Our Amazing People with First Officer Michael Cerrato-Yeomans

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People rarely get the opportunity to mesh their love for their heritage with a passion for their career, but when the opportunity does arise the results are often very rewarding. Houston-based First Officer Michael Cerrato-Yeomans and four other airline pilots recently took it into their hands to do just that. They came together to provide a platform for Latino pilots to celebrate their culture while nurturing their careers – launching the Latino Pilot Association (LPA).

Hispanic and Latino pilots currently account for 5 percent of airline transportation pilots, more than any other minority group, but those types of numbers can still lead to a lack of unity in the workplace. LPA was organized in an effort to address the workplace issues that directly affect minority groups like Hispanics and to help enhance networks where they can further develop individual careers within the aviation industry.

“As a pilot of Latin descent I have personally seen the disparities within the airline industry when it comes to welcoming those of other cultures,” said Michael Cerrato-Yeomans, Houston pilot recruiter.  “Discrimination within the workplace can definitely lead to lower morale and discourage people from actually becoming interested in pursuing a career in aviation.”

Not only is Michael the co-founder of LPA, but he is also a member of ExpressJet’s Houston Recruiting Team where he spends business hours supporting the company’s hiring efforts. However, Michael spends much of his free time working with the LPA team to ensure they are uniting and mentoring association members.

“I, along with my four LPA co-founders, wanted to be able to show other minorities that they are welcome in the airline industry and that they will be taken in to a close-knit group that understands their struggles,” he continued. “I am happy to know that I work for a company that values diversity and encourages others like me to proudly embrace who they are in the workplace.”

Michael’s passion for LPA is contagious and has definitely spread to other members of the Houston recruitment team, as many of them now actively support and forward the mission of the organization even though they are not official members.

Participation in the Latino Pilot Association provides members with several rewarding benefits, including:

Professional Development & Mentorship: Members have the opportunity to volunteer and mentor other LPA members. A program entitled REACH is currently being developed to help educate, guide and further mentor many of the LPA members who are high school and college students.

Education Resources: Members receive educational resources that help acclimate them to the aviation industry and provide steps for achieving fruitful careers.

Career Growth: LPA members are encouraged to network with other members in effort to forge long-term personal and professional relationships, which may lead to future career growth opportunities.

Cerrato-Yeomans and his colleagues followed their passion by starting LPA, and they encourage others to start or join their own organization that addresses their unique heritage or beliefs.  “Determine why you want to start your association, what benefits you can provide to members and how you can help others through the organization you are trying to start,” said Michael.

“Believe in yourself, your cause, and your core values. When you truly believe in what your association stands for, others who believe will follow and everything will fall into place,” he explained. “With that being said, your hard work will be needed to start the association. Just like a for profit organization, you will need to have many teams – Legal, Marketing, IT, Recruitment, Outreach, among others – and finding those who can help you will be the key to your success.”

The Latino Pilots Association is open to anyone with an interest in aviation.  The organization believes that everyone has the ability to give back and they welcome all pilots who want to be a part of forwarding that goal. For more information you can email him at michael.cerrato-yeomans@latinopilot.org or visit www.latinopilot.org.

Our Amazing People with Flight Attendant Karlene Johnson

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Thirteen years ago, Atlanta-based flight attendant Karlene Johnson made the difficult choice to uproot her family and relocate to Atlanta. The move was hard on her family and became the inspiration for her newest endeavor, a children’s novel entitled Anthills and Racing Feet.

Johnson’s mission was to use her book to highlight the difficulties faced by adolescent children that are unexpectedly moved to a new environment, and it is fair to say, “Mission accomplished.” Her family’s very own move from Kingston, Jamaica to Atlanta inspired the story, with the main character being loosely based on her son who was ten years old at the time of the move.

Anthills and Racing Feet is the story of Junior, a 10-year-old boy who leaves his small, island village with his mother to live with her new husband in the big city of New York. In a search for his lost sense of belonging, he experiences many challenges, including feelings of isolation and bullying in school. This is a modern-day tale of a boy finding his inner strength just when he needs it most. Lessons of family, love and support, and the wisdom that can be gained from elders make the story just right for any child going through tough times.

“Immigrant children often face countless challenges when attempting to assimilate into a new culture and find their sense of belonging,” Johnson said. “It’s my hope that the book will spark conversations about the role of families and friends in the lives of children after they move, because those people will be key in helping to make learning about new cultures much easier.”

