Luis Carlo Silva, center, practices flying a drone with his classmates in Oneonta, N.Y.

After months of hard work in career training programs, Luis Carlo Silva stood tall as he recounted the path that led him to his latest career accomplishment: becoming a drone pilot.

Silva, a 2018 Nogales High School graduate, said he took time to explore his career options after realizing that a four-year university didn’t make sense for him financially.

“I was going to go to college but then I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to live in debt with student loans and stuff like that,’” the 19-year-old said, adding that a high school mentor and a family friend both guided him in enrolling in the Job Corps., a career training program that offers free certifications within different careers for students from low-income families.

“It was just a free opportunity that was there for me to take,” Silva said.

After enrolling in the program soon after his high school graduation, Silva said, he spent seven months training for a plumbing career before asking to be transferred to Oneonta, N.Y. to obtain a different skill set from the organization’s aviation program.

“It just seemed like a good trade to learn because I can implement it in plumbing for mapping, aerial footage, pictures for the company,” he said of drone piloting. “It’s an extra trade, an extra skill to have.”

Only 11 students from around the country were accepted into the program, Silva said, proudly pointing out that he was the only one representing the state of Arizona.

His pilot training in New York consisted of hands-on drone flying, learning the basics of the remote-controlled aircraft, and ultimately an exam that allowed him to become an officially certified drone pilot.

The three mentors who guided him and taught him skills that helped him succeed, he said, were his Junior Air Force ROTC teachers at NHS, including Donald Belch, Frederick Harvey and Ronald Thielke.

“He’s accomplished to have good grades, good behavior and being in the Junior ROTC for four years, that discipline really helped him get that opportunity,” his father Carlos said. “Young people his age, they should know that there are many options to find a good job.”

Now that he’s certified with a new special skill set, the younger Silva said, his next goal is to find a job in Phoenix and apply his newly gained knowledge in the workforce.

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