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On-the-job training

It’s no surprise that with more than 40,000 students at USF, many must work in order to pay for some aspect of their lifestyles. Some students work out of pure necessity, while others who receive financial support from family work to pass the time and gain work experience.

Many students choose to work at restaurants or retail stores, but there are others who seek out different types of jobs. A student who loves animals and entertaining went straight to the place where the mix reaches its pinnacle: Busch Gardens. Now working at the Bird Show, she is one of many who turned her hobby from pleasure to profit. Another student, the healer, works as a nurse at the James A. Haley Medical Center caring for those who have served our country as he once did. Thanks to his love for playing the stock market, the healer is now pursuing a career in finance.

Then there’s the man with the plan who already has his finance degree and is back at USF to complete graduate school, as well as the woman with no plan, who made it to USF literally by accident. These students, along with one whose many ventures lead him to be a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, work to pay for basic needs and/or basic and not-so-basic wants. If it were not for the jobs of these students, it would be quite difficult for them to pay for necessities, such as food and shelter or for luxuries, such as cars, cover charges and movie tickets.

These are their stories.

The Bird Woman

Since May, Tyfany Jones has worked at Busch Gardens and says she loves it. She’s spent most of her time working at the Bird Show, where she performs with various feathered friends, including a talking one named Lolita, after spending the day training with them. Jones and Lolita’s act consists of Jones telling a story while Lolita finishes the sentences, and then together they sing “Oh what a beautiful morning.”

“Getting to work with the animals and perform at the same time is the best part of the job for me,” she said.

Jones, 19, got the job after auditioning at an open call. She says the audition process was different because you aren’t auditioning for any specific thing.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get,” Jones said. “They called me and offered me this position and I said, ‘Sure, why not?'”

Jones can work up to 11 hours a day, although she doesn’t seem to mind. She loves being able to perform, and she loves the animals. The only aspect of the job that bothers her is the difficulty of getting a day off work.

“If you have a death in the family or something, you may not be able to get the day off because there might be someone else who is scheduled off for that day,” Jones said.

Even if a grim situation like that were to occur, Jones said she would still put on a happy face for the show. Her performance talents will help her in her pursuit of a theater performance degree, while her love for animals will aid her in her pursuit of a marine biology degree. She’s currently pursuing both degrees at USF, although she has been accepted to New York University and may transfer there or to another performance school in New York City sometime soon.

“My dream is to be on Broadway and eventually have my own studio for dancing and acting,” she said.

Jones said her parents support her dream. They currently provide her with the financial assistance needed to pay for most of her bills, including her rent and car payments, and will continue to do the same when she moves to The Big Apple. Jones says she wanted to pay some bills in an effort to earn her own independence, so she uses some of the money she earns from Busch Gardens for those bills, saves a large chunk and leaves the rest for spending money.

“I like that they’re helping me out so much,” Jones said. “But, I am beginning to do some things on my own so that I can gain my own independence.”

The Entrepreneur

Mike Desamours knows all about independence. Desamours, 24, already owns his own business, Allusive Sounds & Tint, but is seeking an advertising degree to further its success. Desamours, like many students at USF, goes to school in an effort to broaden his knowledge and ability to enhance his current working conditions.

“I want to learn how to advertise for my business and eventually get into advertising in all different aspects,” Desamours said.

Desamours spends about 50 hours a week managing his shop, which is located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. near Nebraska Avenue. He has co-owned the shop for more than a year with his cousin, Kebra Nelson. Allusive installs car alarms and stereos, tints windows and also offers other custom designs.

Desamours, who is a self-pronounced entrepreneur, also plans to open another shop soon right next door to Allusive, in which he will offer clothing, books, magazines and different novelty items. He sells these same products at different flea markets and culture shows, such as the Bull Market at USF.

In addition to being a business owner, Desamours said he’s playing a different role getting his feet wet in the advertising field.

“I’m kind of like a middle man for a lot of things like cards and flyers,” Desamours said.

In the future, Desamours said he would like to work for a big company and get into commercial advertising.

“I want to make my own stuff or help other people build their ideas,” Desamours said.

He is also pursuing a minor in theater in addition to advertising; however, he is only taking one class this semester. Desamours plans to increase his load in the spring semester when he hires some help for Allusive and works less hours.

Desamours lives with another cousin in a townhouse near USF. It takes all of his ventures to pay for his bills which include a double dose of work and home, of rent, phone bills, electric bills, etc.

The Healer

C.K. Clark, an LPN at the James A. Haley Medical Center, is one of many students at USF who is seeking a degree for a second time. Clark received his training from a four-year stint with the U.S. Army, where he was a medical specialist. After getting out of the service in 2001 and living and working in places such as Korea and Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, he applied to the Center and was hired shortly after.

Clark, 24, decided to go back to school after a hobby inspired him to seek a degree in a completely different field.

“I picked up stocks as a hobby, and I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d have a better time doing finance than nursing,” Clark said.

Until he earns his bachelor’s degree in finance in December 2004, Clark intends to keep his job in Nursing Services inside the psychiatric ward of the Center, where he has worked for nearly three years.

Clark works three 12-hour shifts every week with an additional eight-hour shift every other week. Clark is also taking five classes at USF, which he says is the worst part of the job.

“Having to do 40-hour weeks and going to school full-time also, it’s just a lot,” Clark said.

Clark said his favorite part of the job is working with the veterans from the Vietnam and Desert Storm wars. Being a former soldier himself, C.K. enjoys listening to the stories men and women tell.

