When Elizabeth Figueroa’s aunt and grandmother both passed away in 2021, it left her feeling lost, but the lessons they taught her pushed her to go back to school and become the first in her family to graduate college.
“My aunt always said to strive to be better,” she said. “She knew that I was smart. Since she has been gone, I went through a lot. There was a lot of anxiety and depression. But I have her 13-year-old son living with us. He’s like my brother. I wanted to show him anything could be done. You just have to put your mind to it.”
In April of 2022, Elizabeth was searching for a new career opportunity when UEI College in Mesa came up in her search. She had been working with her uncle on the family’s car in her spare time after work and when she saw the Automotive Technician program, she was interested.
“I was excited about the cars,” she said. “I always wanted to go back to school but I never found the encouragement or something I was interested in. The automotive program was something I was interested in. I’ve always liked hands-on and that’s what UEI provided.”
Elizabeth had always held office jobs but her first class was on engines. She was surprised that by the end of that first month, she could understand how an engine functions and even take it apart and put it back together.
“I was able to be hands-on with the cars we had in the shop,” she said. “My instructor always told us there would be hiccups but always ask. He was always there to help us strive. I’m glad I chose UEI because they helped me learn better. They taught me it doesn’t take a mastermind to learn about vehicles and at the same time, you could also be the most intelligent person, but you can still learn something new.”
Elizabeth helps care for several family members in her household. On top of her responsibilities at home, she also worked full time. Going back to school was not easy, but she was determined to set a good example for her cousin and for herself.
“This program showed me that I was able to do what I thought I couldn’t do,” she said. “I graduated from high school 15 years ago. I thought I would never be able to go back to school, finish a course in nine months and still be able to work. I had a lot of doubt in myself but once I started the program, I realized I didn’t need to have that doubt. I was capable of doing it and getting it done.”
Elizabeth managed to finish the course with a 4.0 GPA and was hired as an automotive technician at a shop shortly after graduation.
“She is a very intelligent woman. She just gets it,” said Daniel Tellez, Elizabeth’s instructor. “She was an outstanding student. I believe that girl has a bright future with anything she wants to do. I don’t see any default in her whatsoever. She is just awesome.”