The Queen of Soldering Is Crowned J.Jill “Woman of the Quarter”
WRC is often the first place women connect when they are unsure of their next step. We understand we cannot provide every solution, and when our clients need services we do not offer, we connect them to the resources in our community. We understand we are one piece of a bigger puzzle when people are dealing with a difficulty or unknown in their life.
Our J.Jill cover girl, Alayna Chavez is a shining example of what happens when we collaborate with other agencies/services. Alayna came to WRC searching for her path; she participated in our Challenge Program (a self-esteem workshop) and she worked with one of our career specialists identifying her strengths and interest. WRC connected her to an educational opportunity through CareerEdge and Sarasota Technical College. Today, she is working in a field she loves and is on a path that gives her confidence, and financial security….that is success. Following is her story…
“Being the first female plumbing technician and backflow specialist at Plumbing Today and earning the nickname, ‘Queen of Soldering’ makes me prouder than words can express,” says Alayna Chavez, a recipient of the coveted WRC J.Jill quarterly award.
“I’m blessed to have been chosen as J.Jill’s ‘Woman of the Quarter.’ I’m a superhero in my own skin.”
On Alayna’s tool belt are graduate of Suncoast Technical College (STC) and participant in the Women’s Resource Center’s (WRC) employment and empowerment programs, including the Challenge program—supported by a generous J.Jill Compassion Fund grant.
This third MyWRC J.Jill “Woman of the Quarter” embodies the WRC mission—mastering a new skill while enriching and empowering her life. More significant is Alayna exemplifies what women can attain.
Alayna Solders the Fragments of Her Life
Mature beyond her years, Alayna realized a few years ago that her life wasn’t flowing the right way. The right tools—made available through WRC, STC, Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and CareerEdge, a local nonprofit organization, which matched FAFSA’s financial assistance—was key to moving her life forward in the direction she wanted.
Alayna has had many career dreams, but they just weren’t within her grasp—at the time.
“I’ve always wanted to be a photographer and join the Navy as a combat photographer. But only 250 spots per year were available. Plus you had to be good at journalism—not my strength.”
Alayna also wanted to start her own breakfast food-truck business in Colorado and enrolled in business management courses through the Colorado Technical University.
“I lost interest once school started: Who knew there would be so much paperwork? Money issues finally forced me to quit.”
Then she continued west to Portland, Oregon—the low point—and catalyst in her life.
“Although I love Oregon for its nature, especially the waterfalls, I was ready to move home. I didn’t know what I wanted for my future. But my mom needed me; I needed family. And working three jobs at a restaurant and laundromat and legal battles with an ex-boyfriend was too much!”
Alayna has finally turned her back on her traumatic past and rejoined her mom, who was very familiar with the life-changing programs at the center, suggested employment classes for her daughter.
Alayna’s Quest for Independence Has Prevented Backflow
“WRC gave me the confidence, life skills, and emotional support I needed as the first step. WRC staff, especially Michelle, taught me how to become more independent, control my pain and anger, and spot red flags in relationships.”
Explaining other ways she took advantage of WRC’s offerings, Alayna recounts how the WRC provided career counseling and computer support for online job applications.
“WRC prepared me for the real world—even helped me put an outfit together from the Career Closet. They also helped me with bus passes. Now I could find a job.”
While attending WRC employment classes, Alayna saw a poster for a plumbing program at Suncoast Technical College (STC). She enrolled in the hands-on program and became its first female graduate—a history-making moment.
“WRC gave me the confidence, life skills, and emotional support I needed as the first step.”
Robb Wolf, her STC Plumbing Technology instructor, has this to say about her:
“Alayna has made Suncoast and me proud to have been her instructor. Although it wasn’t smooth sailing from the beginning, once she decided this is what she wanted to do, she excelled.”
Teacher of the Year, Robb continues: “I saw a diamond in the rough, and when she finally saw she could do this, she was a shining star. Alayna will do great in this male-dominated field, and I know she will be successful because she is stronger than most people I have trained.”
Alayna is indebted to this educational opportunity: “What an experience! There’s a lab and at times Robb took us out on real jobs—with real customers—to get the feeling of the real world. We even received a brand new full set of tools.”
Excitedly, Alayna says, “Everything about plumbing was available to use: seeing a water heater, a well pump, shower, sink, and even a backflow area. I had access to all these materials.”
Her work experience has been just as exhilarating.
“My company has life-long relationships with loyal customers and it makes it more comfortable when working with them. I’ve been joining senior techs who bring me along for installs. Customers are just so stoked to see a young female in the trade. Since I began a year ago, they have been leaving reviews on Google and Facebook.”
Alayna Continues Strengthening the Future
Now that she’s welded the first chapter of her life together, Alayna is focusing on her career and future, which includes saving money, buying a house—with additional rooms for her mom—, receiving her plumbing contractor license in four years, and eventually getting married.
Without hesitating, she adds, “I want to own my own company someday, which I’ll call ‘Her Plumbing.’”
Alayna Inspires Others
This past February, Alayna was invited to speak at the Renaissance Legacy Luncheon to share her experience as a career-counseling client. After she spoke, the audience erupted into applause—and hands were raised around the room to ask for Alayna’s Plumbing Today business card.
ABC 7 News also interviewed Alayna and Deborah Chapman, the former CareerEdge program director, about the benefits of a trade school, FAFSA, and CareerEdge funding.
In her limited free time, Alayna volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club weekly where she teaches plumbing to the kids. “I’ve been doing it since February of this year, and it’s been a great opportunity. So far I have kids coming back every week to learn something new.”
What would Alayna tell others?
“Never give up and never ever let someone tell you you’re not smart enough or strong enough to do the job. Anyone is capable of making it happen. Be opened minded. Work hard—it pays off. Set goals and achieve them. Just remember, it’s up to you to grasp onto what is in front of you.”
Greg Faulkner, a Plumbing Today’s manager, highlights Alayna’s accomplishments for herself and others:
“Alayna has been a fantastic addition to the team. She’s accepted any challenge and excelled! She’s a trailblazer for young females wanting to break the traditional gender expectations in the plumbing industry. We need more women in the trades. I’m confident that Alayna is the role model to make this happen.”
Writer Sandy Chase has been a US Government communications officer, editor, technical writer, and writing instructor. Sandy directed the writing training program at the CIA, and taught grammar and punctuation as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia.
Special thanks to photographer, Pam Truitt.