Nigerian immigrant overcomes obstacles, graduates from aviation school
Helon Amos is a graduate of Kennedy Catholic High School and has a different background than most.
Originally born in Nigeria, Amos was the victim of a basketball talent scam that brought him to the U.S.
When Amos arrived in America, there was no such talent scout to meet him.
"Helon, not knowing what to do, he went to the police," said Jeff Kollar, Amos' adopted father. "Helon was detained for months. No where to go. His visitor visa expired."
After help through a local church, Amos was relocated to the Shenango Valley area where Jeff Kollar and his family took him under their wing and were eventually given custody.
"After months in a detention camp, he had a smile," Kollar said. "Our goal was to get him educated, no matter what. He tested out as a freshman in high school in college math."
"The Kollars are great people," Amos said. "We have the same sense of humor, so that helps a lot."
Amos also played basketball for Kennedy Catholic High School, winning several state championships. He received a few college scholarships to play basketball but he turned them down to pursue his real passion- going into the aviation industry.
"Not many people get to live their dreams," Amos said. "I'm living mine."
"Helon took a tough situation and turned it into an absolute positive one," said Joseph DeRamo, Director of the Youngstown Campus of Pittsburgh Institute of Aviation. "He is a very successful young man and just impresses the heck out of us."
Amos is graduating from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aviation in aviation technician maintenance with his airframe and power plant certification in May.
"Upon graduation, he will be able to work on anything that flies," DeRamo said. "He's had near perfect attendance in the 16 months he's been with us. His grades are phenomenal. But, it's mostly his attitude."
While the road has been rocky, Amos wants his story to inspire others who think their dreams are too small.
"I'd say go for it," Amos said. "What's the worst that could happen? They say it's not about the destination, it's about the journey."
Amos was nominated as Student of the Year with the National Aviation Educational Organization.
He has accepted a job with PSA Airlines in Norfolk, Virginia to begin his career.