WAREHAM – At 24, New Bedford resident Orgelio “Jay” Soares has already bought and sold his first home and is in the market for his next as he continues to climb the ranks at Covanta’s SEMASS facility in Wareham where he works as an auxiliary operator.
But those who have known him for a while — or who may have just heard his story — may not be surprised by Soares’ accomplishments. By the time he graduated from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School in 2017, Soares had established a reputation as a star student with an interesting background and a drive to succeed that people noticed.
With grades and a job in his field already aligned in his senior year, Soares’ work ethic — which aside from academics, also applied to his three jobs and three sports in high school — drew media attention, with The standard times, WCVB-TV in Boston and WBSM in Fairhaven all highlighting his story; one that includes a globetrotting childhood living in the central African country of Zambia where he was born and moved to South Africa, Cape Verde, Congo and back to Cape Verde before arriving in New Bedford.
“I was 9 or 10,” Soares estimates of his age when he came to whaling town.
As he acclimated to his new home, Soares’ multilingual abilities came in handy as he quickly firmed up his fluency in English. But when it came to writing and the requirements of the ELA (English Language Arts) program at school, he struggled.
“I already spoke a little English. It wasn’t perfect, but because I was so young, it was easy for me to lose my accent when I was here,” Soares said. “Although I learned the language quite easily, it was more difficult for me to learn the literacy. So it was a struggle I was going through in school and I had to spend a lot of time working over it.”
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Discover a new path
After struggling academically during his early school years, Soares found a new rhythm in the stationary engineering workshop GNB-Voc-Tech, finding himself captivated by learning the ins and outs of equipment and operations. involved in the transformation of waste into energy.
“When most people think of electricity, they think of an electrician – someone who runs the wiring and puts everything together – but where does the electricity actually come from?” Soares spoke of his fascination with the field of stationary engineering, or “steam engineering” as it is often called. “Once I learned more about the craft, it was just fascinating to understand the process of burning waste to generate electricity.”
It was during his first year that Soares and his shop mates took a field trip to SEMASS to tour the facility and see first-hand a stationary engineering operation. Soares’ current boss, SEMASS operations manager Kevin Crimi, who sits on the advisory board for GNB Voc-Tech’s stationary engineering shop and helps organize the annual visit, says Soares has left a lasting impression. That day.
“I remember specifically, to this day – I brought the group into a small training room, seated all the students, and Jay made sure he was in the front row,” Crimi said. “These kids are 16, 17, 18, so for them it’s just another day out of class, but Jay was actually interested in what I was drawing on the whiteboard, and while I was asking questions , he raises his hand So I immediately noticed Jay’s level of interest and enthusiasm for this installation.
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“Then when I bring them into the control room – which is the coolest place in the factory – I always choose a student to sit in the chair right next to my control room operator, and since Jay was the star of the class, I let him sit there and his eyes lit up.”
As Crimi’s observations suggest, the plant also made an impression on Soares. Before leaving that day, Soares made sure to inquire about the possibility of working at SEMASS the following year as a senior in the GNB Voc-Tech co-op program, which allows participating seniors to cycling between work in their workshop fields in paid internship- like arrangements, and going to school.
“In the past they only did students, but Kevin made the place available to me,” Soares said.
Always think one step ahead
During her co-op, Soares performed well enough that when it was time to graduate, SEMASS already had a full-time job waiting for her. And though it was hard for him to remember exactly how old he was when he moved to the United States, Soares still knows precisely when he started his first full-time job: “My first day was June 6,” he said. after graduating from high school, already cleared for work.
Beginning as a utility operator, Soares never stopped growing professionally, gaining the skills and licenses to progress to auxiliary operator assistant and later auxiliary operator. “He monitors important equipment … makes sure everything is running smoothly and working so that we don’t go over our limits, cause any type of contamination or break any equipment,” Soares said. “And also keep everyone safe, which is the main thing.
“And then my next goal is to be an assistant operator in the control room, which requires my 3rd [Class] Engineer’s degree, which I hope to obtain before the end of this year.”
For Crimi – who has been with SEMASS for 34 years – hiring Soares was an easy choice and an example of why GNB Voc-Tech is an important resource for steam engineering facilities in the region, he said. declared.
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“New Bedford Voc is the only vocational school in the country that has steam engineering,” Crimi said. “For me, as COO, I need to hire good people, and so I’m very lucky to have a 20-minute voc-tech that has steam operators – authorized steam operators.
Crimi and Soares also noted that the fixed engineering shop is one of the smallest at GNB Voc-Tech. “While I was there, there were a maximum of 15 kids. The other stores have a maximum of about 40,” Soares said.
Lead by example
With one of his younger sisters starting at GNB Voc-Tech this year, Soares says he helped her give him some of the wisdom he learned in order to make his high school experience so fruitful. as possible.
“She asked me which stores she should choose in exploratory, so we talked about her interests and what she could see herself doing for the rest of her life, thinking about checks and balances, what things would compel her going to college to get where she wants to be,” Soares said. “She doesn’t necessarily know what she wants to do yet, but she seems to be heading into the medical field.”
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For anyone going through challenges like the ones he faced as a young student in a new country, or just worried about finding your way, Soares says his advice is to be open-minded enough to recognize the potential of all available opportunities – because the right fit may be in an unexpected place.
“I didn’t know I would become a boiler room operator, but after experiencing it and learning it’s exactly what I love doing. I don’t regret the decision,” he said. “There’s more than one way to get where you want to go and it’s not always the traditional route. You can always get there no matter how hard you get.”