Monday, October 28, 2019

Josh Watson – Instructor - English

Josh Watson with sons Andrew (left)
and baby William (right).
Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I grew up right here in Richmond, VA! Went to Godwin High School, attending Reynolds, and graduated from VCU with my BA & MA. 

How long have you worked for Reynolds?
As of August 2019 I have been with Reynolds for ten years.

What sparked your interest in English?
My high school English teacher taught me the value of expressing myself through writing and Paul Carlton (a retired professor from here) taught me about the fun you can have studying literature. 

What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of being an English Instructor?
Both would have to be giving each student the opportunity to work and explore beyond the walls of academia. Helping students see the application of what they learn here in a “real world” context makes the experience so much more real for them and I love seeing that realization evolve into energy and passion for their future.

You are in the first ACUE cohort group. What impact do you foresee the program having on Reynolds and our students?
Students will continue to see an engaged group of faculty that are making the classroom come alive with dynamic activities that will have them working with their contemporaries here and across Richmond. In that regard, Reynolds will grow to become even more of what it was always meant to be: a pillar for surrounding communities in every sense of the word. 

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
Reading with my sons. We’re currently working through the Last Kids on Earth series.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I enjoy tabletop gaming (Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40K) as well as making wooden cutouts for my Halloween display (tombstones, scary figures, etc.). 

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
Lately my oldest son and I have spent quite a bit of time exploring the rich and diverse collection of cemeteries and graveyards around Richmond. His favorite is currently Hollywood Cemetery for its crypts and climbable trees. Our goal is to leave a single polished stone in every graveyard and cemetery in Richmond to mark our visit and honor those that have passed.  

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Keep 10 million for my family and put the rest into a fund for independent projects in Richmond (conserving historical buildings, art instillation projects such as the mural project, tuition funding for college students, etc.). Investing (wisely) in the future is never a bad idea.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Golden Gate Bridge Came First

Meet Melissa Collier

Reynolds Culinary Arts Grad and 

Operations Manager at Everyday Gourmet

Melissa Collier handles event details the way a commercial Vitamix handles carrots and kale. On the outside she’s perfectly calm, while on the inside she’s furiously chopping, mixing and churning ingredients to make Everyday Gourmet incredibly successful: fantastic food, delightful dishes, and memorable menus, all seasoned liberally with thoughtful and gracious customer service.

Everyday Gourmet is more than just a catering business – “fast food chains can deliver box lunches,” says Melissa, “for me “catering” isn’t just food. “Catering” means catering to our clients’ needs and wants. I love making people happy, which means I love this business. But it’s not for everybody. You need that love. I dreamed of being this person. I’ve seen it in my mind. I’ve admired it. I’ve wanted it. Now I’ve made it, and love being this person.” 

Melissa has found her place in the world, and it’s culinary operations. Her joy and enthusiasm could inspire even the most kitchen-averse individual to put on an apron and get to work. It all started her senior year when she went to a new high school where she felt she didn’t fit in. To escape her discomfort, she signed up for cooking and baking classes in the tech center. She knew she was in the right place when given an assignment to build a gingerbread house from scratch. Instead of a simple house, Melissa constructed a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge complete with licorice ropes for cables.

After high school Melissa immediately enrolled in Reynolds Culinary Arts program. She had already started working full time in the food business her senior year. “This was perfect for me,” she says, “I could make my mistakes at school and then go to work and do everything the right way. I would get an idea in one of my classes and take it to work that evening, and it could be on the menu the next day. Working in the business helped me understand fully what I was learning in class. It was a great time for me. I had no idea there were eight ways to chop carrots, that potatoes must be washed in cold water, or what happens at a meat processing plant. Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am without Reynolds.”

If she wasn’t so perfectly suited for catering operations, Melissa would certainly find success as a Culinary Comedian. She has stories, lots of them. Some about events gone right: a bridal shower, a wedding, and a baby shower for the same couple all in one year. And, some about events gone wrong: like only having three volunteers show up to serve 1400 people at an outdoor event, rain came down in buckets for four hours, and with more than 100 people left in the food line the tent company came and took away their tent. When put to the test, Melissa is the kind of culinary pro who laughs instead of cries, and keeps on serving.

