Working Wonders with Jay Lundy Sr.

GYAC's Jay Lundy Sr. is helping young people prepare for future employment success

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Jay Lundy Sr. is the leader of the Gifford Youth Achievement Center’s Youth Employability Program. Photo by Steven Martine
Jay Lundy Sr. is the leader of the Gifford Youth Achievement Center’s Youth Employability Program. Photo by Steven Martine

For as long as she can remember, Lenore Carter has wanted to be a doctor. Wanting is one thing, but how was she to know if it was the profession she should pursue? Thanks to the Gifford Youth Achievement Center’s Youth Employability Program (YEP), the Vero Beach High School junior has spent the last two summers working at local health care clinics. Her experiences have shown her that the medical field is indeed where she belongs.

“I’ve always loved helping people, and thanks to the program I’ve had the opportunity to work behind the scenes, observe procedures, and ask a lot of questions. I’ve learned so much and I’m looking forward to learning even more this summer,” Lenore enthuses.

Richard Butler leads the discussion in the engineering program
Richard Butler leads the discussion in the engineering program. Photo by Steven Martine

Landen Chaney, who has been working on projects and programs at Piper Aircraft, feels the same way. “When I was young and flew on a plane for the first time, I was fasci- nated with the idea of knowing how to fly,” says the Indian River Charter High School sophomore. “This past summer I spent about six hours a day during the week at Piper, where I improved my problem-solving skills and got better at talking with people.

My confidence increased. I even got paid!”

That’s music to the ears of Jay Lundy Sr., the director of the program, which GYAC’s board of directors developed as part of the nonprofit’s 2021 strategic plan.

Steve Moler of Masteller, Moler & Taylor has worked with Justin Woulard at the surveying and mapping firm for the last two years
Steve Moler of Masteller, Moler & Taylor has worked with Justin Woulard at the surveying and mapping firm for the last two years.

Lundy structured the program to equip students for the real world of work through job training, matching their skill sets to local businesses, allowing them to gain exposure and experience in their fields of choice. YEP not only prepares young people for the workforce, it gives them a leg up when it comes to developing and navigating a successful career path.

“We want to teach these students the value of work, along with the expectations—things like showing up on time and the importance of teamwork and problem solving,” says Lundy, whose 30-year career as an employment counselor for services such as Job Corps and One-Stop Career Centers, makes him the perfect person to head up YEP. “When you engage students at an early age who have been coming to GYAC and getting the guidance we offer, they have all the tools in their tool box to succeed.”

He didn’t plan it; he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. The place was Walmart, it was August 2021, and GYAC executive director Angelia Perry had just turned down the aisle where Lundy was pondering a purchase.

“Angelia told me about GYAC’s strategic plan and the Youth Employability Program, then asked if I would be interested in being involved. Well, it was right up my alley, so I drafted a plan based on what the board wanted and my experience,” says Lundy, smil- ing as he recalls the board’s enthusiastic support.

A chance meeting in 2021 between Jay Lundy and GYAC executive director Angelia Perry was the start of Lundy’s involvement with the Youth Employability Program. Photo by Steven Martine
A chance meeting in 2021 between Jay Lundy and GYAC executive director Angelia Perry was the start of Lundy’s involvement with the Youth Employability Program. Photo by Steven Martine

Having been given the green light, Lundy wasted no time. In the weeks that followed, he contacted local schools and employers, and a list of interested participants grew.

The following April, GYAC received a $100,000 grant from Impact 100 to fund the program for two years. Included were salaries and wages for students (yes, they do get paid) and, partially, for the director; youth-level OSHA training and certification; transportation to and from work; and, if needed, appropriate business attire.

A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine
A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine

YEP was on its way; it had structure and funding, and business partnerships had been formed.

Masteller, Moler & Taylor, a professional surveying and mapping firm, was one of the first to sign up, and president David Taylor, who also serves on GYAC’s board of directors, can’t say enough about Lundy and the progress the program has made in just two years.

