Most young people work their way through college at a fast-food restaurant, the library or some other on-campus job, but not Los Angeles resident Demetrius Ingram. He is working his way through college by flying across the country as a commercial pilot for a regional airline in Western Alaska. Ingram, 19, became a licensed pilot when he was 17 years old and still a senior in high school. He said he always dreamed of taking to the skies and was hooked after his first introductory flight.

“I knew that becoming a professional pilot was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Ingram, who is working towards a bachelor of science degree in aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida “The freedom, the enjoyment, the excitement, the thrill, the challenge, the amazing community of people, and ability to travel to new places at heights many people don’t get to experience on a daily basis are just some of the few reasons why I became a pilot.”

Ingram was helped in his journey to become a pilot by the Sons of Abraham; (SOA) a local mentoring program that matches young Black men with positive role models in the community.

“The Sons of Abraham mentoring program played a huge role in helping me accomplish my career goals,” he said. “In 2013, the mentors presented the mentees with the opportunity to apply and attend an aviation career camp at Los Angeles International Airport. After several weeks of procrastination, I finally decided to complete the application and shortly after, I was accepted and enrolled in the camp that summer. Through the camp, it exposed us to the various career paths within aviation and; after spending a week of seeing the endless number of career opportunities and meeting so many wonderful people; I gained a huge interest in aviation.”

Ingram added the SOA helped turn his pipe dream into a real-life work experience.

“If it wasn’t for SOA presenting me with the opportunity to attend this camp, the chances of me being a pilot today were almost non-existent,” Ingram said.

After taking part in his first flight, Ingram decided to get serious about pursuing his dream of becoming a licensed pilot, a process that can take more than a year.

“The average time it takes to become a fully-rated commercial pilot is six months to 1 1/2 years,” Ingram said. “The amount of time it takes ultimately depends on how active and motivated the student is in his/her flight training. To become a commercial pilot, there are roughly seven tests (both written and practical) that have to be successfully completed.”

Once he qualified, Ingram was able to look for employment in the aviation industry.

“Now that I have my commercial pilot license, I’m able to fly for hire,” Ingram said. “Earlier this year, I landed my first pilot job with an airline, and now I’m able to do what I love and get paid doing it. I couldn’t be any happier.”

Ingram says the aviation industry is not very diverse. He is the only African American among his company’s 207 pilots. However, there are some organizations working to encourage more African Americans to enter the industry.

“The Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) is an aviation organization primarily comprised of African American pilots,” Ingram said. “Through scholarships, conventions and networking, the organization encourages and provides minorities with the chance and opportunity of pursuing a career in aviation.”

Ingram says his family is excited about his new career direction.

“My family seems to be quite proud of me. They’ve always been supportive of my decisions and helped me out in every way they could,” Ingram said.

Ingram appears to be genuinely in love with aviation, because although he makes his living as a commercial pilot, he still enjoys flying in his spare time.

“When I’m back home, I love to rent planes and take friends flying somewhere for lunch or just to enjoy an evening of sightseeing,” he said.