Nov. 15, 2005 More than 150 Addelita Cancryn Junior High School students got a peek at what could be in their future Tuesday morning at the Rotary II sponsored Tourism Career Expo.
Perhaps eighth-grader Tiffany Joseph summed up the event best, "It's a good experience; it tells us what we can become."
That's what organizer Cassandra Mallory had in mind when getting together the different tourism-related organizations to offer information on careers ranging from a captaining a harbor pilot boat to running a concierge desk at one of the territory's hotels, or writing for a tourism magazine,
Less glamorous but no less necessary is the job of a ship's agent. "Say, you start off with a call to pick up luggage at the airport," says Mark Sabino, West Indian Co. Ltd. Marine manager, "but then you find the ship needs 1,000 pounds of brown sugar and 400 pounds of strawberries right away. What are you doing to do?"
Other problems crop up, Sabino says. "Suppose an agent is told to take somebody to the hospital. It can be a problem. What if the person has a contagious disease? The agent isn't going to take that person. Public health would have to get involved."
Sabino holds groups of students wide-eyed with his discourse on all elements of tending to the enormous cruise ships that contribute so importantly to the territory's economy.
"There's a huge amount of business that they bring in that has nothing to do with passenger revenue," he says. "Why today one ship is taking on 700 tons of water. That's money that goes back into the economy." Sabino continues, "And right back of Cancryn here there are big trailers sent ahead to load the ships when they arrive with supplies. People have to unload those supplies and bring them to the ship."
And what kind of jobs are there, the kids ask Sabino. "Almost anything you can think of," he says. "A chef, a musician, somebody who tends the seeing-eye dogs, baby-sitters, waiters, officers, crew. A ship is like a small city. The jobs aren't easy," he says, stern for a moment. "And when you work on one, it's 12 hours a day and you can't go home at the end of the day. You sign a contract for six to eight months."
Eighth-grader Nichole Niles says she would like to work in a shop on the ship's arcade. "You would have to contact the company that runs the particular store. They are all under contract."
Sabino is obviously enjoying his role. He seems a natural-born showman. "You know," he says, glancing up at a framed portrait of the school's namesake Addelita Cancryn, "I have to watch what I say. I went to school here and I can still see her gazing sternly at me."
However, it doesn't hinder his delivery. Looking at a white hard hat sitting before Sabino, a student asks why he wears it. "Kids throw things over the rails, all kinds of things," he says. However, he explains that the lines the ship's crew throw overboard to tie up are a hazard."The throw over a little heaving line first tied with what is called a monkey-knot, they toss it off and it can go anywhere, it can wind up in a taxi window. And they are tied to the big, heavy lines," Sabino explains. "They are very dangerous."
Student Kyron Stout has been listening intently. "I might be interested in working as a purser,"he says. "I went on a cruise with my parents last year and I watched what they do."
Hosea Ottley says he is actually interested in marine biology, but, "I like any marine stuff. This is very interesting."
Cathy O'Gara mans her counter with Destination magazine. She tells the kids that several magazines are published "here on the island." They are, she explains, mostly tourism publications, like Destination, St. Thomas This Week and others.
Harmon Killebrew, of Hassel Island Historic Tours is signing up kids for free tours, and he is getting lots of signatures. "We have a government grant for 50 groups of 10 each with a chaperone," he explains. "The tours are free, but we need money for the ferry ride to the island, and for water."
Debra Farrelly of Island Media, which publishes the local guidebook Virgin Islands Playground, is telling the students about careers in journalism, photo journalism and publishing. "They seemed really interested," she says. Farrelly said she gave out several cards to the students. "I would be happy to mentor them they could come in for a shadow-day and follow us around," she says.
The students learn about scholarships from the Hotel and Tourism Association and from the V. I. Port Authority. Monifa Marrero, manning the VIPA desk, says the kids were mostly asking about airline pilot careers. "When I told them about being a harbor pilot," she says, "they said they hadn't even realized that."
VIPA is instituting a scholarship program for this academic year. It will be for students graduating this year, who are headed for college. Carole Henneman, VIPA public relations specialist, said Tuesday that the scholarship amount still has to be approved by the VIPA board, but, she says, it will be "probably in the $2,000 per student range."
The Hotel and Tourism Association had a desk telling the students about a variety of hospitality careers. The representatives explained that scholarships are offered from HTA's parent organization, the Caribbean Hotel Foundation, which has awarded more than 2,000 academic and non-academic scholarships since it began in 1987. For complete information, go to the organization website www.caribbeanhotelfoundation.org.
Hospitality careers got the attention of a group of girls drinking in every word. Discussing the options later, eighth-grader Sherice Lake displays a couple qualities which could prove helpful. She says she would like to work in the hospitality industry because, "I like to talk with people, and I have a good personality."
School principal Yvonne Pilgrim appeared immensely pleased at the turnout, and at the event. "It's great," she says, "and I like the set up. It's very organized, we had one group at a time, and they asked lots of questions. Also," Pilgrim notes, "It's Cancryn Career Month my school, my community, my career."
She adds, "It's National Education Week, so what better time to expose them to all the different careers they can have."
Mallory and her Rotary colleagues Valerie George, Eric Baynes, and Arthur Newton, club president, are standing around like, much like the concerned parents they sort of are. Cancryn is Rotary Club II's adopted school.
"The kids, the staff, everyone has been so helpful," says Mallory. "They keep coming in and asking if they can help." Mallory put the whole thing together in about a month."It was supposed to be in the spring, but the school wanted to do it now during career month," she says.
The group is looking over some of the exit comments. "The presenters are good with kids," says one.
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