Northeast Times

JEVS honors graduate with Inspiration Award

— Ta­cony res­id­ent Greg Car­dona was awar­ded for his suc­cess in Pro­ject WOW, an edu­ca­tion pro­gram offered by JEVS Hu­man Ser­vices.

Greg Car­dona (left), who won an In­spir­a­tion Award at the JEVS Hu­man Ser­vices Strictly Busi­ness Awards, poses with Sylvia Oca­sio (right), who is the pro­gram man­ager for Pro­ject WOW. (Tom War­ing)

Back in 2004, Greg Car­dona was a newly min­ted St. Mar­tin of Tours gradu­ate on his way to Fath­er Judge High School for what seemed like a prom­ising ath­let­ic ca­reer.

Car­dona played foot­ball and bas­ket­ball as a fresh­man at Fath­er Judge, but left after one year. He spent his sopho­more year at North Cath­ol­ic, then en­rolled at Samuel Fels as a ju­ni­or.

Fels was walk­ing dis­tance from Car­dona’s home on Chel­ten­ham Av­en­ue in Ox­ford Circle, but he star­ted to cut class. He dropped out mid­way through the 2006-07 school year.

“I kind of got with the wrong crowd,” he said.

Next, he en­rolled in the twi­light pro­gram at North­east High, but left after six months.

“I was go­ing nowhere fast,” he said.

By 2009, he was ready to change his life­style. His aunt, Dolly Car­dona, works for JEVS Hu­man Ser­vices and poin­ted him to the agency.

“I needed my GED and wanted a trade,” he said.

Car­dona met with Sylvia Oca­sio, pro­gram man­ager of Pro­ject WOW (World of Work), based at Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute, a pro­gram of JEVS at 2770 Red Li­on Road.

“We were a great match,” Oca­sio said.

Pro­ject WOW is a free pro­gram fun­ded by the state. It is open to Phil­adelphia res­id­ents ages 18 to 21 who have dropped out of high school and meet in­come lim­its. They must pass a test at sixth-grade read­ing level.

Car­dona was ac­cep­ted in­to the prop­erty main­ten­ance re­pair/weather­iz­a­tion pro­gram and at­ten­ded class reg­u­larly over 16 weeks while work­ing at a fast-food res­taur­ant at night. He was pres­id­ent of the class, which stud­ied car­pentry, elec­tri­city and plumb­ing.

“I learned the ba­sics of all three. It was pretty much smooth sail­ing,” he said.

Today, at age 23, he’s mar­ried and has his GED. He lives on Marsden Street in Ta­cony with his wife, Glory­bell, and their 10-month-old son, Gregory. He works at Amer­ic­an Kit­chen Ma­chinery, loc­ated at 204 Quarry St. in Old City.

Pro­ject WOW nom­in­ated Car­dona for a JEVS In­spir­a­tion Award, and the agency se­lec­ted him as a win­ner. He re­ceived his award dur­ing JEVS’ 14th an­nu­al Strictly Busi­ness awards lunch­eon at the Sheraton hotel at 17th and Vine streets.

“This is an hon­or and an achieve­ment. It’s something I didn’t think I’d be at,” Car­dona said be­fore re­ceiv­ing his award at the Oct. 25 ce­re­mony, em­ceed by CBS 3 Eye­wit­ness News an­chor­wo­man Erika von Tiehl. “When my son is older, I’ll show him.”

Car­dona, whose young­er broth­er, Nich­olas, also gradu­ated from Pro­ject WOW, was joined at the event by his wife, par­ents and three sis­ters.

Be­sides learn­ing the trade skills, Car­dona and the oth­ers were taught job-in­ter­view­ing skills and how to budget their money. The Pro­ject WOW staff mon­itored their at­tend­ance and classroom pro­gress.

“A sup­port sys­tem en­abled him to suc­ceed,” Oca­sio said.

Amer­ic­an Kit­chen rep­res­ent­at­ives vis­ited Or­leans and con­duc­ted in­ter­views.

“I was hired the same day and star­ted the next day. I’ve been there two and a half years,” Car­dona said.

At Amer­ic­an Kit­chen, a fam­ily-owned busi­ness, he star­ted as a help­er for a few weeks be­fore be­ing pro­moted to tech­ni­cian. He has full-time work that he en­joys. He goes to places such as hos­pit­als, ho­tels, sports sta­di­ums and nurs­ing homes to provide pre­vent­at­ive main­ten­ance on kit­chen equip­ment.

Car­dona be­lieves he can grow with the com­pany.

“It’s a good field to be in. I do my own jobs, and it’s something dif­fer­ent every day,” he said.

Car­dona has come a long way since his teen­age years and is proud to have what looks like a bright fu­ture.

“I’m mar­ried, have a son and bought a house. I’m go­ing to go with the flow and see what hap­pens,” he said. 

••

Among the oth­er honorees was Cable­N­et Ser­vices, which re­ceived the JEVS Busi­ness Lead­er­ship Award.

The Booth­wyn, Delaware County-based firm, foun­ded in 2004, has more than 300 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing some 250 tech­ni­cians who work in Phil­adelphia, the sub­urbs and Delaware. It is Com­cast’s largest con­tract­or and has hired al­most 30 Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute gradu­ates in the last two years.

Dwaine Mullings, dir­ect­or of tech­nic­al train­ing at Cable­N­et, said he prefers tar­get­ing tech­nic­al school gradu­ates rather than at­tend­ing job fairs when it comes to hir­ing.

Mullings ex­plained that stu­dents usu­ally can “hit the ground run­ning” after be­ing hired. They want to see a re­turn on their in­vest­ment and gen­er­ally last longer on the job.

A mem­ber of the Or­leans Tech­nic­al In­sti­tute ad­vis­ory board, Mullings said the school pro­motes elec­tric­al safety and does a good job of pro­du­cing smart, hard-work­ing, pro­fes­sion­al and punc­tu­al em­ploy­ees.

“I have a great re­la­tion­ship with Or­leans,” he said. “The stu­dents have the work eth­ic that we need, and Or­leans pre­pares them for that.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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