OTC Alumni: Patrick’s Story (HVAC)

The story of Patrick…

Now 18, his arms and hands are a tapestry of scars that are a roadmap of learning, intelligence, stubbornness, determination, and one heck of a work ethic.

Patrick Franks is a recent graduate of West Orange High School and the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Program at Orange Technical College. From kindergarten to technical college, he is a product of Orange County Public Schools.

As an elementary student, Patrick struggled with reading and concentration. He did not pass the dreaded 3rd grade FCAT and had to attend summer school and work hard to get promoted to 4th grade.

As a student in middle school, he was enrolled in intervention courses to continue to build his reading skills. With the help of his parents and teachers, Patrick passed the FSA for the first time in 6th grade.

Because of the interventions, Patrick did not have the opportunity to take many elective courses in middle school. By the time Patrick entered high school at West Orange, he was ready to try new things. He was in ROTC, a member of the Theatre department, and discovered woodshop and building construction in CTE.

For the first time, these courses allowed Patrick to show his magic – it was working with his hands. Most importantly, these courses allowed Patrick, for the first time, to see what he was capable of. Years of interventions and ‘F’S on reading packets taught Patrick that his love was not going to be academia.

On a typical, hot Florida summer day, Patrick was asked by his grandfather to help him with some service calls. Patrick’s grandfather owns an AC company here in Central Florida and had recently experienced some health issues and needed a helper. That summer would introduce Patrick to the world of air conditioning.

Since then, his path has been saws, drills, welders, gauges and meters.

Although Patrick was an honors student in high school, his love was not academic textbooks.

His love was and is technical manuals, schematics and a good challenge.

His love is hard work and anything that involves his hands.

As a high school student, woodshop had him building intricate projects such as cutting boards, and chairs. Assigned as the student technical director for his high school in their nationally-recognized theatre department, Patrick built and oversaw almost $400,000 worth of productions under the always challenging eye of instructor and director, Mrs. Whitman. He travelled to shows and international festivals and worked with union houses, professional technicians, carpenters, designers and more.

At the end of Patrick’s sophomore year, he decided he was not going to college. Now a confident young man, he knew that four more years of classrooms and textbooks was not going to feed the particular love of learning that he had.

So, one day, he told his mother he wasn’t going to college.

She promptly put him in the car and drove him to the parking lot of the Orange Technical College – Westside Campus where she made him read the words “Orange Technical College – Westside Campus.”

In tears, she explained that he was absolutely going to college and to never doubt that again. A few weeks later, Patrick got confirmation that he was admitted into the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) career certificate program at OTC.

Patrick had two amazing teachers in Ms. Logue and Mr. Davis. He worked hard for over two years to devour technical manuals and take tests. He achieved many industry certifications and a national certification for Freon.

Recently, Patrick was selected as the only candidate out of a pool of more than 70 technicians to join an apprenticeship with Lennox, an international provider of climate control products. His future is certainly bright.

Patrick grew up knowing the value of skilled technicians: carpenters, plumbers, and mechanics. He knows the pressure of AP classes and SAT Scores. He is quick to explain that the advanced courses in woodshop and AC are the same level as AP classes. He has always taken pride in each new scar he obtains.

The next time your AC breaks, your car dies, or you need something built, you will call someone from a trade with a great deal of training and certifications to do what you cannot.

Next time that happens, look at their hands. They could tell you a story.

Patrick’s story has just begun. His future is bright – not the kind of light you get in typical classrooms, but the kind you get from a work light.

I’m reminded of this quote: Be Humble. Be Hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room. – Dwayne Johnson

Article written by Sheri Robb

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