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The Former Forklift Driver Who's Always Moving Forward

One of the Classified Employee of the Year recipients says never giving up is the key to getting ahead.

People  |  Jul 19, 2018  |  By Diane Russell
Portrait April Vomvas

 

April Vomvas is this year's third-place recipient of Classified Employee of the Year. She is an administrative assistant IV, working in both the English department's freshman composition program and in the Writing Center. (Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Creative Services)

 

April Vomvas has never been willing to settle — not for Wrangler jeans and not for low-paying jobs. That attitude, no doubt, is part of what led to her becoming third-place recipient of the 2018 President’s Classified Employee of the Year Award. 

The job

I work in the English department and for the Writing Center. I prepare contracts for part-time instructors, schedule composition and world literature courses, schedule events, set up orientations — a little bit of everything.

Coming to UNLV

I started working at UNLV in 2011. I was working at an automotive repair shop as a smog technician and a mechanic’s helper. It was low-paying with no health benefits. A customer told me I should apply to UNLV.

First, I worked in custodial, just to get my foot in the door. I was there for 18 months, and then worked in student accounts for 18 months before moving to English.

Why you stay

I just love UNLV. I love all my coworkers. I like the fact that everybody here is trying to do something better with their lives.

Also, I like the fact that I can take classes through the grant-in-aid program. I started working right out of high school — I didn’t know that student loans were available to someone without credit. Now I’m working on a degree in history. It’s really slow because it’s hard to go to school full time and work full time but I take a couple of classes a semester.

Best advice 

Doug McLean of facilities, who hired me when I first started at UNLV, told me that if I worked hard, I could do anything here. It doesn't matter where you start, the sky’s the limit if you have the drive. I couldn’t be more thankful to anybody in the whole university than him.

I'd give the same advice to any new employee. You can do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. Never stop trying to move forward.

Moving away and back again

I’m local. I graduated from Clark High School.

I moved to Missouri when I was 20. I wanted to raise my children somewhere else, but it was hard to make a living there. The factories closed in the winter, so it was always a struggle. I moved back here in 2004. I was never happier to be back anywhere.

First job

I wanted a pair of Levis. My mother would only buy me Wranglers. She said, “If you want Levis, you can get a job.”

You had to be 14 and a half to get a work permit, so that’s when I went to work scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. And, no, there was no free ice cream. They had cameras on us.

That job taught me I had better do something with my life. I didn’t want those kinds of jobs when I was older.

I made both my daughters get a job at McDonald’s as soon as they were old enough. I told them, "If you don’t stay in school, this is what you are looking at for your future." Now one of my daughters, Jessica Bradley, works on campus, too. She's an administrative assistant III in the department of interdisciplinary, gender, and ethic studies.

Something you never seem to have time for

Visiting the museums on campus. I’ve never been in any of them except the Donna Beam (Fine Art Gallery) when I would have to clean it.

A movie, television show, or book to recommend

I’m a big Game of Thrones fan. It’s so different.

People would be surprised to know…

I take hip-hop dance fitness classes at a gym in town. They play all the music that is popular on the radio and in the clubs. They turn off the lights in the room and there are lights that flash like in a club. It's super fun. 

Also, I used to drive a forklift at a pool table factory in Missouri. That was my favorite job, fun-wise.

 

What Her Nominators Say

Elaine Bunker, associate director of composition in the English department

April Vomvas goes looking for trouble — and that's a good thing. As an AA IV in the English department with responsibilities in both the composition program and the Writing Center, her work affects more than a hundred GTAs (graduate teaching assistants) and PTIs (part-time instructors) as well as literally thousands of students, and she takes that responsibility very seriously. She knows that there are a lot of things that can go wrong — with scheduling, with contracts, with budgets and purchasing, with office space and equipment, just to name a few possibilities. Fortunately for us, most of the things that could go wrong go right because April anticipates problems and tries to solve them before they become an issue.

Not only is April efficient in performing her own duties, but she is also generous in helping others, and because she prioritizes her time well, she is able to assist many others without neglecting her own responsibilities. Her problem-solving skills are often in demand, not only in the composition program, but from other faculty and staff in the English department. She is respected by faculty and staff in our dean's office, the registrar's office, contracts administration, and other offices with which she has frequent interaction. We are all grateful that April goes looking for trouble, because once she finds it, she deals with it so that trouble is less likely to find us.

Gina Sully, director of the UNLV Writing Center

"April has a quick mind and proactively seeks training and information that will help her to do her jobs more efficiently and effectively. After only a few workshops, she has already mastered her Workday tasks, and, in fact, has taught me a few things about the system I needed to understand to do my job, but that are not part of hers. April's thoughtful and proactive efforts have saved me an enormous amount of time.

"April Vomvas goes above and beyond in myriad ways and does the work of two AAs with vigor and good humor. She provides outstanding customer service in two units, and attends to the details, no matter how small and no matter the task. Her sharp intellect and creative problem-solving, her proactivity and welcoming personality together make her a superb AA, a wonderful coworker, and an invaluable resource for UNLV..."