A typical Saturday at Everyday Gourmet includes a mix of catering, weddings, and parties. They might have a 20k engagement party in the afternoon and a family reunion in a hotel ballroom that evening. Melissa has a roster of 52 servers, captains, drivers, and chefs to choose from, with 20 of those being event regulars. In addition to catering, Everyday Gourmet has a meal preparation and delivery service, Well Fed, which regularly serves about 75 customers.

Melissa calls on Reynolds culinary students to help out, too, and readily sings their praises. “Reynolds students are delightful. They come to work early, their attitudes are great, and they are diligent and detailed about their assignments. John Bradley helped at the “rain event”. He was amazing. He hung in there the whole time, and never complained about the situation. Sam Bausone  and Anna Zanetti helped at the Elby’s. They were both just incredible. That night Sam was named one of the students of the year at the event. He worked until he was called to the stage to accept his award, then came back to work after he received it. I didn’t even know he was getting an award, he was so humble about it.”

And, Melissa Collier knows “humble.” After she was offered and accepted her position at Everyday Gourmet it took her months to talk about it, to embrace it, and to see it as her own. She had wanted it for so long, when she finally got it, she first wanted to be sure she had it, that she was up to it. Now she knows for sure. Now, on any given day Melissa can be found quietly chopping, mixing, and churning her way through another crazy-busy week of event details. 

She has definitely arrived.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Meet Nakia James

EMS Program Coordinator

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Prince George, VA, a very rural county about 45 minutes south of Richmond, VA. I am an identical twin and one of 4 siblings. I grew up in a two parent household, in which I was very active in church and High School sports.  I grew up serving and helping others at a very young age through various outreach activities in the community and my church. I can honestly say I had a very good childhood in the sense of a loving and happy family. 

This summer you were selected as Reynolds EMS Coordinator, but you were already a member of Reynolds faculty. How long have you worked for Reynolds, and what was your previous role?
I worked as an adjunct faculty member through a high school EMT dual enrollment program and Governor's STEM Academy, located at the Richmond Technical Center as a part of Richmond Public Schools. I served as the Lead STEM Instructor (Department Head) and EMS Program instructor for 10 years, totaling 15 years as an instructor at the Richmond Technical Center. I also taught EMT courses for the Richmond Adult Technical Center at night. I have worked as a member of the Reynolds Adjunct faculty for 8 years.
What sparked your interest in EMS work?
My older brother who was in EMS sparked my interest well before I was old enough to participate in my local Rescue Squad. Instead, I would ride in the car with him as he responded to 911 calls from our home by way of his EMS pager/radio. I stayed in the car, watched and waited for him during many accident scenes and medical emergencies that he responded to. When I became old enough to join and volunteer, I enrolled in an EMT course after school hours and the rest was history. Interestingly enough my older brother stayed with EMS for a while and later transitioned his career into Law Enforcement to this date.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As an EMS provider (firefighter/paramedic) I would assume this is a pretty standard answer, which would be  trying to change the outcome of a patients situation, knowing it may not change, due to the extent of injuries or illness the patient may have sustained or have been affected by. The daunting task of educating patients regarding bad practices/habits that negatively impact their lives and having to repeat this process by me (EMS) over and over as a result of repetitive poor choices/decisions. As an educator, It would be helping students to understand and tap into his/her full potential in spite of the struggles and challenges many of them face on a daily basis. 
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Making a difference no matter how big or small it may be. Seeing students achieve their goal and often moving on to accomplish even greater achievements. It is nice for students to come back and say thank you, but not required. Knowing I helped them along the way, is gratification enough that I have done my job. Seeing that excitement and smile on their face when the light comes on in their head that they can do it!

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
I would likely spend it doing more work unfortunately as there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. In reality, I would likely give that time to my family, as I could always spend more time with the ones I love.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I spend some of my time with Church related activities as I am a musician and play for two churches currently. Family time is always a big priority for me whenever I can. When I am not doing that, I am an avid RC Helicopter / Airplane enthusiast. I build and fly large RC Aircraft and Scale Helicopters.  I am a member of the Richmond Area Radio Controlled Club in Charles City, VA which is one of the areas I can legally fly them due to their sizes and the FAA regulations/restrictions. It is very relaxing for me. As if this isn't enough, working in my garage, landscaping, working on vehicles  or building things take up the rest of my free time.  

