From Student to Teacher, UEI Created New Legacy for HVAC Instructor

Jesse Jaramillo decided to enroll at UEI College to change his family’s life and now years later as a teacher, he’s helping others do the same.

Jesse admits he didn’t have an ideal childhood. He dropped out of high school before finishing, to find a job and help provide for his siblings. Where he grew up, that was common.

“You become a working stiff and make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck,” Jesse said. “I didn’t envision much else until I started going to school at UEI.”

In 2018 Jesse enrolled in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technician program at UEI College in Garden Grove.

“Attending UEI put me on a better schedule,” he said. “It helped me prove to myself that I could start projects and finish them. I could accomplish goals that seem so far-fetched. I do have technical skills that I’m able to use.”

It was easy for Jesse to stay motivated when his wife became pregnant with their first child while he was attending school. He also got a job in the industry while still finishing his courses.

“He was very ambitious,” said Jacob Yrigoyen, HVAC department chair at UEI College Garden Grove and Jesse’s former instructor. “When he was enrolled in my program, he was very outspoken and a very enthusiastic student. He instantly volunteered for the ambassador program. He was a natural class leader because of his confidence. He would engage with the other students and really made the class a very friendly environment.”


After graduation, Jesse and his family moved to Arizona where he began working as a building engineer, doing commercial HVAC.

“Everything they taught me in school was applied there,” Jesse said. “It was big equipment, but I felt pretty confident with my schooling that it wouldn’t be a problem.”

A little over a year later and Jesse became the lead technician at an apartment complex, ensuring more than 200 units were running smoothly.

When the pandemic hit, Jesse’s family decided it was time to move back to California to be closer to family. Armed with years of experience in HVAC, Jesse reached back out to his old instructor to inquire about a job.

“That was exciting,” Jacob said. “Even when he graduated, I always knew he would be a good teacher. It was just a waiting game until he was qualifiable. When he was coming back, I immediately asked if he wanted to become a teacher here. The campus loved him and I knew the students would enjoy his type of lectures and presentations.”

What makes Jesse a great teacher is his ability to relate to the students, Jacob said. He’s able to bring technical terms down to an understandable level. He’s also not afraid to bring what he has learned in his working life into the classroom. Working alongside his former student has been a great experience.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I always have the opinion that it’s not that I did anything special-it was all him. He took everything serious and went out there and put it to work. It’s really cool to see him as passionate about doing that for other people as we were. He made good choices and had good discipline and now he’s successful and he’s making other people successful. He always had the right mentality through the whole thing.”

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Jesse originally chose HVAC because he was hopeful that he could find a career using his skills, but his interest has evolved into much more.

“There’s a lot of trouble shooting involved and investigation involved, and you have to use your mind a lot,” he explained. “It’s definitely challenging. It’s not something that’s easy but it’s very rewarding.”

As much as he loves the technical work, it’s teaching it to others that has brought out his true passion.

“My favorite thing about it is watching the students learn exactly how I did—having those ah-ha moments and being able to help them with what they need,” Jesse said. “A lot of these guys come from a troubled background exactly like me. I can see that they get that self-doubt in them. I know how to lift them up and keep them going. I know for a fact there’s a light at the end of that tunnel. I love helping them get to that goal.”

Now a proud father of two, Jesse knows first-hand what it’s like to come from a difficult background and to reach for something greater through UEI.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “The fact that I was able to, it seems like randomly, stumble upon this school, it changed everything. Going from a student, to a worker, to a teacher and now having this awesome job that I love is like a legacy for me. It’s something for my kids to hold on to. My advice [to my students] is that they can change. If they apply themselves and dig deep, they can get out of that situation and make it better for their kids and so on and so forth.”

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