Nicole Nagy had gone back to school hoping that a new career would lead to a better job. When she was turned down for financial aid, Nagy was told she could, as a song goes, “sing for the money.” She was directed to a contest called Careereoki.
Anyone brave enough to videotape themselves singing — and sometimes dancing — about their dream career karaoke-style was qualified to enter the competition.
More than 60 videos were submitted, from which five finalists were chosen to compete for online votes that will determine the winner. Most contestants were from Central Florida, likely because the grand prize includes tuition for a certificate program at an Orange County technical school.
Nagy, a mother of three, was laid off in 2007. When she couldn’t find a job, her husband supported her decision to enroll in nursing school. But tuition and books are costly, and the Nagys are a month behind on the mortgage payment.
So risking embarrassment, Nagy decided a better future might lie in her music video.
“I can’t sing to save my life, but I will go ahead and try this because I am willing to do anything to get school paid for,” Nagy said. Her husband, obviously a good sport, appears in the video along with her children.
Dressed in a bathrobe, she sits on the couch with her kids as her husband starts the video with the bad news, “OK guys, I have to go to work. Sorry we can’t send you to nursing school, Mom. We just don’t have the money.” Nagy replies, “Ahh man.”
Addressing her children, she says, “know what we can do instead, we can sing about it.” Nagy takes off the robe, revealing a nursing uniform and the stethoscope which acts as her microphone.
Nagy then dances around her living room, belting out her tune, “Doctor, doctor give me the news; I got a bad case of nursing blues.” She sings her original lyrics to Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You” as her young, obedient children wait for the song to end.
Nagy’s video was good enough to gain her a spot as a Careereoki finalist. But winning the contest won’t be as easy as making it to the finals. The Careereoki competition is stiff.
American Idol judging it was not for this first-time contest. To choose the final five videos, judges considered three categories. Points were awarded based 50 percent on the contestant’s originality, 25 percent on creativity and 25 percent on the video’s humor.
Whether Nagy’s performance will be good enough to win will depend on how many people vote for her on local radio station WPYO’s Web site where the videos are posted.
Fans of the musical Grease may feel inclined to vote for Julia Langston of Lake Mary, Florida. Langston does a nice job singing what is supposed to be a duet, “Summer Nights.” She creatively sings, “Unemployment happened so fast, never thought this recession would last.”
Langston was laid off a few months ago after working for 15 years as an office manager. As with her fellow contestants, the grand prize would be a huge help for her. She is living off the money she had set aside to remodel her kitchen.
Finalist Jennifer Faulk of Deltona, Florida, sums up the recurring theme of the five still standing: “The day does not go by that I don’t go online and look for something and there’s just nothing out there.”
The Careereoki contest was sponsored by the Orange County School Board; Workforce Central Florida, an Orlando-area job placement organization; and a local advertising agency.
Workforce Vice President Kimberly Cornett said her organization’s participation in the singing contest helped spread the word on their “no-cost services” to the community.
“It was a way to connect to job seekers, and also for job seekers to take a little break from the stress of unemployment,” Cornett said. She said she sees that stress first hand; the Orlando organization she works for offers job placement. Unemployment in Central Florida is the highest it has been in 16 years, according to Cornett.
The grand prize is worth $8,000 and includes a career training scholarship, personal and resume makeovers and a $100 gas card. Two first-place winners will also get tuition help, resume makeovers and $50 gas cards. The finalists are keeping their fingers crossed that the song in their heart doesn’t end up a song sung blue.
The winner will be announced on Monday.