When you enter the West Covina campus of UEI College, one of the first faces you’ll see is Isabel Portillo, who always demonstrates a friendly attitude to help with whatever the reason for your visit. Behind that kind demeanor and infectious smile is the story of a determined young mother who wanted something more out of life. Isabel is now a Customer Service Coordinator for UEI, but she started as a student in the Business Office Administration Program (BOA Program).
Isabel grew up in El Monte, where she still lives today. After high school, she worked in a series of service industry and retail jobs.
“I worked hard for every paycheck, but I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I felt like I needed something more meaningful – I kept thinking to myself that I can’t do this the rest of my life,” Isabel said. She was 30-years-old and raising two young children.
Motivated to Change Her Life
Her desire for a change in her life led Isabel to UEI College, where she found an entire campus community dedicated to helping her succeed. “From the very first moment I walked in the door, UEI was fantastic. The admissions reps, my instructors, career services – everyone was so supportive,” she said.
“I envisioned a career where I could work in a professional role in an office setting, but I couldn’t put my life on hold to go to college for four years, so the BOA program at UEI made the most sense,” Isabel said. “I am so happy that I did it.”
“My skills with the type of software you use in a business environment were pretty limited before I started school,” she added. “I had worked with computers a lot before, but I didn’t have to use software like the Microsoft Office programs. I really enjoyed learning those and the BOA program is designed exactly for people like me to gain that type of knowledge.”
Isabel said she also learned about marketing, accounting, communication skills, human resources, and customer service while in the BOA program. Along with the range of new skills she gained came a sense of confidence that her vision for a professional career was within grasp.
“Isabel from day one was a student with a vision. During her time in the BOA Program, she continued to stay focused as she navigated school and the demands of life beyond campus. She always asked how she could improve professionally and gave one-hundred percent every day,” said Jennifer Perez, BOA Instructor.
COVID-19 Couldn’t Stop Her
While on her personal trajectory towards success, the coronavirus pandemic hit, but that did not become an obstacle. UEI College transitioned BOA classes to a remote learning platform so students could continue their academic progress. Isabel said it was the lifeline she needed to continue pursuit of her vision for the future.
“Of course I missed coming to campus and seeing everyone in person, but the instructors and staff worked so very hard to make the online learning just as meaningful. I really appreciate that focus on keeping everyone safe, and keeping us on track with classes,” Isabel said.
As she progressed and prepared to graduate in July, Isabel learned that there was an open customer service position at UEI West Covina and jumped at the opportunity to apply.
Now Her Mission is Helping Others
“I came to UEI with the vision for a professional career and being hired here after graduating has been wonderful. I am proud to serve as an example for my kids that you can pursue something better for yourself – it takes work and dedication to accomplish it,” Isabel said. She is now a Customer Service Coordinator for the West Covina Campus, providing a range of support services for campus staff, instructors, and students.
“When you come to UEI, whether you have a clear vision of what you want for your future, or if you are unsure, there is somebody here to help you,” Isabel said. Today, she is now one of those helpful, friendly faces.
“I am so proud of her, and I am happy to now call her my colleague,” Jennifer said.
“When new students first come to campus, they remind me of myself. I’ve been there, done that – but now I’m the one helping them,” Isabel said. “I am really enjoying it! Helping others who really want to make a change in their lives is rewarding. It really makes a difference in my day.”
“We are very proud of how quickly Isabel picks up new tasks and responsibilities, and by how much she has grown since she started with us. She has definitely been a positive addition to the team,” said J.C. Rivas, Campus President for UEI West Covina.
“Isabel is reliable and quickly delivers any task asked of her. She has quickly grown into her new role as a West Covina UEI family member,” said Diane Villa, Director of Admissions.
Isabel hopes to build a long-term career at UEI College with an eye on moving up to a position in career services in the future. Her advice to students? “Just keep going. You can do it, and when you need help there is a whole team of people here to help,” she said.