There were times during the Electrician Technician program at UEI College in Mesa that Adam Perez felt were truly difficult, but there was always a reminder in the back of his head that he has overcome much harder things in the past and this time, he had a team of supporters cheering him on.
Ten years ago, Adam was struggling with a heroine and meth addiction. His wake-up call came early one morning, after a week-long bender, when he found himself stranded far from home. With just three percent battery left on his phone, he called a friend for help and from that moment on he never looked back.
“Going through that, I wouldn’t say there wasn’t support, but it was something I didn’t want support through or didn’t feel comfortable talking through,” he said. “School, on the other hand, gave me so many resources backing me up. There was an entire staff there with me, guiding me, asking me if I needed help. There was a sense of an entire community here.”
Adam started the Electrician Technician Program in July of 2022. He had been working in restaurants for about 15 years but after a year and a half of marriage, he felt ready to find a more stable career to support his family. A video on social media led him to UEI.
“When I finally pulled the trigger and applied here at UEI it was a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “Going back to school and how will I make it work with my work schedule, how will I balance work, school, and my regular life? Once I got started here, it was easy. It was like a natural transition. I definitely wish I had done it sooner. At the same token, if I had done it sooner, I wouldn’t have met the teachers I did. It worked out perfectly.”
His first month was rough but as he progressed in the program Adam learned that the instructors are eager to teach the students who are eager to learn. He showed up each day, excited to take in the new lesson, and developed a close relationship with his instructor, Armen Vartanian.
“One thing he did that I loved, compared to other teachers, is he didn’t just teach us. He gave us little life lessons as well,” Adam said. “A few of us expressed interest in opening our own business down the road. He would literally go through and tell us if we start our own business, here is what to look out for. It wasn’t just by the book. He heard us, looked at us as individuals, and saw what our strengths and weaknesses were.”
One of Adam’s weaknesses was doubting himself. When he moved from Mr. Vartanian’s classes to the advanced classes, he lost some confidence in his skills. Mr. Vartanian recognized that in him and encouraged him to push through.
“I try to build confidence in my students, and he had some when he was in my class but then he went into the advanced classes and felt like he was lacking,” Mr. Vartanian said. “I just reassured him, quizzed him on a couple of things, and stayed after and tutored him on a few things. It re-instilled his confidence level to where he wanted to go out and start work. He’s one of those guys. I saw a lot of the characteristics that I look for people in my own company in Adam. I told him I thought he was ready to go into the field as an apprentice or a helper.”
Mr. Vartanian was able to make a connection for Adam with a company called Mr. Sparkys. They hired him right away and teamed him up with an experienced electrician to learn from.
“My first day at Mr. Sparkys, getting to wear that uniform out in public, I walked in with my shoulders pushed back a little bit more and just this pride and this confidence of knowing I may be new at this, but I have a good idea of what I’m doing,” Adam said. “I may not know everything, but I do feel prepared enough to go ahead and do that. It’s one of those accomplishments that makes you feel good inside to know you do know what you are doing. I walk with a little bit more of a swagger.”
Some students in Adam’s position, who get hired before graduating, would choose to leave the program, but Adam continued to come to class, even changing his schedule so he could better manage his time.
“That’s just shows his initiative,” Mr. Vartanian said. “He’s a great kid with a really bright future ahead of him.”
“It has been a rollercoaster of a journey for me, but UEI was one of the biggest turning points in my life so far,” Adam said. “To any incoming students, enjoy as much time as you can with these instructors. Pick their brains as much as you can. Ask them questions. They love to teach, and you can tell. They have been some of the best teachers I have ever had, and I can see myself keeping in contact with them even after graduating.”