The title, Anthills and Racing Feet, has several symbolic meanings. In the book, Junior enjoys playing outdoors with his friends on the island village he once called home. They enjoy, among other things, to dig up anthills then watch the ants scatter in all directions. After the move, the ants become symbolic of Junior, who is trying to navigate his way through the obstacles of bullying and isolation that he experiences in his new home. Ants never quit, and Junior learns that neither should he. “Racing Feet” becomes a symbol of his courage and determination.

Johnson plans to share similar messages in additional books written for the Anthills series. She is currently in the process of writing the series’ second installment.

A signed copy of Karlene’s book can be purchased at www.anthillsandracingfeet.com. All signed copies come with a complimentary bookmark. Unsigned copies are available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles online, and www.liferichpublishing.com.

Our Amazing People with Flight Attendant Bill Schumacher

Bill Schumacher and Lily

Not only does Bill Schumacher guarantee the safety and comfort of his two-legged passengers as a flight attendant, but he also ensures the well-being of his furry four-legged companions as well.

Serving as a flight attendant for ExpressJet Airlines means your life can be spontaneous, but Bill Schumacher amplified the spontaneity level when he decided to become an ambassador for Cairn Rescue USA (CRUSA). CRUSA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to shelter, foster and find permanent homes for the Cairn Terrier dog breed. As a volunteer ambassador, Bill is responsible for transporting and accompanying Cairn Terriers as they meet their new owners.

“The decision to do this work was easy,” said Bill. “After meeting a friend’s Cairn Terrier, I instantly fell in love with the breed. They’re feisty, fun and absolutely faithful to their owners. Stubborn, too!”

While volunteering for CRUSA, Bill decided to foster Rosie, a Cairn Terrier in Nashville who was living in a home with “one too many dogs.” Bill drove to Nashville from Atlanta to pick up Rosie which he would foster  until she found herself a new “forever” home. Rosie found a permanent home quickly…with Bill.

“I flunked the foster dad test in short order, and had to have her for my very own,” he said.

He adopted Rosie in 2010. It’s been a total love affair ever since.

Caring for Rosie has given Bill hands-on experience working with this particular breed of dogs. The experience has served him greatly and since his own pet adoption, he has delivered over 30 Cairn Terriers through CRUSA to loving foster homes and forever homes all over the country for the last 5 years.

“It can be very stressful as it’s difficult transporting a dog using any transportation method,” Bill explained, “especially when the animal has to ‘do its business.’”

He continued, “The extra work and the challenges are worth it. Seeing the faces on our CRUSA foster parents and recipients of Cairns to permanent homes makes all the extra work and stress well worth the effort.”

CRUSA was only the beginning of Bill’s involvement with pet adoptions. He recently started his own non-profit organization called “PuppyLove.” Puppy Love’s mission is to network with others who would like to donate their time transporting dogs not only for Cairn Rescue USA, but also for other rescue groups in need of transports. PuppyLove will be the clearing house for the transport of small dogs from numerous rescue groups needing assistance, particularly in moving adopted dogs to their new loving homes.

If you’re interested in becoming involved with CRUSA or PuppyLove, please go to http://www.cairnrescueusa.com/ or send an email to puppylovechicago@gmail.com for more information.

In the photos: Bill with some of the dogs he’s brought to new homes and families

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Captain Carlos Enriquez helps restore sight to the blind in Honduras as an ECHO volunteer

Dr. Kozarsky and his team

Dr. Kozarsky and his team

Dressed in surgical scrubs in a Honduran hospital room, Detroit-based Captain Carlos Enriquez watched the elderly woman open her eyes, blinking to adjust to her newfound sight.

“At first we thought the surgery failed,” Carlos said. “She was looking to the side and the doctor kept asking her to look straight at the eye chart on the wall.”

Carlos, a team of volunteers and a PBS documentary film crew watched as the 71-year-old turned to the surgeon and said, “Doctor, please give me a second. I am looking at my beautiful daughter and I have not seen her in a long time.”

“At that moment, we realized the surgery was a success. It was one of those moments that stayed with me.”

In March, Carlos volunteered for the ECHO Foundation (Eradicating Cataracts Honduras Outreach), a non-profit established in 2008 by Dr. Alan Kozarsky and Kyle Coffey. The organization’s mission is to provide cataract surgery brigades to restore sight to hundreds of poor Hondurans who otherwise would not have access to the surgery.

“Dr. Kozarsky is my air medical examiner and he’d mention ECHO from time to time. But I never gave it much thought until after my trip to Honduras for the Army.”