“To hear them talk about war, which is unfathomable to me, is definitely a plus,” Clark said. “Hearing their stories and their experiences is amazing to me.”

Clark spends his days with the veterans, leading goal group sessions where desires for future accomplishments are discussed, or activity sessions where group activities keep the minds of the veterans occupied. Many of these veterans are fragile, Clark said, which accounts for another one of his duties: conducting checks every 15 minutes.

“A lot of them are on suicide precautions, which means we have to monitor them to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or others,” Clark said.

Thanks to his job, Clark said he has a way of paying for his New Tampa apartment, his 2002 Nissan Xterra and credit card bills. He also has a way to pay for gas for his 2001 Yamaha R1, a necessity to take part in his all-time favorite pastime: riding around town on the bike. He uses what’s left over from his financial aid, along with his GI Bill to pay for some of his other favorite activities, such as going to the movies and playing the stock market, which he’s been doing for five years.

The Educator

Stocks and bonds are also of interest to Brian Nehr, 23, who teaches three two-hour lab sections for Scott Besley’s Principles of Finance course. Nehr’s job as a teacher’s assistant is quite desirable with perks, such as location (on campus) and tuition reimbursement. One of the most likely duties TAs have is tabulating grades, but some TAs, like Nehr, must also assist in the educating process.

“My job is to be the liaison between the students and the professor,” Nehr said.

In addition to the classes he teaches, Nehr said he must also, along with his students, attend hourly lectures by Besley twice a week. He is also responsible for keeping office hours once a week for five hours to assist students who may need help. In order to assist students, he also must do all the homework Besley assigns, which adds two or three hours to his weekly schedule.

Although Nehr said the worst aspect of the job is the tedium of grading homework every week for more than 100 students, he said what he enjoys most about the job is the teaching.

“I kind of like teaching and being able to explain complicated issues in a not-so-complicated way,” Nehr said.

Nehr says the reason he teaches with such an easygoing attitude is because he wants his students to understand the concepts and not just the methodology.

Nehr graduated from the University of Florida in May 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He took some time off from school and worked behind the scenes with mutual funds as a senior associate at Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville.

“My plan was always to go back to school and get my MBA,” he said.

And that is exactly what he is doing. In addition to the classes where he acts as an instructor, Nehr is enrolled in five classes this semester.

“It definitely is a benefit for me to be a TA for a class like (Principles of) Finance because the material relates to what I’m doing with my graduate studies,” Nehr said.

Nehr landed his job by contacting the Finance department directly and inquiring about positions within the department. He receives a percentage of his tuition reimbursed, as well as a paycheck. To meet the additional tuition, he has also taken out student loans. Nehr, who receives no financial assistance from his parents, uses what is left over to pay living expenses, such as rent, gas, food and insurance, as well as to finance his favorite hobby: going out to Channelside and other establishments in South Tampa.

The Divine One

Another student, who like Nehr, enjoys frequenting South Tampa, is psychology major Sara Feingold. Feingold, though, didn’t always have a plan like Nehr. A moment 10 years ago changed the whole course of her life. In that moment, Feingold crashed her car into a pole and came out with a crushed pelvis, a crushed left hip, a lacerated spleen, a partially collapsed lung and a punctured bladder among other broken bones and internal injuries.

“I wrapped a Mustang around an electrical pole when I was 18,” Feingold said. “The doctors at Florida Orthopaedic Institute literally glued me back together with plates, screws and pins.”

After three years of care that included hip replacement surgery, Feingold, 28, went from being a patient of the Institute to also being an employee, though the Institute still benefits her health more than her pocketbook.

“It’s comforting to know that if anything else were to happen they are there,” Feingold said.

She expects turbulence with her injuries. Although she is free of the arthritis pain that caused her to use a cane for six years, she said she realizes that with hip replacement surgeries lasting only five to 10 years, she will face more surgery soon.

“My family wants me to go to school in Pennsylvania, and I told them I didn’t want to leave my doctors,” Feingold said.

Although the ever-increasing demands are the worst part of the job for Feingold, she feels fortunate to gain the background and experience in the medical field, which she plans to join soon in a different kind of way.

Feingold plans to go to physical therapy school for two years after earning her psychology degree in December 2004.

“I knew it would be a really good thing to have as a physical therapist,” Feingold said. “Plus, I’m really good at it.”

It will be a far cry from her normal duties as an assistant medical coder, which include billing surgeries for 38 different doctors and contacting different doctors and hospitals in an effort to ensure payment. Feingold hopes to one day become a subcontracted physical therapist in the field of home health care.

For now, Feingold is expecting to increase her 30-hour-a-week workload to 40 hours while taking five classes at USF. She hopes that with more hours, she will be able to rely less on her grandmother’s help, which usually pays for her rent and car payment along with a few other bills. She uses her paychecks to pay off credit card debt and to party at bars, such as her favorite, The Green Iguana. Soon, she’ll also begin to pay off the student loans that have been paying for her tuition and books.

For many students, college is no longer a place to go in preparation for “reality,” where spare time is a plenty and spent solely on keg parties, formals or other favorite college pastimes. College is now a place where reality is already mixed in and where spare time is mostly spent earning enough money to deal with it. With tuition almost always increasing, the quest for a degree has become difficult.

Just as each of students introduced has his or her own story, so do the more than 40,000 others at USF. Although many students at the university have just entered adulthood and are in the process of learning the responsibilities that come along with it, others barely remember the gates of adulthood. In fact, the main, if not only, common thread they share is that they all have the same focus: a degree at USF and a comfortable lifestyle on the way.