Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Dream Jobs Do Exist

Four Florida Academy Massage Therapist Graduates Find Life-Changing Careers

As reported by USA Today, women and men looking for a dream career want work that offers opportunities for flexibility, living a better balanced life and a chance to learn. Judi Austin, Zaiden Shannon, Paige Prather and James Miller, all graduates of the Florida Academy, in Fort Myers, found dream jobs that afforded them each of these opportunities.

In the Right Place

Judith AustinAustin often imagined working as a massage therapist. Even before graduating from Florida Academy in 2016, she had her eye on a job at the New American Physical Fitness and Aquatic Center outpatient rehabilitation center.

“Before relocating to Okeechobee for my dream job, I was a ‘Jill of all trades’. I’d worked in banking, bookkeeping, electrical distribution and truck driving. That visit to the academy campus and admissions counselor told me exactly where I belonged. Now I even have my dream vehicle; a fully loaded, garnet red 2016 Nissan Rogue. Her name is Ruby,” enthuses Austin.

Holistic Lifestyle Extension

Zaiden ShannonFor Shannon, a Cape Coral resident, stepping into a massage therapy career at Tween Waters Inn, on Captiva Island, was a natural extension of her holistic lifestyle. “Prior to the academy, I attended the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, in Arizona, and studied nutrition. I taught yoga and meditation and worked with clients on their overall health. I can’t believe that I once thought of massage as a luxury. Now I understand the medical and spiritual healing benefits,” she says.  

A Way Out of a Dead-End Job

Paige PratherBefore Prather became a massage therapist at Humble Chiropractic, in Fort Myers, she had worked as a pharmaceutical technician, home health aid and medical assistant. “I was stuck in a dead-end job in a pain management office. I’d had a lot of medical office experience, and came to the conclusion that there had to be other answers to feeling better than pain pills.

“I didn’t realize I had a calling until studying massage. My life has changed dramatically, and I love the instant gratification I get from making people feel better on my massage table. No one has to wait for the effects of a pain pill to kick in,” says Prather.

Right Timing

James MillerJames Miller’s sister, a 2001 Florida Academy graduate, never gave up on encouraging him to follow in her footsteps. “Back then, I preferred working in the restaurant business as a manager for Pizza Hut, until Jamie finally convinced me,” says the Cape Coral resident who worked as a massage therapist at a salon and day Spa in Fort Myers after graduation, certification and licensing.

Now he is a sole proprietor who also works on call for, an online service that provides same-day, in-home massage therapy. “One of the academy teachers, who are all top-notch, helpful, supportive and encouraging, recommended me for my first job.”

Austin, Shannon, Prather and Miller look forward to learning additional massage techniques through the academy’s continuing education classes. “I’ve taken a class in lymphatic drainage and am going to take one in Trager, which uses gentle, rocking massage to help release the body’s harmful holding patterns. As massage therapists, we all want to have a toolbox full of techniques that can ease our client’s discomfort,” advises Miller.

“I think that a growing number of individuals see massage therapy as a dream job because it allows them to not only build a business and design it for their own needs, but also to experience a sense of purpose in helping others,” says Florida Academy co-owner, L.J. Zielke, Florida Academy president and co-owner.

Florida Academy is located at Colonial Center at 4387 Colonial Blvd., in Ft. Myers. For more information, call 239-489-2282 or 800-324-9543 or visit

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