B.J., a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, always dreamed of becoming a pilot. However, after resettling in the United States with his mother and brother in May 2015, he first had to tackle the transition to a whole new life. Initially, B.J. worked and attended high school. He also assisted his mother, who struggled as a single parent and faced the difficulty of learning a new community and country.
In his final year of high school in 2017, after being unsure how to navigate the U.S. postsecondary educational system in order to pursue his dream, B.J. connected with North Carolina African Services Coalition’s (NCASC) Refugee Scholars Program (RSP). NCASC is an ORR-funded Ethnic Community Self-Help (ECSH) grantee in Greensboro, North Carolina. Drawing on the shared refugee experience, ethnic community-based organizations, such as NCASC, through a three-year grant, design unique projects that empower individuals and connect them to community resources.
Once B.J. shared his lifelong dream, the RSP program coordinated a visit to the aviation campus at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC). After visiting, B.J. realized his dream was achievable, and he really began to soar. With the assistance of RSP, which connects scholars to career mentors, B.J. applied and was admitted to GTCC to study aviation technology.
B.J. has completed a 12-week aviation training program, and in addition to studying at GTCC, he is currently working with a local community youth workforce development program to help him further pursue his aviation career through a paid internship. B.J. shows his appreciation by giving back to RSP, utilizing his language skills to recruit other refugees to the program. As a RSP Scholar Ambassador, B.J. speaks about his journey to success with other refugee students at community forums and addresses local, state, and federal representatives about the value and importance of the program, which has placed his childhood dream to fly a plane within reach.