COA honors recent graduate for his work at Festival Park

By on August 18, 2018

Lara in his role as an early Roanoke Island settler (Russ Lay)

Arturo Lara was the latest Dare County College of the Albemarle graduate to be honored under the college’s COA Alumni Connect Program.

Lara is a familiar sight in Dare County, especially in and around Roanoke Island and Manteo, where he attended Manteo High School and COA’s Dare campus after relocating here from Illinois.

The Alumni Connect Program honors graduates from COA’s many academic and vocational programs who enter the local workforce and through their success, are made known to the college.

Lara is an obvious selection for the honor.

Tim Sweeney, dean of COA’s Dare County campus, stopped by one of his classes to pitch the then-new Hospitality and Tourism program to the students.

The program, developed by Sweeney, COA staff and business leaders in the hospitality and tourism sector, was designed to better prepare students for careers in one of the county’s largest employment sectors.

Students learn everything from soft skills — attire, speaking to the public, arriving to work on time — to geographical awareness of the area to better answer visitors questions such as ‘How long does it take to get to Duck?” or something as simple as the location of nearby pharmacies or tourist attractions.

Lara graduated from the program in 2017 and started volunteering at Roanoke Island Festival Park, selling tickets.

The young graduate told us Anna Davis, manager of Education and Interpretation, asked him if he would be interested in serving in an educational role.

Tommy Fulcher, Timothy Sweeney, Arturo Lara, Lynn Hurdle-Winslow, Dr. Belinda Petricek (Russ Lay)

He jumped at the chance and now works in a range of roles at the park, including playing a sailor on the Elizabeth II or an early Roanoke Island settler in the park’s mock-up village depicting how these first English arrivals to the New World lived and worked. Lara also serves as an educational interpreter for the area.

As some of those roles require Lara to become an actor, when asked by COA’s public information officer, Amy Alcocer if he had ever acted in college or drama, Lara sheepishly admitted to playing one part in one play during high school.

However, he credited Dr. Tina Bradley, an instructor in the Hospitality and Tourism program, with piquing his interest in a career in the field when he took her classes on regional history and geography to better help graduates communicate with tourists.

Visitors to the park often ask or tell Lara about their other vacation plans while they are staying on the Outer Banks.

Lara noted that before he took the class, he had no idea how far away Ocracoke and parts of Hatteras Island were from the northern beaches.  Bradley’s use of maps and precise information about the region now allows him to help visitors in a new way.

“Now, when a visitor tells me they plan to visit the Wright Memorial, then drive down to Hatteras to see the lighthouse and maybe push on to Ocracoke, I’m able to tell them they might want to plan an entire day trip for the Hatteras and Ocracoke visits,” he said.

COA Dare Campus dean Tim Sweeney (L) gets into the role play with Arturo Lara.

His work with Roanoke Island has also sparked a longer-term interest in the park as a career path. “I really enjoy this job and I would love to become a permanent employee and advance into other positions at the park,” Lara added.

Lara also represents COA’s ideals by serving in the community in addition to his work at RIFP.

He is the current president of the Manteo Lions Club and is also a member of Manteo Rotary Club. Lara has been a very active member in the Dare County Democratic Party and he is often seen at political events around the county.

He also sings in the choir at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Manteo.

After Amy Alcocer presented the award, COA Board of Trustees member Tommy Fulcher thanked Lara “for being a great ambassador for your community and for College of The Albemarle.”

For more information on this and other workforce-related programs, call Sherri May at 252-473-2264 ext. 7511 or

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Kenny Marshall

Outstanding young man!! Congrats to you Arturo, as well as COA! Great article, Russ!