Junior Darian Flemming spends his afternoons playing with fourth and fifth graders and his evenings monitoring gymnasium activity at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center. He has worked at the facility for several months and thoroughly enjoys helping out.
“I love my job and working with the kids,” Flemming said. “I have learned about working with people with different personalities and that every child may cooperate in different ways.”
Flemming came to Workforce Academy for the opportunity to earn school credit for his work hours and to bring his grades up. In most subjects, he’s now on track to receive an A.
Robert Cairns, former real estate developer, visited the school and met with students. He advised them to “think beyond today, have a goal for the future and work on a daily basis to do the best you can to move forward toward your long-term goal.” He offered the analogy of being out at sea in a rowboat and the need to keep looking for shore – “your goal” – or your survival chance is slim to none. He suggested they not become distracted and lose focus, to go to work early and stay late, and to exceed expectations. He also recommended that they learn from everything they do, and once they start earning money, to keep more than they spend.
Students learn how to operate a cash register, ring up items and handle cash during a Transition class.
Gilchrist McDonald’s named senior Terri Leath Employee of the Month. She has worked at the restaurant on Gore Street for several months. She said her boss encouraged her to keep up the good work.
“I like everything about working there,” Leath said. “I’m learning a lot about food preparation, but most importantly how to deal appropriately with customers. I’m so happy to have this opportunity to work while still in high school.”
Leath plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation and has set her sites on becoming an officer.
Professionals from around the area participated in WAA’s Career Day, sharing information about their field and personal tips for success. Business Transition teacher Chris Canone organized the event with assistance from the Y Young Achievers Program.
Ericka Cotton, an independent broadcast and video producer, kicked off the event and explained that the job entails more than just operating a camera, with videographers also writing, creating and talking with people. Opportunities exist online as well as on broadcast.
“Start at the bottom, and work your way up, perhaps at a small television station” she advised.
Emergency medical technician Kristen Davis encouraged the students to find work they enjoy and want to get up and do every morning. A good paycheck is an added bonus.
Joe Brown, an Orlando Fire Department firefighter, encouraged the students to continue their education, and if they like to get the adrenalin going to consider working for a fire department.
“There’s no feeling better than when you save a little kid and her mother says, ‘thank you,’” Brown said.
Family law attorney Denaro Allen, called education the passport to the future and told the students to take it seriously. He told the students that anything is possible.
“Attitude determines altitude, and how far you go depends on how determined you are,” Allen said. “Nothing is easy, if it’s worthwhile.”
Anthony Fothergill, executive chef with DoubleTree, said that you have to start in his field at the bottom and struggle to get what you want. While he emphasized education is important, he said school is the easy part of life.
“Have a plan to make money,” Fothergill said. “Don’t be scared of the future. If you don’t try, you won’t succeed.”
Mike Crotty, owner of a construction firm, advised students to focus on what they are communicating.
Television anchor Stewart Moore told students to “pray first, aim high and stay focused.” He informed them the plans they make today will affect their lives forever.
Business owner Ruben Figueroa informed the students of the need to work hard and the importance of education.
“No one can keep you from what you want to do, except you,” Figueroa said. “It’s about what you do and the effort you put into it. Be passionate about something.”
Johnny Garner, a licensed massage therapist, also owns his own business but also works on the side at a spa in the attraction area.
“Go to school and have a goal,” Garner advised. “The best thing to have is your own way to make money.”
Sales professional Mike Irizarry called sales the foundation of capitalism. He encouraged students to get an education and suggested sales as an economically satisfying career that rewards hard work.
“It’s important to have drive and motivation,” Irizarry said.
Former pro football player and owner of a media production company Shante Tasby discussed his career with students and encouraged them to continue their education. He completed a program at Full Sail, which helped him become a producer.
Kim Morris, an intellectual property attorney, talked about beginning her career as a rap artist but wanted more.
“You can be anything you want to be,” Morris said. “Develop your talents. No one can take your skills away.”
Junior Stephanie Blackman began working at Mills & Nebraska in the fall and has earned high marks from her employer for being cooperative and following directions. She files, does some fast cash payday loan bookkeeping and other office projects. “I like it, because the people are nice,” Blackman said. “I’m learning how to keep up with the demands of business and helping others.”
Management personnel from ADP Surfaces of Orlando visited the school and talked with students about preparing for the world of work to ensure a bright future. The company has hired and is mentoring four Workforce Advantage Academy students. They are working on fabrication of granite countertops. Lou Manzella advised students not to wait for opportunities to knock, but rather to kick the door open and create opportunities for themselves. He urged them to dare to be different. Then once they are working to save money and invest for retirement, to let money compound and work for you. Michael Chaney, operations manager at ADP, discussed his youth and overcoming bad decisions before finding the right path. He encourages students to not sell themselves short and to create a successful path for themselves.
Chanese Bradley, a 2011 graduate of the academy, has joined the environmental team at Orlando Health Dr. Phillips Hospital, after working in different hospitality positions. She said those jobs taught her self-control and anger management skills, but it was time for steady work with a future. Orlando Health offers tuition reimbursement. Bradley plans to return to school to become a nursing assistant and work her way up the career ladder.
Ryan Pitman, client project specialist with Retail Business Development of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Chris Rivera, area manager for Vonage, met with more than two-dozen Workforce Advantage Academy students in preparation for adding to their ranks of sales professionals at retail outlets. The two were seeking outgoing, energetic people who will be able to explain different electronics products to consumers.
The companies hired 12 students. Vonage conducted electronic training at the school, so students were prepared to work when they arrived at their assigned stores.
Several students continue working at Bags and earning high marks for their work ethic and desire to learn.
Erick Garcia, a WAA senior, began working at Bags this fall in the airport, moving luggage from one belt to another, loading cars and tagging the luggage so it arrives at the right destination. It’s hard work, but the senior enjoys it.
“I like helping people,” Garcia said. “I try to learn something new each day and I enjoy staying busy. There is always something to do.”
After graduation, Garcia plans a career in the culinary arts.
Senior Raymond Martinez is on a fast-track program at Bags to advance to a leadership position. He has begun helping with the training of new employees.
Senior Elix Villanueva’s supervisor describes him as a “superstar,” always wanting to learn. He has worked in various positions at Bags, including shepherding luggage off cruise ships at Cape Canaveral and ensuring they are properly tagged and arrive safely at Orlando International Airport to valet parking cars at a Disney resort.
“I like the people and have great bosses,” said Villanueva, who plans to study political science, journalism and education at Valencia College and the University of Central Florida.