Learning a Trade Provided a Needed Life Change
After years of being involved with gangs and in and out of prison, Andrew Sanchez was ready to make a change in his life and the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technician program at UEI College in Ontario made it possible.
Andrew did not have an easy life growing up. As a teenager, he became involved with gangs in his community and began using drugs. From the ages of 18 to 27, he was in and out of prison.
Once out, Andrew was working warehouse jobs to make ends meet but a Facebook post about the HVAC program caught his eye. Something inside him told him it was time to make a change. He made a call, and the rest is history.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I don’t ever want to look back to my past. I just want to keep moving forward and keep going forward with my journey. I just want to learn more and more and more as I go. From being a gang member and on drugs, I never thought about this stuff. Now I’m in the right mind and away from everybody and it’s just like ‘Wow, why didn’t I think about this before.’
‘I WANT TO INSPIRE THEM TO DO GOOD’
It’s true that love makes you do crazy things and for Andrew Sanchez, love was the catalyst for turning his entire life around.
“I thought I would never stop until I met my wife,” he said. “When I met my wife, everything changed for me.”
Andrew met his wife at church. She had three young children and she showed him love in a way he hadn’t experienced before.
“If it wasn’t for my wife who keeps pushing me, I don’t know where I would be at right now,” he said. “She pushes me and gives me good advice and support. I wanted a better life than I thought I would ever live. I was doing drugs and living my life running around the streets with the gang and my friends. I decided it wasn’t my life anymore. I’m getting too old for that. I’m tired of being behind bars. It’s not a life. How am I going to do anything for my family from behind bars?”
Andrew knew he had made mistakes with his own children, who now have kids of their own. He decided to make a change to show his children and grandchildren that it was possible.
“I wanted to do something with myself and with my life with a better career,” he said. “I want my grandkids to see that. I want to inspire them to do good. I want to teach them if I can do it, they can do it too. It’s not hard. You just have to put your mind to it.”
‘MOVE FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD‘
Once he began the program, Andrew’s commitment was obvious. He consistently made the honor roll and had nearly perfect attendance.
“Andrew Sanchez is one of the most respectful and hard-working students I have seen attend UEI College,” said Joseph Cook, Campus Department Chair for the HVAC program. “This student went above and beyond during lab as well as when completing work at home. He was always first to volunteer during lab and help other students when needed. Despite hardships in the past, he uses those experiences to build a better life for himself and appreciate the opportunities in front of him.”
“I’ve got a lot of people who look up to me and they ask me how can you do it? I tell them it’s not hard, you just have to put your mind to it and think about the future, not the past,” Andrew said. “Move forward, not backward. That’s what I did. That’s what I’m doing.”
Andrew knows with his record and his tattoos, moving forward won’t always be easy, but he is determined to set the best example possible for his kids and grandkids. Some day he hopes to open his own HVAC company and teach his son the trade.
“I have face tattoos and everything and people are surprised to know I’m going back to school,” he said. “I always tell them it doesn’t matter how I look. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Never give up. Never give up on your goals. You’ve got a whole life ahead of you. It’s never too late. Just keep pushing forward.”