Belfew overcame personal struggles, found purpose in helping others, and embraced education as a pathway to a brighter future at UEI College

Education Creates New Life for Phoenix MA Graduate

In less than a year Belfew Chissay went from living in a group home, transitioning from a life on the streets and recovering from an alcohol and drug addiction, to being employed full-time as a Medical Assistant with help from UEI College’s Phoenix campus. It all started with a light bulb moment.

“It’s that eye opener when you get that sense of your life where you’re nothing,” he said. “A light bulb went off and I thought I need to do something because I’m going to end up in jail or dead if I don’t change my ways… I decided to take a leap of faith and see where it takes me.”

At his graduation ceremony, Belfew was recognized as a student of distinction for his grades, his attendance, his new career, and how far he had come.

“At times now when I wake up in the morning, I’m like is this real? Did I really graduate? It’s an overwhelming feeling,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I look at my cap and gown and the ropes I had and it’s unreal to me.”

Belfew’s addiction was a continuation of a family chain. He grew up with a lot of neglect due to his parents’ drinking.

“We had a rough life as a young kid. Going through a lot of things young kids shouldn’t have,” he said. “I just didn’t care. I was running through the streets with my friends, doing whatever was fun to get my mind off my parents drinking or coming home and being by myself.”

He picked up a habit of drinking heavily. As the years passed, he became a father to four girls, but his lifestyle made it difficult to maintain a relationship with them.

Belfew ended up living on the streets in Phoenix and in and out of addiction recovery group homes. It wasn’t until his lightbulb moment that he committed to making a change and sticking to his sobriety. His case manager at his group home recommended he consider pursuing education and the Medical Assistant program at UEI College caught his eye.

“I like to help people,” he said. “Maybe because I grew up with no one really caring about me. You know how you give to people and sometimes they don’t give back? I’ve always been like that, just a giving and caring person. I know how it is being on the other side. I wanted to help people.”

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After his first module, Belfew ended up on the honor roll—something he never thought he would achieve.

“Belfew came in ready to learn,” said Kenneth Guerrero, campus president in Phoenix. “He became more and more confident in himself and his abilities as he passed class after class. He was determined to get good grades and to be among the honor students.”

 As he completed each new course, Belfew leaned on the lessons he had learned to achieve sobriety.

“It changed a lot of my thinking,” he said. “Everyone has bad days. No matter what, it’s how you go about it and figure it out. Any dead-end point you feel in life is not a dead-end point. There’s always a way around the problem or a solution. There’s always a way. UEI helped me out with that.”

Belfew was hired on by his externship site. When graduation day came, he had earned every honorary chord available and was surrounded by his family.

“The best part was graduation,” he said. “Being able to finally see myself finishing through something, that means a lot to me personally and I know it means a lot to my family too. UEI just changed everything… I’m not good at giving advice but I would tell anyone don’t be scared. It’s ok to be scared and to feel uncomfortable. Just follow your heart… You want to be in HVAC, dental, any medical field, anything you want to pursue in life, don’t be scared. Give it a shot. It’s OK if you fail. What’s one more time?”

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