Career & Education

More than beer talk

Bartender Bronya Maxwell brews her dreams through Bar Academy

Sunday, December 01, 2019

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Big dreams are born anywhere, including in Thornton, St Elizabeth with budding bartender Bronya Maxwell. Growing up in the breadbasket parish, she dreamt early of becoming a food and nutrition teacher after falling in love with the subject at Maggotty High School. Though quite shy about pursuing her dream, Maxwell developed a self-driven attitude, which she partly attributes to her sisters. It's an attitude that has proven to be a guiding force throughout her latest endeavours.

“Growing up, my sisters owned a bar,” Maxwell said. “I experienced firsthand, how the money they made from that bar helped to put me through high school. I was always around a highly self-driven environment and that motivated me to find the strength from within to excel.”

Upon completing her secondary education, Maxwell joined her sisters' bar business, then explored the field further by volunteering as a bartender at some of her friends' parties. Despite these efforts, she found her contributions small as she felt there was much more for her to learn and offer.

“I didn't really know the different opportunities in bartending until my friend told me about mixology. I became very curious. So, imagine how excited I was when I learned about the Red Stripe Bar Academy programme and that I would be able to participate. This was exactly what I needed.”

For more than 10 years, Red Stripe's Bar Academy has equipped thousands of young people with skills and expertise to thrive in bartending and its related fields. More than 300 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 stand to benefit from this year's programme done in partnership with HEART Trust/NTA. A carefully curated six-week course equips students with knowledge-based tools and technical skills training so they can pursue avenues of economic growth and independence.

Maxwell said, “The sessions were engaging and very interactive. From role-playing exercises, to question-and-answer segments where we would win prizes, we were always encouraged to do our best. We learnt so much. I was introduced to different garnishes, spirits, and bar tools. There was even a session on the importance of customer service. I realised that these skills would have made me a lot better when I was working around bars in the past. Now, I feel more confident about getting jobs and gaining more knowledge in bartending.”

As part of the practical component of Bar Academy, all students are required to complete a four-week paid internship programme. This element is designed to equip participants with employability skills, as well as direct access to employment.

Dianne Ashton-Smith, Red Stripe's head of corporate affairs said, “The programme, funded by the Desnoes and Geddes Foundation, promotes youth employment through opportunities in the cultural and creative industries. It is important that young people can attain success more easily so they can be in a better position to realise their dreams and return to their communities as more productive citizens. Empowering our youth in this way is crucial for national growth and development.”

With bright hopes for the future, Maxwell looks forward to benefiting from avenues of opportunity in bartending. She believes that if she can pursue her dreams, then anyone can do the same.

In offering advice to young people, she said, “You have to know exactly what you want. Don't just do something because you heard about it or anything like that. Know if it's for you and find the motivation from within to chase after what you want. Surround yourself with good people and always be open to learning more. Sky's the limit!”


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