Gregory AuPont was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he lived with his family and worked as a middle school teacher. He was studying at a university in 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit his home country, taking the lives of over 230,000 people. Gregory and his family immediately began the process of moving to the U.S. in pursuit for a better life. Eight years later, in 2018, Gregory was finally granted refugee status and began his migration to the U.S.
Soon after arriving to the United States, Gregory began the difficult task of securing a job. Despite Gregory’s degree and extensive work experience as a middle school teacher in Haiti, he had a very difficult time navigating the job search process. He applied to many jobs in the hospitality industry, but was never offered a position. “Before I came to BEST, I applied and interviewed for many hotel jobs. I had a very difficult time answering interview questions. Because of this, they always chose someone else for the job.”
After taking English classes through a community program, Gregory was referred to BEST Hospitality Training. When Gregory walked into our office for the first time, he greeted us with a warm smile. He was accepted into our Introduction to Hospitality Training, Housekeeping Pre-Apprenticeship Program, where he diligently attended class for six weeks, including two weeks of job shadowing at the Fairmont Copley Plaza and the InterContinental Hotel. He spent hours practicing interview questions to prepare for upcoming interviews. When the time came, he was able to speak clearly about his strengths, work experience, and training. Gregory recalls, “When I moved to the United States, I had so much confusion about what I should be doing with my life. But on my first day of class, I knew I was in the right place. BEST helped me find direction in my life and provided me an opportunity.” After successfully graduating from our program, Gregory was offered a job at the Boston Park Plaza, a luxury hotel in Boston’s Back Bay, earning $21.00 an hour with a full benefits package.
Gregory states, “Because of the training I did at BEST, I felt prepared to follow my dream. I feel so happy to be working at the Boston park Plaza. I am living my dream and I feel that I have a good life here because BEST helped me get a good job.”
On November 27, 2019, Gregory will be a featured speaker at a City of Boston event. Mayor Walsh and the Office of Workforce Development will be celebrating workforce development organizations funded by the city’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust, including BEST Hospitality Training.
Myia Battle had been working at Target since 2011, earning respect from supervisors and co-workers for her loyalty and dedication to customer service. She was earning $12.80/hour.
When Myia first heard about BEST Hospitality Training, she envisioned a hospitality career that would allow her to serve guests in a professional environment while earning a decent wage that could help provide for her and her family. With a sympathetic, understanding, and determined attitude work, she successfully completed the six-week Introduction to Hospitality Training, Housekeeping Pre-Apprenticeship Program at BEST in February 2019.
Throughout her training, Myia never stopped improving herself and learning from her instructors and classmates. She spent a lot of time consistently practicing and reviewing interview questions on her own and with the career coaching team. She eagerly absorbed information from guest speakers and instructors and brought a positive energy to the class.
Myia job shadowed at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel and the Intercontinental Hotel, learning from skilled workers and demonstrating her strong work ethic. During the last week of the program, she participated in a BEST Job Fair where she interviewed with leaders from the housekeeping department at Encore Boston Harbor. They were impressed by her outgoing personality and excellent work experience. An hour after the job fair, she got a call from Encore.
Today she works as a Status Board Operator at Encore where she earns $21/hour plus benefits. When asked about BEST’s Introduction to Hospitality Training, Housekeeping Pre-Apprenticeship Program, Myia said, “There are no words to describe the experience I had at BEST. The program gave me the skills that are important in the hospitality industry. If there are three words to describe BEST, they would be: AWESOME, OUTSTANDING, and CARING. Thank you so much again for giving me this opportunity!”
Gerry Tejeda says it was simply “destiny” that he found BEST. He was on his way to get help with employment somewhere else, and saw BEST’s sign on a window.
Gerry was 49 years old at the time and homeless. Even before finishing the BEST training program in May 2018, Gerry was offered a Local 26 Union position as the Communications Agent at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. He describes his job: “All oral communication is handled through my department… I am the voice of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.” After starting his new job, he was able to find a stable place to live, and continues to excel and be a huge asset to the hotel.
When asked about BEST’s Introduction to Hospitality Training, Housekeeping Pre-Apprenticeship Program, Gerry emphasizes “how well it prepares you to be in the hotel industry… it isn’t just a classroom; what they teach you in there is real life. You’re getting world-class training”. He says this class “is empowering, uplifting, and it provides a very bright future.”
From the US Department of Labor: Robert Richardson’s story
Robert Richardson is a 55-year old African American single father who lives in Dorchester, MA. He worked a variety of jobs with temporary staffing agencies, most frequently in industrial cleaning. His most recent assignment was as an overnight cleaner at an hourly wage of $13.00. His hours fluctuated from week to week, and he had no benefits.
We met Robert when he applied for and was accepted to BEST’s housekeeping pre-apprenticeship class, the Introduction to Hospitality Training Program. This 150 hour, six-week, full time training program, trains participants for positions in hotel housekeeping departments. The related classroom instruction includes components such as hands-on skills training in a model hotel room, ergonomics, chemical safety and blood-borne pathogens, cross-cultural communication skills, customer service, professionalism, non-harassment, financial literacy, computer skills, interview skills, hotel branding and two weeks of job shadowing. Upon completion, participants work with career coaches on their job search. Graduates receive a Massachusetts Department of Labor Housekeeping Pre-Apprenticeship credential. An articulation agreement between Bunker Hill Community College and BEST awards 9 college credits to pre-apprentice graduates pursuing a hospitality certificate or associates degree upon completion of their prior learning assessment portfolio.
Robert graduated from BEST’s class in February 2017. He interviewed with 4 hotel partners at a job fair that we hosted. Each employer was interested in Robert’s candidacy & invited him to interview. His first interview was at the Omni Parker House. They offered him a full time position the very next day, and he began his housekeeping apprenticeship as a Housekeeping Houseperson on March 8, 2017, at $21.45/hour with a full benefit package. Robert graciously declined the other three interviews. When Robert completes his housekeeping apprenticeship, he will earn a nationally recognized certification from the Massachusetts Department of Labor and 3 additional credits at Bunker Hill Community College.
Robert said that he had always felt that working for such a historic and luxurious hotel downtown was never a possibility for him. He stated that he earns more now in one week than he did working several weeks before. He loves his job and his coworkers and envisions spending the rest of his working years there. He has also expressed that he would love to come to one of BEST’s classes to share his experience with our new students.
Jerome Mitchell is a young African American man, born and raised in Boston by his single father. Jerome graduated from a Boston high school and started working at TJ Maxx, earning close to $10/hour with no benefits. As part of his training at BEST, he spent a week job shadowing at the five-star InterContinental Hotel. After graduation, he was hired by the Fairmont Copley Hotel as a Public Area Attendant. His duties include walking the hotel dog, Katie Copley, and tending to the bees in the rooftop hives. The hotel loves his smile and work ethic. He is making more than his father ever has, enjoys paid vacations and full benefits, and walks with pride and a sense of accomplishment. “This program,” Jerome says, “helped me see the future. I can now see myself 20 years from now … and I am a hotel worker.”
Margarida Jurgensen came to the United States in 2007 for a “better life for her kids”. She worked at a fast food chain for five years, earning $9.50/hour as an evening shift supervisor. We first met Margarida when she interviewed for the BEST Room Attendant Program. In her interview, she broke down in tears and told us, “This isn’t a better life.” Margarida completed BEST’s Room Attendant Training in 2012. She obtained a job at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where she makes $20.28/hour and her employer pays an additional $9.41/hour into her benefit plan. She is actively looking to buy a house with the $10,000 first-time home buying grant that is part of her benefits program. When asked about BEST’s training, Margarida said, “It was like going from zero to 100.”