“Jay has been a godsend,” Taylor says. “He’s definitely made the program jell and expanded it like crazy. Last year he had about 20 kids involved; this year he’s got like 40 or more.”

A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine
A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine

“We’ve had a young man, Justin Woulard, with us for the last two years, and we put him right to work out in the field testing water lines,” Taylor reports. “It’s not shadowing. It’s real work. Justin is very bright, very productive, and we’re hoping to get him back again this summer. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re helping kids by giving them a chance to check things out.”

Quail Valley managing partner Kevin Given couldn’t agree more. “We’ve been very blessed,” he says. “Our club is now 23 years old, and some of my team leaders have been with me for years. They’ve really embraced the program.

A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine
A lively after-school engineering class that is part of YEP is led by Richard Butler, the facilitator of the program. Photo by Steven Martine

“When Jay approached me about getting involved, I said, ‘Look, we’ll pay these kids, treat it like a paid internship.’ Some of them have never been over on the island. It gives us a chance to impact young people we would never have come into contact with.”

“Two of the first three students are still with us,” Given adds. “There’s a student who works at our golf facility. It’s an area he probably never thought he’d be in, and he’s been phenomenal. I think every business would benefit from being involved.”

Perry and Lundy sit in on the discussion created for teens interested in pursuing engineering as a career
Perry and Lundy sit in on the discussion created for teens interested in pursuing engineering as a career. Photo by Steven Martine

Attorney Jacqueline Grady, founder of Grady Legal, feels the same way: “High school students don’t always have an opportunity to work in the profession they aspire to, and this program helps make it possible. We had the same high school student two years in a row. The first year she was very shy, very quiet; the second year she was more confident, asked a lot of questions, and learned what makes a law firm run. We do things like Zoom Court—it’s not at all like what you see on TV. There’s a lot of maintenance that’s involved; what we do takes a lot of work.”

And that’s the point. There is a multitude of day-to-day details that need to be taken care of in order for a business to succeed, and tending to them takes knowledgeable and committed employees. No one knows that better than Lundy.

VBHS junior Lenore Carter has dreams of becoming a doctor
VBHS junior Lenore Carter has dreams of becoming a doctor. Photo by Steven Martine

The VBHS alumnus, who served in the U.S. Army and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature and communications from the University of North Florida, tried his hand writing for publications before entering the employment assistance field. After retiring, he returned to his home- town—the town where his father, J. Ralph Lundy, had made it his mission to improve the Gifford community.

The senior Lundy started shortly after arriving in 1961 by helping found the Gifford Progressive Civic League and serving as its president until the early ’90s. Through his and other civic- minded residents’ advocacy efforts, much-needed infrastructure, such as paved streets, lights, and clean-water improvements were made.

“My father was instrumental in Gifford youngsters having little league baseball teams and other forms of recreation,” Lundy says, “but the biggest thing most folks remember my father for was starting Our Father’s Table Soup Kitchen. He believed in doing for people, helping others whenever he could. He touched the community.” A note of quiet pride is discernible as Lundy speaks of his father.

J. Ralph Lundy was a pillar in the community, championing civic causes in Gifford throughout his lifetime
J. Ralph Lundy was a pillar in the community, championing civic causes in Gifford throughout his lifetime.

“As a youth, I didn’t fully understand the impact my father’s achievements had on the civic level,” he continues. “It wasn’t until I got older that I did. One thing I admire about my father and a lot of the other leaders who were around during the ’60s and early ’70s is that they did it independently, without pay. They would just roll up their sleeves and do what needed to be done because there was a need.”

In a way, Lundy is doing the same thing. He didn’t have to say yes to Perry that day in Walmart, he didn’t have to structure a youth employability plan, and he doesn’t have to spend his days teaching, guiding, and encouraging young people to be the best they can be. But he does.

When asked what makes him happy at the end of a busy day, Lundy doesn’t hesitate: “Witnessing the success of another human being. I love to see individuals overcome barriers; that’s my passion, and I want to do whatever I can to make that happen.”

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