At first glance, Jacob De La Cruz was sure UEI College’s West Covina vocational school campus would be a waste of time but after a quick tour he enrolled, and by the time he graduated from the Business Office Administration Program, he was proud to be hired on as a Student Financial Advisor.
“I love my job,” Jacob said. “I see a lot of myself in the students I help out every day. The fact that I went through the program, I know the experience, and I can pass it on to them, that’s the best part to me.”
Right out of high school Jacob thought he would head for a university, but the cost deterred him. He didn’t qualify for any financial assistance and the thought of taking on that amount of debt was not reasonable. He was ready to take a break from school when his mom convinced him to tour UEI.
“We took a tour and I was interested in the business program, then we went to financial aid and broke down the numbers and I enrolled.”
During his senior year of high school, Jacob had begun working at a fast-food restaurant. Just three months after he started, he was offered a management position—as soon as he turned 18. He spent the next six months completing the training and when he graduated from high school, he thought studying business would benefit him as a manager. His instructor and the staff at the school had other plans.
“He was the most mature 17-year-old that I had ever come across,” said Jennifer Perez, Jacob’s instructor. “He’s very professional and smart. When he came to my class he was 17, about to be 18. I would always tell him ‘I don’t know what your parents did to you, but they did an amazing job.’ He was always focused, very bright, always carried that professionalism. From the first encounter with him I knew he was going to do something in business.”
Ms. Perez has had a few students from her business class hired on at the school. She said she always tells her students to carry themselves as if they are applying for a job, from the moment they step on campus. Jacob really did that.
“I understood right away the education would only get me so far,” Jacob said. “I had to pick up on the process right away… I ran into my future boss and the campus president without even knowing it and I would shake their hand, present myself and my name. I guess for a lot of them it threw them on their heels seeing this 18-year-old kid professionally present himself. One of the directors later on told me in one of their meetings they were talking about me and wanted to bring me on board.”
After completing the program in seven months, Jacob was able to pass up other job offers and accepted a full-time position at UEI.
“I was almost in tears,” Jacob said. “To me, I’ve learned with this program success is based on hard work more than education. If I would have been at a university right now, I would have barely finished my first year. I probably wouldn’t even have this opportunity for a job. With hard work, I was able to get myself a new first car, under my name, and these connections I have, and the opportunity I have to be here in this position. I earned it with hard work and the certification I got from the school… The experience goes a lot further than a degree.”
“Any student has the ability but Jacob has the drive,” said Ms. Perez. “He’s a go-getter. He’s not afraid to make mistakes and he also looks for ways to improve… he’s always wanting to learn. I think that’s what people can see. He’s very coachable. I’m so glad he chose our campus because I think he’s an asset to our campus, for sure.”