Danny Cummings, a native of Jacksonville, FL is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Danny had been looking for a job for six months to no avail. He was feeling frustrated and hopeless because there appeared to be nothing out there for him. He dreaded his next step, which was to leave his native town and beloved family to find work elsewhere. Danny was about to give up when he discovered the Brownfields job training program through a representative at Work Source.
Danny applied for the program and was accepted. Danny’s leadership abilities were very apparent therefore he was immediately assigned as the class leader. Danny excelled in the program both as the leader and as a student. Danny is clearly a “top notch” individual, but still there comes a time when new direction is needed. Danny said the brownfields program gave him and many others new direction, placing them on the right track, and leading to new found accomplishments. This new direction reinvigorated his sense of self-confidence.
Danny really “gets” the entire meaning of the program. Words and phases Danny used to describe the program was empowerment, trust, nothing easy about the pro- gram, effort and determination was a “must” to succeed...just like anything else good in life. Training was treated like an 8:00 – 5:00 job. Danny said “many students never stepped in a College and the idea of being part of a university and get- ting the College ID had an uplifting change to their outlook and attitude. Young boys became men in this program…they cut their hair that they had since they were children. They went on to work at the oil spill, in some cases making money legally for the first time! Some of these folks even went on to become professional and responsible supervisors; they came a long way in such a short time due to the program.”
Graduation did not signify the pro- gram ended. Quite the opposite, close lifelong friendships were created and even more importantly, a professional networking system was in place. No one stops helping each other to include the FSCJ staff; we are truly connected to one another. This is really a program that keeps on giving. We are all ambassadors of the program. We know we can always come back to the program and get help. That keeps us motivated to know we have someone we can depend upon even after the training. I feel proud to recommend any good person to the program. If this program does not stay in Jacksonville, that is a shame because J-ville is in need.
Danny was hired by WRS Compass as a supervisor. He said he was able to apply what he learned from the program and it actually made him “stand out” because the education allowed him to perform with confidence. Danny’s new found confidence generated interest in his abilities from key personnel, such as the supervisors, project managers, engineers and city representatives. Of course, Danny gives back to the program by using his new contacts to gain jobs for current program grads. Danny also acts as a company health and safety supervisor. Danny is involved with City environmental justice organizations and he teaches with the Brownfields Job Training Program. Danny’s education and job has been such an inspiration he plans to start his own environmental firm.
Danny described his job in more detail. The environmental excavations led him deep into the Jacksonville urban core neighborhoods. He would never have known the trash and contamination these community people are living on and the fact they don’t know what they are living on it. The idea that he can contribute to cleaning up the (his) neighborhoods is very rewarding. He said the kids even feel good about them being there. They asked a lot of questions and he is able to provide good educated answers in a positive way. He said the kids are so involved he felt the kids were his own and he took good care of them. Danny said, one little girl did a class paper on what they were doing to their neighborhoods. The girl proudly brought the paper to them to show off the “A” she earned. Danny said he would not be surprised that one day she will go on to become an environmental advocate. He is so, so glad he is able to help them in so many ways. Even his own son thinks his job is cool! What’s cool to Danny, is when he replaces toxic contaminated dirt with clean dirt, or when his company team beautifies run down community parks, or when they lay new sod in a home that never had grass before, or when they completely refurbish the old neighborhood playgrounds and gets to sit back and watch the children’s’ joy and excitement. Danny is very satisfied to hear the words “thank you” for making their environment safe. We are making a big difference in more ways than most would ever realize.
Danny is thankful for the program, it is a prime example of positive environmental justice that has helped and continues to help our City. He hopes that Jacksonville retains this grant for many years to come. He said the City representatives really embrace the program and have hired many Brownfields graduation to work at the clean-up sites.