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Hearing-impaired Romeoville High School student dreams of being a commercial pilot

Marc Sotelo wants to be a commercial airline pilot.

On the surface, such an ambition isn’t all that unusual for a 16-year-old; but, in Marc’s case, it is because he has lived with a moderate to severe hearing loss since he first started kindergarten more than nine years ago at Hermansen Elementary School.

“It’s been my dream since I was six years old,” Sotelo said. “But because of my hearing loss, people were telling me I couldn’t do it.”

Marc, now a Romeoville High School student, refused to take “no” for an answer, launching a personal research campaign three years ago that culminated in a remarkable discovery that a Southern Illinois University flight instructor has carved a flying career despite a more severe hearing impairment than Marc’s.

“I e-mailed him and he responded, telling me it was possible,” Marc recalled. “He said airlines don’t care if you have hearing loss. All they care is if you are able to function properly and can handle tough tasks.”

The communication gave new life to Marc’s quest.

Since then he has begun making plans for flight time toward his pilot’s license. And he already knows he must go to college when he graduates from RHS in 2016.

“I wanted to finish all my education,” he said. “Airlines want a four-year degree.”

“Marc is one of the most ambitious students I’ve seen,” said Romeoville High School Itinerant Teacher Jill Furto. “I’ve had a lot of serious students who don’t know what they’re going to do with their lives. He’s not going to let his hearing loss hold him back.”

Marc launched his flying career earlier this month when RHS Transition Specialist Laura Bargas helped get him aboard a plane out of Lewis University Airport.

“I was scared at first, but then when we lifted off I was like oh this is so easy,” he said as he recalled taking over the controls for two 15-minute periods. “It was easier than driving a car. It was thrilling to have the opportunity.”

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