IMMOKALEE - The beginning of the school year in August of 2017 was a turning point in Billy Jules’ life. He was enrolled in Immokalee High School and dually enrolled in Immokalee Technical College considering the Automotive Technology Program. However, when his high school teacher, Kelly Stevenson-crews, introduced him to the Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts Program, Billy had a change of heart. “Since I’ve been in the class, I fell in love with it,” he said. That is why after graduating from IHS, Billy returned this school year and enrolled as an adult to complete the program.
Billy said some of the things he has learned are how to use the register, how to prepare all different kinds of meats, and how to make cinnamon rolls. “I love cooking and learning new things,” he adds, “but my favorite thing to make is chocolate chip cookies.” When asked why, Billy responded, “Chocolate chip cookies are old fashioned. People love them. I love them. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy.”
Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts instructor, Terrie Thompson, praised Billy. “He has unfailing determination. He never gives up. He always volunteers to help.” It is because of his tenacity and successes that Billy Jules is Immokalee Technical College’s April Student of the Month. Billy has earned his 10 hour OSHA card for General Industry Safety and Health, his Safestaff Certificate, and his Servesafe Certificate, as well as started his own business, Billy’s Fresh Produce!
Every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Billy can be seen setting up his stand with the help of Mr. Crews at the Ave Maria Farmers’ Market, and by 9 a.m. all his fresh fruits and vegetables are displayed and ready to sell. Ms. Stevenson-crews arrives at the stand around 11 a.m. to help with sales. “I am so proud of Billy with his transition from high school to college,” Ms. Stevenson says. “He has set the bar high for those following him. Billy lives independently and is the proud owner of Billy’s Fresh Produce. His dreams and goals are coming true due to his hard work and determination.”
Billy was born and raised in Immokalee. The first school he attended was The Learning Center, a preschool that was located exactly where iTECH is now! In 2007 The Learning Center was demolished so iTECH could be built. Little did Billy know at four years old having his first educational experience in pre-school that 18 years later he would be back at the same location enrolled at Immokalee Technical College pursuing a career in culinary arts.