Dream chaser

Dream chaser

Sandals Negril concierge chases pilot dream

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland - “If you want something bad enough, go out and fight for it, work day and night for it, give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it…” is a popular chant that 22- year-old Romaine Dillon replays over and over in his head as he edges closer and closer to his dream of becoming a pilot.

The loyalty and travel concierge at Sandals Negril refused to be deterred by the heavy price tag on his training and the huge toll it has taken on him to work full time and also study. Prior to the pandemic, Dillon would travel up to eight hours from Westmoreland to Kingston and back on his days off to train. Despite the journey being a tedious and tiring one and the hourly rates for renting an aircraft with an instructor being very costly, he was determined to complete.

All throughout his high school years, Dillon did the business subjects, driven to fulfill his mother's dream of him becoming a bank teller. Everything was going according to plan, until his family was dealt a brutal blow when they learnt that their mother had pancreatic cancer.

At only 16 years old and exactly one month before sitting seven subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC), Dillon's mother died, and life as he knew it changed drastically.

“I sat all my seven subjects and managed to get three grade ones, three grade twos and a grade three. I think reality didn't really hit then that my mother was gone forever. But it really affected me more and more, the older I got,” he shared.

With CSEC behind him, he started to shift his career focus.

“My mother really dreamt of me being in banking but that wasn't my love. For me it was not challenging enough. I wanted to become a pilot. My fascination for aircrafts goes way back and I would watch videos non-stop about flying and airplanes,” said Dillon.

His study to become a pilot did not take off immediately as the tuition fees were exorbitantly high for his family and he decided to join the workforce.

“That was my introduction to the world of tourism. I saw the industry as my way to secure money to fund my dreams,” he argued.

But, it was not from a lack of trying to get financial support that has made Dillon's progress to becoming a pilot slower than usual. He had even applied for an aviation scholarship and was one of 10 individuals selected from 230 applicants to study for his private pilot licence in Florida. He was, however, unable to accept the offer because even with the scholarship his other expenses were way too high for him and his family to cover.

Still not deterred, he sought further growth in the tourism industry and landed a job at Sandals Negril. Working at Sandals and the support he gets from his colleagues and the management team bolstered his drive to continue to pursue his dream. A dream again on pause, but not for long, as Dillon had to take a leave of absence following the closure of the hotel and the travel industry last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am pursuing a fundamental course, so I pay per training session. Not being able to work forced me to take a hiatus from school. The effects of the pandemic were surprising and far-reaching and I had to realign my educational plans. Now that I am back on the job, I can look at resuming my training,” said Dillon, adding that “getting back a steady salary gives me renewed hope and I can see myself approaching that finishing line once again.”

“The Sandals support from the team is a big encouragement for me and I will continue to pursue this dream of mine. I am very proud to state that I have concluded the theoretical aspect and I am currently completing my required 45 hours of flight time at the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre,” he noted.

After finishing these hours, Dillon will receive his private pilot licence and is one voyage closer to his dream of getting his commercial pilot licence and being able to fly multi-engine aircrafts for major airlines. He didn't hesitate to thank Sandals Negril and the tourism industry for helping him to get closer and closer to his dream by providing not only the moral support, but the wherewithal to actually afford what was once too expensive for him to pursue. He even fancies himself piloting tourists daily across the Caribbean region, who will end up staying at the very resort that helped him to realise his dreams of becoming a pilot.

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