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FACAA and PBACCA Host 2019 Apprentice Graduation Banquet

The Florida Air Conditioning Apprenticeship Association (FACAA) and Palm Beach Air Conditioning Contractors Association (PBACCA) recognized twenty-seven 2019 graduates of the apprenticeship program at a banquet held July 31, 2019 at The Embassy Suites in West Palm Beach, Florida. A crowd of over 120 instructors, employers, friends, families and other industry members celebrated with the graduates, offering support, congratulatory cheers and applause.

Abanoub Zakhra (c.) accepts the 2019 FL HVAC Insider Journeymen of the Year Award from FACAA Office Manager Rhonda Hutchison and FL HVAC Insider editor Peter Montana.
Abanoub Zakhra (c.) accepts the 2019 FL HVAC Insider Journeymen of the Year Award from FACAA Office Manager Rhonda Hutchison and FL HVAC Insider editor Peter Montana.

The banquet began with the PBACCA General Membership Meeting and was hosted by FACAA Program Director Steve Sparks and FACAA committee members.

Steve congratulated the graduates and recognized their families for the sacrifices they endured and thanked the sponsoring employers for allowing the students to participate over the past four years.

Florida State Senator for District 31 Lori Berman was the guest speaker. A four-time member of the Florida House of Representatives, Ms. Berman was elected to the Senate last year in a special election to fill a vacant seat. “She’s truly a people’s Senator, having received a 94% score on the Progress Florida 2019 People First report card for Florida Lawmakers,” Steve stated as he introduced her.

“You, the graduating class of the apprenticeship program, are a diverse group,” Ms. Berman began. “You represent different ages, races, religions and ethnicities. But you’ve all come together and worked toward a single goal – today, graduation. What does it mean now that you’re done? It’s your opportunity to think about what matters to you and envision where you want to be in life. Give yourself an opportunity to set your goals and start working towards them. Enjoy the ride and here are my pieces of advice for each of you: 1) Family first – they will always be there for you and you should be there for them; 2) Give back to the community, look for ways to get involved; 3) Do more than just show up for work, continue to learn and seize opportunities as they arise; 4) Don’t sweat the small stuff, focus instead on how grateful you are for what you have and make time to laugh every day and 5) Don’t let technology overtake your life, take time to be in the moment. You are graduating from an amazing program. We all know you will do great things and couldn’t be prouder of you. I wish you all health and happiness as you proceed on your paths. Just remember to floss, I’m married to a dentist and he asked me to remind you. Congratulations on a job well done!”

The instructors were then introduced: Mike Swartz, Rick Rooney, Mike Hoosac, Patrick Mesmer, Kelly McCann, Shyam Patel, Alex Valdez and Nick DeCanto.
Steve then announced the graduates as FACAA Administrative Assistant Lashonda Johnson and FACAA Office Manager Rhonda Hutchison presented them with their certificates along with gift cards from Tropic Supply.

A highlight of the evening was Abanoub Zakhra being named 2019 Graduate of the Year. Criteria that are considered in selecting the recipient include attendance, grades, attitude, participation in classes and mentoring of the other students. Abanoub received the 2019 Florida HVAC Insider Graduate of the Year Award and a special gift from Tropic Supply and Klein Tools.

“I’m proud of the recognition and this award but it’s not just about me, we were all in this together,” Abanoub stated as he accepted the award. “We all made the same commitment and congratulations to all my classmates!”

Steve closed the evening by encouraging the graduates to apply for the Maury Jacobson Scholarship and issuing a challenge. “This scholarship goes a long ways toward paying for your associate degree,” he stated. “And I challenge everyone here, there’s one good way to help the association, trade and industry, and that’s by giving back. I’ve been in the trade 43 years and 31 of those have been involved with training, giving back to a career that’s been very good to me.”

Additional photos of this event are available here and at  flhvacinsider.smugmug.com.