For three years now, scores of Backstretch workers at Palm Meadows Training Center have been learning to speak English in a classroom setting thanks to an initiative by Breeders’ Cup Champion owner and trainer Carlo Vaccarezza and Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) Chaplain Tom LaPointe.
Forty-seven of the newest English class recruits start their journey to become bilingual tonight at 5:30 p.m. (Monday, September 16, 2019) in the Palm Meadows Trainers’ Lounge Kitchen.
The two-hour classes take place once a week for 14 to 15 weeks, culminating in a graduation ceremony that’s often quite emotional.
“The speeches our students give are amazing,” said Vaccarezza. “They thank everyone . . . our Chaplain, Palm Meadows, the horsemen–everyone.”
Learning English means a pathway to a better job on the Backstretch and thus, a future, he added.
“If you know English, you can communicate with trainers, the vet, the jockeys–you name it. You move forward.”
Although the free classes are only for those with a Palm Meadows identification at this time, Vaccarezza said immediately family members are welcome to join.
“We teach the basics,” he noted.
To start the program, which is funded by the FHBPA, Vaccarezza visited with the Palm Beach County School Board and recruited a professional instructor.
“She’s doing a phenomenal job,” he said. “And helping our Backstretch employees better themselves is just the right thing to do.”