Monday, October 24, 2011

Cuyamaca College technician brings a beautiful spirit to his job

John Thomas, Ornamental Horticulture technician

             For John Thomas, working as a technician in Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture department has never been just a 9-to-5 job.
He’s represented the department at numerous events, including the Turf Management Seminar, the Sustainable Urban Landscape Conference, and the Aggie Open golf tournament. He’s spent countless hours preparing for the Spring Garden Festival, the annual event that draws more than 6,000 people to the Rancho San Diego campus.
Thomas’ passion and enthusiasm for his job was recognized October 18 when he received the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor/Classified Senate Award, a commendation presented quarterly to outstanding staff. He was nominated by Brad Monroe, coordinator of the Ornamental Horticulture program.
“John has a beautiful spirit that he brings to his job,” said Cindy L. Miles, district chancellor. “He’s a bright light within the department.”
Thomas has worked for five years at the Ornamental Horticulture department, a well-renowned program that’s trained thousands of people for a wide variety of careers related to plants and landscaping.
Thomas got his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of San Diego in 1997, and started a landscape maintenance business. When he saw how much money real estate investors were making on houses where he had cleaned up the landscaping, he decided to switch fields and took real estate courses at Cuyamaca College in 2003.
He got his real estate broker’s license and made enough money to buy an eight-acre ranch in Ramona. But when the real estate market softened, Thomas started working at Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture department in 2006.
When wildfires spread through San Diego County in October 2007, Thomas helped set up Cuyamaca College as an evacuation center – only to learn that his home in Ramona was among the 1,300 structures that burned in the fires countywide. He had to sell his property and now lives in Spring Valley.
Despite any setbacks or stresses of the job, those who know Thomas say he’s always enthusiastic and excited about his work.
        “He’s always smiling,” said Mark J. Zacovic, president of Cuyamaca College. “He exemplifies the Cuyamaca spirit.”
        Thomas is also a student in the Ornamental Horticulture department, and he said that over the years, he’s taken just about every class the department offers. He said taking the classes helps him in his job because he understands the need for supplies that teachers request.
        “As a technician, I need to know how everything operates and what everybody needs,” Thomas said. He also had another explanation for why he’s taken so many classes: “I’m a career learner,” he said.
        Thomas was presented with an engraved acrylic award at a Governing Board meeting, along with a gift certificate from Barnes & Noble and a lunch with Miles and Governing Board President Bill Garrett.
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