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Cajun Scholarship at Broward College

Scholarship Honoring Fallen Thunderbird Pilot Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno Established at Broward College

The National Air, Sea and Space Foundation (NASSF) and Broward College are proud to announce the establishment of the Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship at the Emil Buehler Aviation Institute. The Cajun Scholarship will serve as a lasting tribute to the memory of fallen U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Major Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno, who lost his life during a training accident just three weeks prior to the 2018 Fort Lauderdale Air Show where the Thunderbirds were scheduled to perform.

Del Bagno started flying when he was 14 and went on to be a corporate pilot, banner tower, skywriter, and flight instructor prior to joining the Air Force. During his 11-year career as an Air Force pilot, he flew the F-16 and F-35, before joining the Thunderbirds in the fall of 2017.

The Stephen Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship was established to support aspiring aviators at Broward College, fostering the same spirit of excellence and dedication that Major Del Bagno embodied throughout his life.

“We are so blessed to be working together with the Del Bagno family to honor the memory of their son with this scholarship at Broward College,” said Bryan Lilley, Chairman of the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation. “This scholarship gives us the opportunity to help and inspire young aviators to follow their dreams as Cajun did.”

Broward College is proud of this partnership with the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation to support students in achieving their dream of becoming pilots,” said Megan R. Cottle, Vice President of Advancement and Chief Development Officer of the Broward College Foundation. “The sky has no limits to the potential of a quality education from Broward College.”

The Cajun Scholarship is unique in that it can be used for flight fees as well as tuition, ensuring that Major Del Bagno’s legacy continues to inspire future generations of aviation professionals. The scholarship will be open to students at Broward College who meet the eligibility criteria, including academic merit and a demonstrated passion for aviation. Each year finalists will be reviewed, and the recipient selected by the Del Bagno family and his closest friends.

“We are very grateful to the foundation and Broward College for honoring our son and carrying on his passion for aviation,” said Joe Del Bagno, father of Major Del Bagno. “We are blessed that Cajun will be inspiring the next generation for years to come.”

The scholarship will be awarded annually with finalists being chosen each spring and given the opportunity to be a part of the Air Dot Show Tour’s Fort Lauderdale Air Show. Finalists will be invited to attend aircraft arrivals, social events with the pilots and even be part of the flight operations team to work closely around the aircraft offering a unique and inspirational experience.

“This is what the Fort Lauderdale Air Show is all about,” said Dev Motwani, show co-chair. “Aviation dreams are made at air shows and the Cajun Scholarship allows us to honor the memory of Major Del Bagno by supporting young aviators and help making their dreams of being a pilot come true.”

Funding for the Cajun Scholarship comes from the ticket proceeds for the Flight Suit Social hosted by the NASSF and held in conjunction with the Fort Lauderdale Air Show taking place on May 10. The first contribution to the scholarship fund came from the ticket proceeds from the inaugural Flight Suit Social in April 2022. The Fort Lauderdale Air Show paid for all costs for the event and as a result, the NASSF was able to donate all the ticket proceeds making the initial contribution over $20,000.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Fort Lauderdale Air Show for generously covering all the costs associated with hosting the Flight Suit Social, allowing 100 percent of the ticket proceeds to directly benefit the scholarship fund,” said Russell McCaffery, Dean of Transportation Programs at Broward College.

The Flight Suit Social promises to be an exciting event and an exclusive opportunity to meet the pilots and get an up-close experience with the aircraft performing in the 2024 Fort Lauderdale Air Show. Ticket sales will directly support the Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship, allowing future generations of students to have the opportunity to excel in the field of aviation, just like Major Del Bagno.

Contributions to the Stephen Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship Fund are encouraged and can be made through the Broward College Foundation at https://giving.broward.edu/donate.

To learn more about the Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship or to inquire about scholarship donations, please visit airseaspace.org. To purchase tickets to the 2024 Flight Suit Social, please visit fortlauderdaleairshow.com/flight-suit-social.

About Broward College
Serving approximately 56,000 students annually, Broward College provides residents with certificate programs, two-year university-transfer degrees, two-year career degrees, and baccalaureate degrees in selected programs. The mission of the College is to provide high-quality educational programs and services that are affordable and accessible to a diverse community of learners. For more information, visit www.broward.edu.

About National Air, Sea and Space Foundation
The National Air, Sea, and Space Foundation (NASSF) is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of military, commercial, and civil enterprises in air, sea, and space.
The Florida based NASSF is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) educational, non-profit corporation founded in 2010. For more information on the foundation visit airseaspace.org.

Past Scholarship Recipients

Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno Memorial Scholarship in partnership with the Florida Institute of Technology and with the support of the Del Bagno family.

2019: Gabriella Ferra
2020: Ryan King
2021: Monte Rodriguez
2022: Ricardo Miller

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