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Kadeen's comeback

Former teen mom is JHTA Hotel Employee of the Year

Sunday, July 22, 2018


When Kadeen Black got pregnant at age 17, many thought that was the end of her life prospects, but a few weeks ago the 29-year-old front desk agent at Sandals Montego Bay was named the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) Hotel Employee of the Year for 2018.

The award came three months after she copped Sandals Montego Bay's highest award — Team Member of the Year 2017 and went on to represent her resort in the ATL/Sandals group-wide Ultimate Team Member of the Year competition.

In her eyes, the awards signify her grand comeback in life, something for which she has fought since becoming a teen mother.

“I really didn't know I would be in this position today; winning all these awards,” she tells the Jamaica Observer. “There were so many setbacks in my life that I used to wonder how I would come back;, get back my life on track and become the person I know I am meant to be.”

The setbacks of which she speaks include the death of her father when she was only 14 years old, which later forced her to drop out of high school at age 16. She would later become pregnant at age 17 and experience the stigma and discrimination that comes with that territory.

“At that point I felt like after my father's death, one bad thing kept happening after another. People would say 'your father must be turning in his grave'. That made me feel worse and it was a very low point for me,” Black reveals.

Though others were sure her future was destroyed, and made sure to let her know it, the young woman found the courage to keep working hard. Using her son as motivation to press foward, she pursued various training programmes and landed occasional small jobs. Her breakthrough came in 2012, with the Hospitality Training Programme at Sandals Montego Bay.

“When I started working at Sandals that's when I knew things were turning around for me. I was so happy to be working here. They placed me at the bell desk where I had to assist guests with information and help with arrivals and departures. I am telling you, I did the job with so much pride. The hotel manager and other managers would always pass by and tell me that I am doing a great job. That really meant a lot to me because since my father died, I didn't really hear much of that,” Kadeen says.

Her performance as a trainee soon landed her a job as front desk agent, a position she still holds today in addition to being the front office department trainer responsible for new recruits.

One of the opportunities that came with her job at Sandals was the chance to pursue studies through Sandals Corporate University, which provides opportunities for employees to continue their education in various areas of the hospitality industry. Throughout her five year tenure at Sandals Montego Bay, Black has received certification in areas such as supervisory management, guest services, professional communication, and others.

“I didn't get a chance to attend university, so I was very excited when I learned that I could do training programmes for free at Sandals. My philosophy is to sign up for everything. Sometimes they tell me that a small training or certification programme is running; nothing grand. I tell them to sign me up anyway. If the training class is in the evening, I will ask my manager to place me on the morning shift at work so I can go to class in the evening. I take advantage of everything because I am not losing in life again,” Black says.

In addition to the recent awards, Black has won company recognition in the form of the Earth Guardian Award, Sandals Foundation Award, as well as the Smile and Courtesy Award and the People's Choice Award for customer service. ANd, from the looks of it, she's not stopping there.

“I am telling you: there are many more awards to come. My two kids will always see me as a winner so I have to keep working hard. Hard work has always been very kind to me. Trust me, the best of me is yet to come,” she says with a smile and a look of determination in her eyes.

Sigourney Hasting, training and development manager at the resort describes Black as an eager individual with a passion for knowledge.

“She is very passionate about everything she does. She wants to learn and it shows in everything she does. I am very proud of her development over the years,” Hasting says.

Amid her many responsibilities and constant studies, Black finds time to give back to the community through the Sandals Foundation and Sandals Earth Guardian Environmental Club which both seek to improve the welfare of people and the environment.

“I treat all my guests the same. Whether they are internal or external guests doesn't matter to me. When the team members call the front desk and ask for help, I ensure they get the same treatment as the guests who stay at the hotel,” who continues to get constant commendations from team members because of the recent awards she copped.

Black is being touted as a future manager at Sandals Montego Bay, but she is more focused on mastering all areas of guest services.

“I am in no rush to become a manager,” she confesses. “I want to work my way up so I can know everything there is to know when I do become a manager. Right now, I know a lot because of my years at the front desk. Sometimes the guests are coming from afar and just by the look on their faces, I know the problem they are having before they get to me.”

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