Brandon Carcamo

Brandon Carcamo, who played football at Raymond S. Kellis High School, went to work at Amazon just before graduating.

Graduating in a drive-thru-like style wasn’t what most seniors were expecting when they began their final year of high school.

One of those seniors is Brandon Carcamo, a graduate of Raymond S. Kellis High School. The school is in north Glendale near Peoria Crossing.

After a “car parade” drive-thru diploma ceremony last month, Kellis holds its graduation ceremony at 3 p.m. June 26 at State Farm Stadium. Peoria Unified School District high schools Centennial, Sunrise Mountain and Ironwood also have June 26 graduation ceremonies at State Farm Stadium, with Peoria, Liberty and Cactus high schools doing their graduations the following day at State Farm Stadium.

Original graduation plans for May were scrambled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which also led to schools closing mid-way through the school year.

“I didn’t think the virus was going to spread how it did,” said Carcamo, who played football at Kellis.

Amid the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic, he found a light.

And, though hundreds of thousands in Arizona and millions in the country were thrown out of work by the pandemic, Carcamo—with little work experience—landed a job with one of the world’s largest companies.

Just over a month ago, Carcamo, 19, started working at Amazon.

As a full-time graveyard shift associate, Carcamo works 40 hours a week at an Amazon fulfillment center in Phoenix, selecting and packing customer orders.

Going sharply against local, national and global unemployment trends, Amazon is hiring.

As of April the unemployment rate in Arizona is at a high of 12.6% compared to 4.5% in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) paid $519 million in claims for the week ending May 18, according to DES.

According to the DES website, “Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an extension of unemployment benefits, will be available in Arizona June 6.”

Yet, since March, Amazon has hired over 6,500 new employees in Arizona.

The new positions that include picking, packing and shipping customer orders are in addition to the 9,500 full-time Amazon employees who have already been working in the state.

Amazon is paying its warehouse team members $15 and above per  hour.

Starting out as a seasonal employee over the summer, Carcamo hopes to continue on as a permanent employee with Amazon.

“This is my first real job,” said Carcamo, who lives in Glendale. “I did want a job in the summer, but I’m going to stay with Amazon.”

COVID-19 put a detour on his final semester of high school, as temporary closures kept being extended.

“I honestly thought we were going to go back to school, but that obviously changed really quick,” he said. “So that kind of messed up a lot of plans.”

Brandon’s mother, Gwendolyn Bailey, said she is very happy her son is making the best of circumstances.

“I’m very proud of Brandon and other students that were graduating high school in the midst of all that’s going on, all these things that are coming into play that these young people have never experienced or seen before,” Bailey said.

She expressed that these difficult times are a test for today’s youth, and Brandon has passed.

“When COVID shut down everything, he was still able to adapt, finish school and then obtain a position at Amazon,” she said. “So that to me is heroism that I’ve never seen before in young people.”

Even though he is young and is working many hours, Carcamo is digging into a job he hopes will launch his career in the working world.

“It’s not hard work,” he said. “If you pay attention, it’s not hard.”

Amazon has openings for warehouse and delivery positions. Interested candidates can apply at amazon.com/jobsnow.