Rafael was fresh out of high school and only 17 years old when he enrolled in the HVAC training program at UEI College in Riverside. Just nine months later, he had graduated, got his certification, and was already working in the field. His motivation through it all was his mom.
“Growing up, she was always a single mom. She always worked two jobs,” Rafael explained. “I always saw her struggling. She was struggling but she kept on going. That really inspired me. She kept telling me I needed to find a good job and help people. I wanted to help her. I didn’t want to see her struggling anymore.”
Rafael had managed to graduate from high school six months early and he was eager to get to work to help support his family, but unsure where to start. A cousin recommended UEI College and without hesitation, Rafael signed up.
“He was hungry,” said Efren Escoto, Rafael’s instructor. “He comes from a poor background and when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. He mentioned his family and he was trying to do it all for his family, which made me take a greater interest in him. For that reason alone, it was a big eye-opener for me. It showed me he really had a goal set for himself.”
Of course, as with anything new, Rafael had some nerves as he got started, but the nerves went away quickly. As he asked more questions, he found he had a real passion for HVAC.
“I was really just fascinated by it,” he said. “It was something new and I love trying new things … I told my classmates to put in the extra time and read everything that is given to you. I know a few people that didn’t read it and would just do the quizzes. They wouldn’t really understand it. I told them they should read it. It tells you and explains everything. They would read it and almost right away get it. They would get back to the lab and it would be like nothing.”
Within two months of being in the program, Rafael was able to pass his certification exam. When he graduated, he was able to find employment and also started doing some side jobs on his own.
“He was amazing. He was my number one in all my classes. He was here early, left last,” Mr. Escoto said. “He learned quickly. I even took him out on a couple of service calls to help me out. He’s a sharp young man and he’s got a long, wonderful future ahead of him if he keeps it up.”
Rafael’s biggest accomplishment has been being able to help his mother.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “I know that I won’t be able to repay everything back to my mom but it’s a good feeling to help even just a little bit.”