David’s new job*

The Passionists/Holy Family Cristo Rey School

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Photo courtesy of Memory Bank Photography Studio
David and Joe at Hoar Construction, photo by Jan Fuller

By Julie Rattey


*Based on the story of David Turner. Information for this story was provided by David Turner; Jan Fuller, director of the Corporate Internship Program (CIP) at Holy Family Cristo Rey School in Birmingham, Alabama; and Joe Guillaume, executive vice president of field operations for Hoar Construction in Birmingham.

 

David, 15, straightened his tie for the third time and tried to calm his nerves as the school bus trundled toward its destination. This was his first day at Hoar Construction in Birmingham, and he wanted to make a good impression.

 

David knew how important a job was to getting along in life. His mother, the owner of a masonry business, worked hard to provide for him and his brothers and sisters. David noticed when his mother made sacrifices — like passing up new clothes or a better vehicle — to make ends meet. His mom had also made sure he applied to Holy Family Cristo Rey High School, even though it would have been cheaper to send him to public school. David’s mom knew that the school’s internship pro- gram, which required students to work in a corporate environment for part of each week, would help give her children an important leg up on the corporate world. One day, David hoped he would be in a position to thank his mother and relieve some of her many burdens.

 

David stared out the window as the bus passed a sleek new office building. What would it be like to build something like that? Nervousness about his new job began to turn into excitement. Ever since the time he had helped lay bricks for his mother’s business, he had thought he might like to pursue a career in engineering or construction. He liked the variety of the work: You never knew what new project you might be assigned, or what skills and challenges the project might require. There would always be some new challenge to face, keeping the work fresh and exciting. David was thrilled that Holy Family had an internship for office work in this field.

 

The bus slowed to a halt, and as David stepped out, he was met by Joe Guillaume, Hoar’s executive vice president of field operations. David had known from their first meeting, when Joe interviewed him, that Joe was a real professional. Just from the way he walked into a room, David could tell he knew what he was about. He was an “enforcer,” like David’s mom — someone who not only knew how to get a job done, but also made sure it happened.

 

David cleared his throat. Joe had only recently joined the internship program after hearing about it through his church, and David would be his first intern. David wanted Joe to feel he had made a good choice.

 

“Hello, David,” said Joe. “Good to see you.” He held out his hand.

 

“Thank you,” said David. Feeling a little intimidated, he shook hands lightly and lowered his eyes. He was always shy with strangers.

 

“David,” Joe said kindly, “one of the things you’ll need to learn in the business world is how to greet someone. Give a good, firm hand- shake. Look the person in the eye.”

 

David groaned inwardly. My first minute on the job and I’ve already messed up. But, deter mined to learn from his mistakes, he lifted his eyes to Joe and nodded bravely. He shook Joe’s hand again, a little firmer this time.

 

“Better,” Joe said, smiling. “We’ll work on it.”

 

***

 

“What do you think of this one, David?”

 

David, now 16, was standing with Joe in a used car lot, scoping out a vehicle. Early on, Joe had urged David to start a savings account for the non-tuition portion of his earnings. As with Joe’s other good suggestions, David had picked it up immediately. Now, he had saved up enough to put money down on a used car. David could hardly believe it: He’d always dreamed of having a car of his own.

 

David turned to the sturdy, black and gold Chevy pickup Joe had indicated. He encircled it slowly, examining every detail.

 

“I like it,” he said finally.

 

David wasn’t much of a talker, but Joe could tell that David was eager to get behind the wheel. David had his permit, and Joe made sure to give him some wheel time whenever he took David along on a construction job.

 

“Well, then, let’s look into it,” smiled Joe, gesturing to the salesman waiting nearby.

 

David smiled back. He liked spending time with Joe. He was learning a lot from him, about work and cell phone etiquette, how to be more assertive, and the importance of safety precautions on a construction site. It was also Joe who had told him about Metro Changers — a program similar to Habitat for Humanity that David had joined.

 

But Joe was more than just his boss: With permission from David’s mother, Joe had also become a mentor, father figure, even a friend. Since Joe had hired him to cut his lawn at his house, he got to spend some time with Joe’s family. Sometimes he and Joe played basketball together, or worked out together at the gym. With Joe’s help, David found himself becoming less shy and more assertive. His life seemed to have more focus, and his goals seemed easier to reach.

 

“Achieving your goals is a lot easier if you make a game plan for them,” Joe explained as they left the car lot that afternoon, having bought the Chevy. “I think it would be a good idea if you wrote down your goals. How about you give me a little presentation next week?”

 

“All right,” said David. This was his chance to show Joe that he was taking his advice and putting it to good use.

 

***

 

The next week, when Joe walked into the conference room for David’s presentation, he did a double take. The projector was on, and a laptop was sitting on the table. A slide — “My life goals”— was already on the screen. “Where did you learn Power- Point?” Joe asked, impressed.

 

“School,” David replied, pleased.  As a few other colleagues filtered in and took their seats at the table, David squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.

 

“These are my life goals,” he began. He clicked through the slides and explained each goal: to get his license, maintain his grades of A’s and B’s, graduate high school, get an academic and athletic scholarship to a Division-1 college, and so on. He was nervous, but the nods and smiles from his colleagues encouraged him.

 

“This slide,” David continued, “is about my mom. One of my goals is to get her a nice house and car. I’d like to make a good living someday so my mom won’t have to work anymore.”

 

David heard a sniffle from the other end of the table. One of his female colleagues was wiping tears from her eyes.

 

David, feeling touched and a little embarrassed, went on. “I want to be a parent someday, like my mom,” he said, “and I want to be a man. My long-term goal is to make the transition from a boy into a man.”

 

In closing, he thanked everyone for the chance to work at Hoar Construction. “I really appreciate the chance to learn about life before I get out there.”

 

There was a short silence, then a burst of applause. “Well done, David,” Joe said as everyone began dispersing. David’s shoulders relaxed with relief. Then a thought occurred to him.

 

“What should I do next?”

 

Joe laughed appreciatively. “Well,” he said, “you’ve gotten all your goals written down. Now you can create an action plan to help reach them. List the steps you need to take to reach each goal; that helps you keep track of how you’re doing.”

 

“Great,” said David. “I’ll do that.”

 

At the end of the day, David dropped by Joe’s office as usual to say goodbye.

 

“Good work today, David,” Joe said.

 

“Thanks, Joe,” David replied. He looked him straight in the eye and held out his hand, giving Joe a firm handshake. “See you next week.”

 

ABOUT HOLY FAMILY CRISTO REY AND THE PASSIONISTS

 

Holy Family Catholic High School, founded in 1943 by the Holy Cross Province of the Congregation of the Passion, has been part of the Cristo Rey Network since 2007. The network is composed of 24 high schools that provide a quality, Catholic, college preparatory education to young people who live in urban communities with limited educational options. This past year, 100 percent of these schools’ graduating seniors were accepted into college.

 

“If it wasn’t for the Cristo Rey program, I don’t know where I would be,” says David. “It got me focused. I’m looking forward to going to college and graduating with an engineering major. I plan on being something in life and giving back to the community.”

 

For more information about the school, or to help students like David, visit hfcristorey.org or call 205-781-3860. For more information about the Passionists, visit passionist.org.

 

Managing Editor Julie Rattey

Julie Rattey is a Boston-based writer and editor. She is the author of If I Grew Up in Nazareth, available from 23rdPublications.com.