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I would say the diversity is one of Richmond's greatest assets along with being one of the best Food cities in VA. I enjoy visiting local small neighborhood restaurants, Carytown at times and discovering new attractions in the city.  I enjoy visiting historic and revitalized areas and any of the sporting venues or sporting events that come to Richmond.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Well unfortunately, I don't gamble so this would be highly unlikely, but if someone wanted to gift me with $100 million dollars, I would tithe to my local church and give monetary donations to everyday people that I would come in contact with. I love surprising people with kindness when they least expect it.  Paying off layaway accounts at various establishments, paying the tolls for a day for random people, taking a family in need on a vacation or shopping spree, paying someone's tuition in  full.  I could go on and on as I often think about how I could help people pretty regularly. In the meantime, I privately pray for almost everyone I come in contact with that God would give them the desires of their heart, bless and prosper them!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Who is Marcus Taylor?

Is Marcus Taylor a barber? A dog breeder? A house rehabber? A car salesman? Or, a personal trainer? The answer is yes, and no. Yes, Marcus has done all these things, but they aren’t all he is. He still works as a barber and he still rehabs homes, but he has bigger plans for his future. Asking himself, “Who is Marcus Taylor” was the question that eventually landed Marcus at Reynolds. 

Right now, what Marcus is, is a Reynolds student.

Aside from career labels, what Marcus is, is a fighter, a survivor, a tenacious “never give up” Veteran who started life in less than ideal circumstances. “Where I came from in the East End there wasn’t anything to lose, and there seemed to be no way out,” Marcus said, “my saving grace was joining the Army. It was my way out. I got to see the world and go to pla
ces I never dreamed of.”
When Marcus got out of the service in 2013 he didn’t know which way to go. “I went a lot of ways,” he says, “I’m good at almost anything, and can grasp how to do almost anything. So I tried on lots of careers. They were like suits that just didn’t fit right.”

“Then,” says Marcus, “I got interested in construction. I could see that Richmond was booming. I met a developer who said: “you know, people always need housing,” but I didn’t know what to do with my interest until I came to Reynolds. An advisor gave me a career survey, and I knew I had found a good fit. I started taking classes in Building Construction Management, and for the first time since I got out of the Army, I had hope, I had a future again, I finally found a light at the end of the tunnel – and I found it at Reynolds.”

Marcus credits his girlfriend with urging him to speak up about his experience at Reynolds. It’s a good thing she did, because Marcus has a lot to say. Especially about the Reynolds classroom. “I have thrived in the Reynolds atmosphere of small classes. I am truly grateful to have been given the space to explore my talents and interests. I tell others, if you want to go to college, and you want to work, there are opportunities right here at your fingertips. If you can afford those expensive gym shoes, you can afford to go to college.”

“I used to wish I had grown up some place else, some place better,” Marcus says, “but then I think about the tools I have in my bag as a result, and I wouldn’t trade those tools for anything else.” Marcus has also been to war, which added a whole other set of tools to his arsenal. As a result, he comes to the classroom with a perspective many students don’t have. “At first I felt like a dinosaur next to some of the 18-year old students. Now, I chuckle when they huff and puff about getting a tough homework assignment. Paying bills, and fighting for your life, now THOSE are tough assignments.”

Marcus plans to graduate in the spring or early summer. He knows he has a lot of work to do to get there, but that work doesn’t faze him. “You have to tap in to your “have to” to reach your tough goals,” Marcus explains, “you can’t whine and complain that the work is too hard. You’ve just got to dig in and do it, you’ve got to do the hard stuff.”

And after graduation? “I’d like to go to ODU or VA Tech and get my degree in Building Construction Management or Project Management. Now that I have found my passion and a career that fits, even if my GI Bill runs out, I’ll find a way to go.”

Who is Marcus Taylor? He’s a guy who greets you openly with a wide, genuine smile. He’s a hard-working, no nonsense realist who doesn’t believe in excuses – his own or anyone else’s. He’s smart, he’s curious, and he’s focused on his goals.

Who is Marcus Taylor? He’s a Reynolds student.