A U.S. Army soldier specializing in combat arms, Carlos was sent to train Honduran forces a year ago. When he returned home, he chatted with Dr. Kozarsky about the experience and ECHO came up during their conversation.

“I told him ‘next time you go, take me with you.’”

Volunteering his vacation time, Carlos flew from Atlanta to San Pedro Sula, Honduras and spent a week assisting the surgeries. The mission was also filmed for the upcoming PBS documentary, “Sight: The Story of Vision,” which educates viewers on the health and science of the eye. The film documents the history of sight, and the science, technology and medicine that allows people to see, as well as how to cure diseases of the eye and correct vision. A premiere date has not been announced yet.

Carlos’ previous trip to Honduras proved valuable to the logistics of the trip.

“I knew the Air Force base commander where we landed. We unloaded our supplies and went straight to the hospital. I don’t have any medical training so I thought that’s all I could help with. But the doctor was very good at putting people to work.”

He and the volunteers set up waiting areas for patients, organized the operating rooms and prepared medical supplies.

“It didn’t matter what your background was. Everyone did a little bit of everything, with the exception of actually performing the surgery.”

Carlos worked mostly in the OR with the doctors, helping to set up supplies for the surgical procedures. Fluent in Spanish, he also acted as an interpreter between doctors and patients.

One of the stories documented by the film crew was a 15-year-old patient who was blind in one eye and received a corneal transplant. As an interpreter, Carlos went with the film crew to pick up the teenager from his home and bring him to the hospital.

“San Pedro Sula is one of the biggest cities in Honduras for crime and gang activity, and his neighborhood was a little dangerous. Some of the volunteers were nervous but my military training kicked in to take inventory of what was going around us,” Carlos said.

The humanitarian mission tremendously improved the health and livelihoods of over a hundred patients, including a 21-year-old medical student now able to continue with her studies, the parents of a young woman, and a double amputee, diabetic patient who required full-time care.

“It was amazing to watch these surgeries change lives forever.”

According to the ECHO Foundation, there are at least 50,000 people in Honduras needlessly suffering blindness from cataracts. For most, eyesight is easily fixed with a 15-minute surgery and a $100 worth of resources.

Carlos didn’t realize the emotional impact the Honduras humanitarian mission would have on him personally. He plans to return every year.

“I went down there on a whim. I didn’t know what to expect, and it was incredibly rewarding. By the end of the week, there was nothing but smiles, hugs and tears of happiness.”

 

Crew Support meets head shaving challenge

When Cody Thomas, director – Crew Support, challenged his team to achieve ambitious goals, he promised the ultimate prize in return: shaving his head. Cody is now sporting a Mr. Clean look, and motivation never looked so good!

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Cody Thomas took over our Crew Support department just over a year ago, at the tail end of one of the most challenging winters to date. Through a number of training initiatives, process changes and a continuous feedback loop, the department made great strides in 2014 to improve customer service and performance.

In November 2014, with another winter looming, Cody challenged his team to achieve even more ambitious goals. As motivation to work together to meet the challenge, Cody promised he would shave his head if the team met the goals.

“Cody is truly an involved leader. He walks the floor, listens to feedback and keeps us updated on the department and the company,” said Michael B., flight crew scheduler. “The challenge Cody is going to fulfill this afternoon is just another example of how he is there for us. At the end of the day, I feel pride in my job, my leadership and my company.”

Our Crew Support team achieved record performance numbers this winter and the time has come for Cody to pay up.

“Everything we do as leaders is to support our people,” said Cody. “I am so proud of everything my team has accomplished. I believe that actions speak louder than words. For better or worse, I will do whatever my team needs to be successful. Now let the shaving begin!”

Crew Support team members gathered on the 4th floor of A-Tech Friday for the ceremonial head shaving. With handmade signs supporting Cody’s ultimate motivator, the team cheered as Crew Scheduling Managers Michelle and Brad, took clippers to Cody’s once-dark locks.

“Cody leads by example, cares for his team and would be the first to say that the best is yet to come,” said Brad Sheehan, vice president – Flight Operations. “He knows the importance of culture, and a significant part of that is having fun. Shaving his head tells you three things: this team is incredibly capable and keeps getting better, Cody does what he says he will, and although it’s hard work, you should still have fun doing it. And let’s be honest, it’s not that much hair…”

Introducing the new, improved (?), Director of Crew Support: Mr. Clean! Oops…Cody Thomas!!
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