Danyella Orjuela has gone to assemblies at Mariner High where she has seen friends honored for earning athletic scholarships to various universities and colleges across the country.
Orjuela, who played volleyball, soccer, and tennis at Mariner, said it bothered her that schools didn’t honor those who joined the workforce “and that’s equally important.”
On May 13, that changed.
A total of 23 students from various Lee County schools were honored at Workforce Signing Day hosted by My Shower Door in Estero.
Joining Orjuela were three other students from Cape Coral high schools – Marissa Brown of Ida Baker, Jason Perez of Island Coast and Jose Dominguez of Cape Coral.
All students who attended received a framed recognition of going into the workforce along with a swag bag – which included a 100 Grand candy bar – and welcome gifts from their employer.
Bill Daubmann, owner of my Shower Door, finally saw his idea become a reality. Feeling the same way as Orjuela, Daubmann started talking to community and school officials three years ago. They loved the idea, he said.
“Right now employers are having a difficult time hiring people,” he said. “This is a way to match up employees with employers. The students going into the workforce are part of the community and are establishing roots in Southwest Florida.”
While some students are bypassing secondary education and going into the workforce, some who attended the signing day are working and going to college or receiving specialized training.
Rita Davis, the director for adult and career education, and Kelly Thawley, a career specialist, represented the school district in putting on the program.
“I’m glad Bill championed this,” Davis said. “We were going to do this virtually in May but then he offered his parking lot. We went through protocols. … This is a big first step for us.
“I love it. In years past, when I went to high school, it was either college or prep school or vocational tech. It was an either/or track. … Our ultimate goal from K-12 is to create critical thinkers who have a passion for life-long learning and solving problems.”
After earning her certified nursing assistant and EKG technical certificates, Health Park hired Orjuela for a job. She’ll also take courses at Florida SouthWestern State College in the school’s nursing program.
“I never had a job before, so going into the interview I was so nervous,” said Orjuela, who already has earned 30 college credits. “My parents (Eric and Diego Orjuela) told me to focus on grades. I’m so excited to start.”
Brown, who attends Ida Baker, also plans to attend college while working. After working at Yucatan Waterfront and being a childcare daycare provider, she’ll work at Iguana Mia as a server. Brown also will attend FSW with the goal to attend Florida in two years.
“I’ll continue to work and save up,” she said. “I liked how they put this together for us and all the things they gave us.
“It’s not all about college. It’s not the only way to succeed in life.”
Perez, hired by Precision Heating and Cooling, also will attend Tri-County Apprenticeship Academy where he’ll get his Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) certificate. His employer is picking up the education costs.
“I’ve started everything, installs, maintenance, customer service,” he said. “It’s a really good opportunity for me, I’m learning a lot and getting paid.”
When his name was called and he had pictures taken of him with his family, Perez said he felt good.
“When I was up there, I felt like a celebrity,” he said.