Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of EMCC On The Job stories we’ll bring you over the summer highlighting some of EMCC’s former students and graduates in their new jobs. From opening their own restaurants to coding for international finance companies, EMCC students have gone on to great things, all because they left here well prepared. As former EMCC student Omar Gonzalez, who now works in our Technology Services Department, said, “The instructors here were very influential. They gave me a glimpse of what my career could be and now I’m living it!”
Antonio Hernandez’s dreams really are coming true. The 2016 Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) grad has landed a job at The Happiest Place on Earth. He works in entertainment costuming at Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla.
“I work closely with Mickey and his friends, helping them get ready for the day, straightening Mickey's bowtie, polishing Cinderella’s slipper,” Antonio said. “I love it, the magic is real here. I love seeing people’s faces brighten up as they see their favorite character.”
The very first graduate of EMCC’s theater program began his new job May 20, just eight days after stage managing Southwest Ballet Theatre’s final performance of Coppélia at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). The ballet company, which partners with EMCC, hired Antonio four years ago.
“I love stage managing,” Antonio said. “It’s the conductor of a show. Keeping the bits and pieces together to fall seamlessly to tell a story.”
Over those four years, Antonio also worked part-time at the PAC, graduated from EMCC with his Associate of Fine Arts in theater, and went on to Arizona State University (ASU) where he got his bachelor’s in technical theater with an emphasis in scenic design.
“It was challenging but communication and time management were the key,” Antonio said. “I just worked harder and made sure my school work was done first to keep me from worrying about my classes when I needed to focus on the show.”
Following his graduation from ASU in the spring of 2018, Antonio was hired by EMCC as a theater faculty to teach a design and scenography class.
“Design and scenography is Antonio’s wheelhouse,” said Tim Butterfield, EMCC Coordinator of Fine Arts Facilities. “The class itself is sort of an overview of all design elements, but Antonio’s emphasis is scenic design so he had a great section for his students on model building. I got to see some of the models and they were quite impressive. He did a really good job and the students responded very positively to his work.”
Antonio said he always knew he wanted to teach and that that opportunity solidified it for him.
“I enjoyed working with my students, teaching them the ropes of design,” he said. “Helping them through problems they ran into. And creating fun activities and lectures for them.”
Butterfield said Antonio’s celebration of EMCC’s diverse student body made teaching a natural fit.
“One of the things that just comes incredibly natural to Antonio is to embrace and encourage, not accept, but embrace and encourage everyone,” Butterfield said.
That attitude was apparent when he spoke at the grand opening of the PAC in 2015 and said it represents more than just a place of art, but a safe place for many people.
“To you, this may be just a stage, but to myself and others, this is a home,” he said during the ceremony. “A blank canvas that will house the art we create from the deepest parts of our souls.”
Antonio said goodbye to the PAC May 12 as Coppélia closed and began the 31-hour drive to Florida three days later. Although he’s only been gone a month, he is already sorely missed.
“He kind of embodies ‘take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously,’” Butterfield said. “What I’ve always enjoyed about working with him is that ego is never an issue. He always focuses on the work. He’s the type of person who if you work with him once, you don’t want to let him go.”
To learn more about EMCC’s theater program, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/programs/performing-arts-theatre.
Interested in attending EMCC? Registration for the fall 2019 semester is currently underway. EMCC offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates and partners closely with Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona, as well as more than 40 out-of-state, private, and online colleges and universities, for transfer programs. Classes can be taken in person, online, or in a hybrid format. To begin your journey, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/enrollment-steps
Antonio meets Baymax
“I wasn’t expecting to meet Baymax that day at all,” the new Disneyworld employee said. But there he was, and Antonio, who was only on the second day of his new job, wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle the introduction.
You see, Baymax holds a special place in Antonio’s heart. After his brother died of leukemia in 2014, Antonio’s friends took him to see Big Hero 6 (aka Baymax) to try to take his mind off his grief, if only for a brief period. “Within the first five minutes of the movie, the brother died,” Antonio said. “Nobody knew the storyline beforehand.” His friends asked him if he wanted to leave but he decided to stay and wound up falling in love with Baymax. “He was this lovable character who took care of Hiro, the boy,” he said.
So when he and his fellow new Disney recruits came upon Baymax during a tour of the facility, he actually turned his back on the larger-than-life character and tried his hardest not to cry. But when he turned around, Baymax was standing right there, blinking and patting his head. Antonio had no choice but to cry, hug him, and cry some more. “He was the greatest thing ever,” Antonio said. “I started crying out of happiness, hugged him, and didn’t want to let go. Maybe one day I can get to work with him. I will never forget that experience and how magical it was.”