Ismael Esparza wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who worked as a car mechanic for 20 years for the Ford Motor Co. in Mexico.
Esparza, 39, worked as a mechanic at Strictly Automotive from 2011-13. But at the same time, he wanted to learn new skills, such as electricity and drivability, in order to advance in his profession. So he simultaneously studied in the automotive program at Emily Griffith Technical College, graduating in 2013. After that he worked at Kia and Lexus dealerships for another two years.
“The school means a lot to me,” said Esparza, who also has been employed in apartment maintenance. “When I came to the school, I was laid off from work and I was unemployed,” prior to joining Strictly Automotive. “The state unemployment office enrolled me in the school.
“At first, I was paying for my classes and my tuition and books. The lady that enrolled me in the program told me, ‘You know, we offer free tuition classes from here, or you can apply to the government and they can help you to pay for your tuition.’”
Esparza applied to the FAHSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) program. He was accepted, and FAHSA eventually reimbursed Esparza for what he had paid for tuition out of pocket.
“It changed my life to the better,” he said of EGTC. “I always knew about the cars, working with my dad. But when I came to this country, I didn’t have the opportunity to work on cars. I always had it in my mind that I wanted to go back to that.”
Still, by 2015, he needed to make a change. “I liked being a mechanic, but I was working too many hours and didn’t see my family too much,” he said. “Rod Perkins called me to come back and work for EGTC as tool manager. I told him yes.”
He’s there today, working in the automotive program where he once was a student.
Esparza has three children, ages 14, 12 and 11.
His next big step may be to start his own business.
“My goal is, some day, maybe open my own car-repair shop,” Esparza said. “I’m taking an entrepreneurship class at EGTC.” And enrollment is free because it’s a first-time class.
But for now, “I’m working at EGTC -– don’t give up!” he said.