At Everglades Alligator Farm, airboats zip nearly 4 miles through shallow "rivers of grass," splashing visitors as they catch glimpses of wildlife between fast spins and hairpin turns. On the shore, alligator handlers lead demonstrations with the animals—injecting humor along the way—before letting audience members hold and take pictures with a baby alligator. Snake handlers help brave visitors pose for snapshots with a snake draped around their shoulders. Audiences craving more wildlife after the shows and tour can also explore the farm's nature path, check out the captive collection of pythons and crocodiles, and watch alligators in a feeding frenzy over the last bag of Fritos at lunchtime.
It's a "compact adventure" in the Everglades, says CEO Matthew Thibos, whose family bought the farm in the '90s from a Baptist preacher who originally raised alligators off the side of US-1. Today, the staff keeps up to 2,500 gators on 200 acres of everglades wetlands, close to the entrance of Everglades National Park. "It's an off-the-beaten-path little gem that most people enjoy," Matthew says. "Kids love it—they have a fantastic time." Matthew stresses that the farm is a great place for pictures; National Geographic has been known to drop by, and the likes of Bill Nye the Science Guy and Bobby Flay have filmed there on-location. The farm sees plenty of visitors from the area, as well as domestic and international travelers, including the 2008 Miss Hong Kong contestants.
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The passionate wildlife guides at Tours in the Glades usher nature-starved sightseers into the lush wetlands and past the stunning marine wildlife of the Everglades. Captivating facts about the Everglades’ ecological and cultural significance abound, as do anecdotes about some of the birds and reptiles that call the wetlands home. All tours include the proper gear for watery odysseys and transportation into the park, thereby obviating the need to hitch rides on the backs of water-walking lizards.
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We spoke with Jack Macaluso—Regional Social Media and Web Coordinator at Beauty Schools of America—about how the academies prepare students for careers in the real world and why it's important for the schools to give back to their communities.
On the schools' mission
Above all else, Jack says that the schools "try to focus and harness the students' creativity," while giving them all of the experience and practical skills they need not simply to be prepared to enter the work force, but to succeed and thrive. The relatively lengthy training programs ensure that aspiring stylists, cosmetologists, makeup artists, barbers, and massage therapists fully understand the intricacies of their chosen specialty, as well as what they need to do to continue advancing their future career according to Jack.
On the role of the instructors
With a roster of instructors that includes industry professionals with international spa and salon experience, Beauty Schools of America strives to give attendees a broad view of the numerous options open to them. Jack is also clear that the teachers' guidance isn't limited to classroom environments. When the advanced-level students are allowed hone their talents by performing treatments for actual clients, "an instructor or two will always be there to assist and answer questions," he says.
On the products that the students use during treatments
Students use brand name products like Moroccanoil, Sojourn, Nioxin, and others. Working alongside their instructors at modern service stations, these stylists use these products to craft en vogue cuts, color, styling and therapeutic practices.
On the schools' charitable involvement
Beauty Schools of America embraces opportunities to give back to its communities while providing real-world experience for students at the same time. Jack goes on to describe events where the schools' aspiring barbers and cosmetologists performed complimentary services for underprivileged residents, and he mentions one specific occasion when massage students provided free treatments for community members who participated in a bike ride dedicated to raising awareness about multiple sclerosis.