Queens Seniors Soaring to New Heights at LGA

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

Suraiya Nawaz has always been eager to learn about aviation and to start on a career path that would allow her to turn her passion into reality.

Now, that dream is about to take flight. Nawaz is one of five outstanding Queens high school seniors awarded full scholarships to Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, complete with the promise of a full-time job with the Port Authority upon graduation. The awards were made possible by a unique local partnership among the Port Authority, Vaughn College, and LaGuardia Airport’s redevelopment program.

Suraiya Nawaz

“I’ve always wanted to work with planes, and I know how rare it is for students to have guaranteed jobs before they even start their first year of college,” said Nawaz, who lives in East Elmhurst. “This scholarship is a big help for me and my family financially. I feel very grateful to have been selected.”

The other students receiving scholarships are: Kristian Nieves and Alvin King from East Elmhurst, Anton DeGuzman from Corona, and Chasisty Melo from Astoria. The program is in its second year, building on the successes of the inaugural scholarship year in which all six scholarship winners from last year are interning remotely this summer – due to COVID-19 – with the Port Authority Aviation Department, the LaGuardia General Manager’s Office, and the LaGuardia Redevelopment program.

Chasisty Melo

“The scholarship program awarded through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a critical steppingstone for young researchers in communities of color interested in the city’s scientific space. The importance of more diversity in the STEM field cannot be overstated,” said NYS Assemblyman and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Aubry, who represents the district. “Providing students access to reality-based, high impact technological work makes science more real, relevant and doable. And, in many cases awards a student with the financial stability and pathway to college.”

Chasisty Melo will be pursuing a degree in Mechatronic Engineering, a highly specialized major that only a handful of schools across the U.S. offer. With an advanced background in electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering, she hopes to develop and improve aviation systems. “This scholarship has given me the opportunity to pursue a career that I am passionate about,” she said. “By removing the financial burden of tuition, I will be able to dedicate all my time to my education and development. This scholarship has made it financially possible for me to attend college.”

Anton DeGuzman

This year, applications increased to 46, including 24 from areas designated as priority communities for their proximity to LaGuardia Airport: East Elmhurst, Astoria, and Corona.

DeGuzman also is pursuing a degree in Mechatronic Engineering starting this fall. He is determined to complete the challenging coursework since it means that he’ll be able to work on important projects in the future that help make people’s lives easier.

“When this scholarship comes up in a conversation, I always say how thankful I am for the financial assistance and working opportunities that it provides,” he said. “Like I always do, I will give the next several years my best effort, never giving up along the way.”

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