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Partners in Education Volunteer Spotlight: Drew Wakefield

Ebullient Ramada Limited executive helps students find their voice, and the confidence they need to succeed in life

By Lucille Ramirez for Santa Barbara Partners in Education |

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by QAD Inc., a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

A few years ago, Drew Wakefield was asked to attend the Santa Barbara Partners in Education’s annual breakfast event, where he was inspired to sign up to volunteer.

“This is my community and I felt that there was an opportunity to speak hope and life into the lives of our young people as well as give back to our school system”, he said of his decision to get involved.

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

Over the past few years, the irrepressible Wakefield has participated in numerous Career Days and mock job interviews. Too often, he says, young adults do not know what it is really like to sit down and interview with business professionals. Working with an adult who has been interviewed a lot and who regularly does interviews can cast an entirely different light on the process.

Wakefield uses mock job interviews as an opportunity to give pointers about what companies are really looking for in the answers to interview questions. He teaches students about the importance of how to show well and speak well, reminds students they can never make a second “first impression,” and emphasizes the need to be prepared as an interview might be the only opportunity to sell oneself. 

Participating in Career Days is “awesome because I can share what I do as the director of sales and marketing at the two-time Ramada Worldwide award-winning Ramada Limited Santa Barbara,” said Wakefield, breaking into a play-by-play cadence he uses as the public-address announcer for the Santa Barbara Foresters and UCSB athletics.

“But I also become inspired at the level of intelligence of today’s youth,” he added. “They are so smart, intelligent and are far ahead of where we were 30 years ago. The skills that some of these young people have today are incredible.”

Drew Wakefield and Maria Jimenez at a Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table reception.
Drew Wakefield and Maria Jimenez at a Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table reception. (Wakefield family photo via Facebook)

There are two especially memorable volunteer moments that stand out for him.

Wakefield said he felt honored to have Dos Pueblos High School pack its gym with the entire freshmen class and have him be the guest motivational speaker for an entire hour. The time gave him the opportunity to speak into their lives with a true message of hope and success.

Having them all stand and shout, “I am destined for greatness, I am destined to be awesome, I am destined to be incredible” was remarkable, he said.

The other memorable aspect actually is the most important, and that is when he receives letters from students who tell him that what he has shared with them has made a tremendous difference in their lives. One young student recently wrote, “Thank you soooo much for opening my eyes and helping me decide what I can and can’t do. I now know that my life is in my hands.”

Wakefield says his message is simple but direct: he lets the students know that today needs to be the day they start taking control of their lives. They choose to make the right or wrong decisions in their lives. Who they listen to makes all the difference in the world when it comes to being “great or average.” He also also teaches them that “good is the enemy of best” and if they want to be the best at anything, they can never say, “That is good enough.”

An example he often uses: If you want to receive A’s in school, you can never say, “I have done enough studying tonight even though I don’t understand the material, but that is good enough.”

Wakefield exhorts students to set the bar high for themselves and not let friends influence them into thinking it is acceptable to just be average. He challenges students to see what well-performing students do and learn from them.

“If you played sports, you would want to practice and train with the top athlete to make you the best that you could be,” he explained.

According to Wakefield, Partners in Education — and volunteering in general — is so important to the health of education and the community at large because “we need to give back in a positive way to the bright minds of our future.

“We cannot sit back and complain that our young people are not prepared when we have not invested the time to walk onto our campuses and share our knowledge of what it takes to be successful in life,” he said. “Our students today only have books to learn from when they need to have business professionals who have already blazed the trail of life and can give needed advice so our youngsters are prepared for what life is all about. It also gives us as a society a chance to see what the school system is now teaching our youth and how they are doing in this system.”

Today’s schools are far different then they were 30 years ago. It is one thing to learn how to pass a test and another to know how to live, thrive and be successful in today’s society, he added.

“Volunteering shows our teachers that we as a community stand in support of them and what they are doing on a daily basis,” he said. “It also shows that there are people in our community who are willing to take a stand with them.”

Wakefield encourages businesses and professionals, specifically, to get involved as volunteers in schools:

“We have to give back to our community and one of the best places is on the school campuses,” he said. “A number of us had people who spoke into our lives as young people and now it is our opportunity to speak into the lives of these precious young students.

“However, you must have an extremely positive message and be able to keep their attention and give them something that they can grasp and hold onto, which will make them better at the end of the day. They can all see right through someone who is faking it.”

                                                                  •        •        •

QAD Inc. is a member of the Partners in Education President’s Council, a group of local businesses, organizations and individuals who support Partners in Education with contributions of at least $2,500. Any company or organization has the opportunity to participate in Partners in Education, but the President’s Council is limited to no more than 30.

» Click here for more information on Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

» Click here for more information on how to become a President’s Council member or contact Michelle Magnusson, development and membership director, at 805.964.4710 x4417 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

» Click here for a related article from Partners in Education board president Lynda Nahra.

» Connect with Partners in Education on Facebook.

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

— Lucille Ramirez is a development specialist and volunteer coordinator at Santa Barbara Partners in Education.




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