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Lauren Corippo

This senior and future pilot plans to take off from California and find her path on the horizon at SUU.

Soon to be majoring in Professional Piloting at Southern Utah University, Lauren Corippo is scanning the horizon to finish strong in her last semester of high school. She has experienced many challenges in 2020 including a drop in her grades, family members suffering from COVID, and challenges with preparing for her future at Southern Utah University (SSU).

But, despite the many obstacles, she has overcome them all with an optimistic outlook on her future and almost a full ride to major in Professional Piloting at SUU. 

The week before Thanksgiving break, Corippo sent in her application to SUU, and only three weeks later received a letter of acceptance explaining she received a $43,252 scholarship. This was very exciting news to her and her family, to say the least. The only issue is, she fears she will miss out on crucial real life experience to prepare her for ground school at SUU. 

Fighting to take off

It’s no secret that distance learning has provided many challenges for students, and arguably one of the most challenging aspects of it is finding the self discipline and motivation required to participate and focus on online classes.

Corippo explains she has “so much less motivation to actually do the work” because she can “just open up Google Meets, open the slides and have all her notes right there” in front of her and doesn’t need to study or pay attention. 

“The motivation isn’t there anymore,” she admitted.

Social costs abound

The social aspect of it all has greatly affected Corippo. Instead of going to senior sunrise, and homecoming, seniors have to stay at home and have limited contact with their friends and family.

Corippo has a very select group of people she can hangout with, and her parents are very cautious about the virus. My grandma’s in the hospital right now which is not good. So I haven’t seen her in a while, and it’s been hard,” Corippo said.

Corippo also explained that all of her cousins have COVID, and she tested for the virus, but the results came back negative. 

Corippo claimed that the most challenging part of this year has been “just the lack of social interaction. I haven’t had a senior year, and I’m about to go to college, but I don’t feel like a senior,” Corippo said. “I think that that’s been the hardest for sure of coming to terms with that. And, you know, trying to keep everyone safe.”

Trained to fly

In the fall of 2018, during her sophomore year, Corippo was one of the first members of the newly initiated Aviation Club at PRHS. Every week they would meet at lunch and discuss all aspects of Aviation. “We were just learning about planes and, you know, each component and the history of it, but that wasn’t really the fun part of it, and we actually lost a lot of members because of that,” Corippo said. “It’s run by some really old guys talking about World War II,” so not a lot of students found an interest in that. Despite a loss of outside student participation, Corippo’s involvement in the club was paramount to getting accepted into SUU. “Being in that club got me into college,” Corippo said.

Eventually the club at the high school evolved into a “private club,” where students from all over the county were invited to the Paso Robles Municipal Airport or the Estrella Warbird Museum and volunteered at events on the weekends and during the summer, such as car shows, or plane shows and others alike. Every Saturday a group of roughly 20 consistent members would help out around the airport, “sanding planes down and painting them and restoring them,” Corippo said.

Group of students from Aviation Club volunteering at Estrella Warbird Museum. Hari(last name unknown), Olivia Wells, Lauren Corippo, Jesus (last name unknown), Luke Marion, Jake (last name unknown), Andres (last name unknown), Wyatt (last name unknown). [Top row L-R] Luis (last name unknown), Manuel (last name unknown), Erich (last name unknown). [Bottom row L-R]

However, once COVID hit, many members, including Corippo stopped attending. “A bunch of people have stopped going actually,” Corippo said. “The people that are leading it are saying that masks are optional,” so that’s why they stopped going. It was a true disappointment for Corippo that she was unable to participate and rack up some more community hours, because that experience is essential for her future at SUU.

Fortunately, Corippo was able to ensure a spot as a Thunderbird (the SUU mascot), and already has 70hrs of community service logged at the airport. 

Lauren at age 8 at Warbird Museum on top of her grandpa’s air plane.


Lauren (left), her dad, Matt Corippo (middle), and her older sister, Emma (right) posing together infront of Estrella Warbird Museum.

Corippo plans to earn her degree in Professional Piloting with a rotor wing emphasis, which means she would like to become a professional helicopter pilot. Corippo said she basically “grew up at the airport,” because her grandfather, who is the co-founder of the War Bird Museum, Gary Corippo, was a pilot and “would take [her] up and he’d fly [her] around and do donuts and stuff.”

Also, her dad, Matt Corippo has always been into flying as well. “I’ve been kind of surrounded by it my whole life,” Corippo said. 

Gary Corippo, Co-founder of Estrella Warbird Museum walks proudly.

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The Young Eagles

Ever since the moment Corippo flew for the first time she knew she wanted to make a career out of it. “Once I actually got to do it myself, that was the moment that I was like, ‘yep, that’s what I want to do,’’ Corippo said. 

Corippo started training with the Young Eagles program, which is a program founded by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Paso Robles, which allowed young pilots an opportunity to learn how to fly. The one day event was taught by volunteer pilots from around the community which included an explanation on how airplanes work, a look at an aeronautical chart (or map), and a description of the interior of the airplane and the instrument panel. While the Young Eagles program was a great opportunity for Corippo to do once, it was “really expensive” and “I wasn’t going to pay for it twice,” Corippo said. 

Photo provided by the Young Eagles Day Registration website

When Corippo was a child, she wanted to go into the Navy/Air Force, but then once she got older realized combat wasn’t meant for her, but she still felt a purpose for helping others. “I’ve always wanted to help people, so I was thinking either Medivac (medical evacuation) or Search and Rescue or possibly firefighting.”

Through this year, Corippo has learned to “hold on to those close to you,” and to “rely on those few people that you have around you to help with pretty much anything.” In the first couple of months of the pandemic, Corippo felt “at first, it kind of seemed like it was going to be endless and, there was no light at the tunnel,” but now she constantly reminds herself that “the world will get back to normal at some point, might not be this year, might not be next year, but it won’t last forever,” and to always “stay hopeful.”

Photo courtesy of Lauren Corippo


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