Joel Cox

Soaring sky high

When Joel Cox took College Now classes as a Blue Valley High School student more than five years ago, little did he know the classes would help him attain a high-flying career right out of college. 

At 23, Cox is one of the youngest airship or blimp pilots in U.S. history. He currently is a licensed commercial pilot (including lighter-than-air category with an airship rating). His other ratings include single-engine land, sea and instrument as well as multi-engine land and instrument. He is working on his air transport pilot license. 

Today, he soars above most major United States cities and plays a role in the broadcast of major sporting events, such as professional football and baseball games, professional golf tournaments as well as NASCAR races. His employer is Van Wagner Airship Group, with U.S. headquarters in Orlando, Fla. Cox pilots Van Wagner blimps for several clients, including MetLife and DirectTV. 

“Since I was young, I always wanted to learn how to fly,” Cox said. “That dream became reality when I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Dayton Beach, Fla., in December 2010 and immediately landed a job. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time after graduation to become a blimp pilot.

Cox credits the JCCC College Now chemistry, U.S. history, Spanish and calculus classes he took in high school for helping him advance into his career quickly – three and one-half years after graduating from high school. 

“Graduating early from college allowed me to get into the job market quicker and find a job that best suited my college major,” he said. 

His mother, Kristen, agreed that College Now classes made a difference in several ways, not only for Joel but for both of her sons. 

“The main benefit of taking College Now classes is your child gets the chance to take college level classes while still in high school,” she said. “College Now classes helped my boys come to know what would be expected of them when they went to college.” 

Additionally, she said College Now classes helped her boys mature. 

“College Now offers the student an opportunity to grow while in high school without the pressure of being at a larger institutions,” she said. “Classes are taught in the familiar surroundings of high school. I saw the confidence and maturity level in both my boys increase after participating in College Now.” 

However, Kristen Cox said College Now benefits don’t come without some extra effort from the students. 

“Make sure your student is willing to put in the time to do the work, especially if they are planning to use the College Now experience for credits upon entering college,” she said. 

So now that Joel Cox soars high in his career, what advice does he offer high school students thinking about College Now classes? 

“Take College Now classes even if you aren’t sure what you might major in at college,” he said. “These classes allow you to take more interesting classes in college quicker because you have many of your general education classes out of the way through College Now. Additionally, College Now classes are structured very similar to classes at universities, so it prepares you for college.” 

About 2,500 area high school students each semester take courses for college credit through JCCC’s College Now program. To learn more, visit or call 913-469-2750.