLED IN?
This will be my second year. I got into a lot more programs, and a lot more people started knowing me and seeing my face. And the school has gotten a lot more diverse since I've been here. Even though it's only been two years, I've been seeing a lot more happening. So, you meet more people. Being an RA (resident assistant) in my previous semesters, I had to introduce myself to people, and then people got to know me as an RA.
SO, WITH EVERYTHING THAT YOU HAD TO NAVIGATE, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO MIGHT BE IN YOUR POSITION?
If you're thinking of coming to Penn College, do it. Depending on who I'm talking to, if it is an African American like me, get to know a couple of people and put yourself out there. You'll find more of us. And it is getting better. If it's a white person I'm talking to, most of the people out here, their interests are alike. You go in a class and there are 10 people out of 15 that like trucks, or like fishing, or like hunting. So, it'll just be a lot easier for you to get into the school. But you really find people. I like trucks. I like fishing. I like hunting. I get along in this school really well because a lot of my interests are the same as others. I like snowboarding, too. So if you just like video games or shopping in the city, it's not a place for you.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE PENN COLLEGE TO SOMEONE WHO'S NEVER BEEN HERE?
It's a pretty campus. You have a lot of interesting buildings, a lot of interesting models around. I've never seen a college where there are strips of welding sculptures just on your daily walk to class. There are gardens and fountains that you can just enjoy on your walk to class. You have a beautiful view. Nice people, nice staff. It is a warm place to come into as long as you get used to it.
DID YOU KNOW IN HIGH SCHOOL THAT YOU WEREN'T GOING TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
When I was in high school, I was the kid that used to play drums for music or be out at lunchtime playing football or soccer instead of just sitting at my desk or chilling. I always liked to do stuff with my hands growing up. I knew I had a technical brain from the first moment I put two and two together. I knew books were not my thing. If I need to work on something, give me something to do with my hands. I'll figure it out.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TRANSFER STUDENTS LIVE ON CAMPUS AT FIRST?
Yes. I think you should live on campus for the first couple of semesters. When you first come to the school you meet a lot of people. A lot of friendships that I have now are because I met them in school. I'm still friends with my first roommate, even though I haven't lived with him since the first semester. We stayed in touch and still did everything together. Every so often we would go throw a ball if it was warm, just to catch up, and see how classes are. If I didn't have that, I would've been stuck with an off-campus person and not know a lot more people in the school that way.
ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?
Penn College is a great school if you do not want to just have lecture classes. I know a lot of colleges have straight lectures every day. It's a great school for learning, but you don't feel like it's learning. You have a lot of fun. Most of the teachers are so passionate about what they're teaching. They just make it a breeze to learn. They make it a breeze to get through. One thing I can say, Penn College found the right teachers for their degrees. I've not had a teacher in my major classes that I have not liked. And I haven't had friends who say they go to automotive or they go to welding and they don't like their teachers because the teachers are so into the programs. It just makes it easy for you to learn. The two years that I’ve been here so far have been quick. And the rest of the time is flying by because it's not just learning, it's having fun and learning.
WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
I have been accepted into flight school. My main goal is to be a pilot. So after this, I have about another year of intense flight training. It's a quick course. It takes you from zero hours to an airline job in that year. After that I hope to get an airline job and continue flying. As a pilot, you need a degree first. And I figured if I know my plane inside and out, I can fly it and be comfortable flying. It's a scary world up there. But if you are comfortable with what you're flying, you don't have to be scared. That was my thought process. I first wanted to go to a school where it was just flying. But then I talked to my dad and my uncle and they said, "Go fix it before you fly it." And I was like, "No, I just want to fly." And they're like, "Trust us. Just try it. If you don't like it, we'll figure something out." And I tried it and got hooked and that's how I ended up here.
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