Graduation Speech by Leonardo Fermin, Hospitality Training Program

Hello everyone, thank you for being here today. My name is Leonardo Fermin. I am originally from Venezuela and I would like to start by telling you a little bit about myself.

Being in Venezuela, I had the opportunity to complete high school and continue on to University. I was very happy to get my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. In 1998 due to a change in government, life in Venezuela changed drastically. During the first 10 years Venezuelans noticed how everyday life had changed. On one hand, the economy improved, because of oil production and high export prices. Unfortunately, social and political problems had also increased. In most recent years these problems have only continued to get worse, especially the economic and political issues.

In Venezuela if you are against the government in power, the government sees you as a threat and will do everything in their power to remove that threat. I was a member of a non-violent political party and also participated in protests to fight for the rights of everybody. Eventually armed groups belonging to the government began to persecute me and my family, even threatening our lives. For this reason I moved to The United States of America in 2017 to seek safety.

When I first came here, I had to work on a construction site for 2 months and then in a restaurant, where I am currently working as a cook. It is not easy to move to another country and work in an industry you are not familiar with. Though it is fun to work in a kitchen, I wanted to study something that will help me get a better job and advance my career. In February I came to the International Institute of New England to help my wife sign-up for English classes, and that was when I first heard about the Hospitality Training Program. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to begin a new career, in an industry I have been interested in for many years. I felt confident that this program would give me the knowledge and skills I needed to take this next step.

I learned many things, not only about hotels, but also history, and just how important it is to provide good customer service when working in hospitality. In addition I learned important life skills for the United States about how to apply for job positions, and how to have a successful phone and in person interview. I am very excited and I feel prepared to start working to achieve my goals. I feel more motivated than ever to work in a position helping people with my professional certificate.

One of my favorite parts of this experience was my classmates and having the opportunity to get to know each other. We have helped each other with the class. I want to thank my teacher Mary Blunt and all of IINE staff like Maura Lester and Tom Roberts McMichael.

Finally, my advice to my classmates is to be respectful, try your best to help each other, use all the knowledge you already have, listen and follow instructions, and work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing is ever easy until you have done it! There is a lot of opportunity here in this country which others don’t have in other parts of the world. It has been a privilege to work, learn, and laugh with you and I think we should be proud of what we have accomplished.

Also, I want to thank the Renaissance Boston Waterfront and the Westin Boston Waterfront for letting us to job shadowing at your hotels. So, thank you Ellen Reardon and Peter Neville — It was an amazing experience to see what is like to work in a hotel and follow in the footsteps of your friendly and professional staff.

I hope that in the years to come The International Institute of New England will continue to help refugees and immigrants advance in this beautiful country. Congratulations, everybody!!

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