Orleans Tech’s Training Changed So Much In My Life.

As I sat beside my six-year-old daughter one night–she doing her homework and I doing mine–I thought back to my own experiences when I was her age, doing homework and not appreciating where it can lead you. It’s interesting how much one’s perspective can change in only a few decades.

I served in the army for three years, where I really took to working with my hands. But, when I got out of the army, I fell into a job in the food service and hospitality industry. I figured this is where I landed, and I stayed there for 20 years, starting as a bartender and eventually working my way up to General Manager at a very successful restaurant. I made good money; I had a “comfort zone” in this line of work. But did I love it? No. And, I certainly didn’t love the 16-18 hour work days keeping me away from my wife and daughter. Still, I did have them to consider. I couldn’t just jump ship, quit my job, give something else a try and see what happens, could I? While my responsibility to my family always came first, the thought of a career path that was more fulfilling, and ultimately better for all of us, continued to play in my mind,

That was my state of mind one day as I talked to a few workers doing repairs at my mother-in-law’s house. It all came together. Them doing good, necessary work. Considering my current career state, I began to recall my time in the army–the skills I learned and maintained–that would pair perfectly with a trades career. I remember standing there in her house thinking, ‘Everyone needs heating and cooling. And how cool would it be not just to open a refrigerator door and see it work, but to know HOW it works?’ It may sound silly, but that was my ah-ha moment!

Because the company I worked for at the time was restructuring, the time was even more opportune for me to make the break. So, there I was in 2015 at the age of 44 and at the doorsteps of Orleans Technical College. I enrolled in their six-month Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating training program. I posted perfect attendance, got great grades and even became a mentor for younger students. I can’t count the number of hours I spent talking with the instructors—getting inside their heads because, unlike high school teachers, these men and women had lived the life already. They worked in the trade in which I was about to embark. I relished being an older student free of “peer pressure” and a drive to be popular. I enjoyed the process and was proud of my achievements. Orleans pushed me to excel before and after I graduated from the program.

Shortly after graduation, I was hired by Davis Modern Heating & Cooling and started thriving in my new job. Every day I go to different places and am doing what I love. I owe so much to Orleans Tech for getting me here—for helping me to change my life and leading me to a career that is personally and financially fulfilling.

In closing, I want everyone to know that there are a million lessons and strengths Orleans Tech gives its students that go beyond the skills and know-how of a trade. Some of the strengths I gained allow me to empower my own daughter. They have given me the confidence that to this day allow me to take the leaps…to go for what I truly want in life for myself and for my family, and to not be deterred. Sure, any major change can be intimidating, but if you keep an open mind, and keep your eyes on what the work will mean for your future, it’s much easier to take the leap, to learn, and to grow.

As we sat there together, my daughter giggled about her dad doing homework like a school child. I knew she was thinking I was too old for this. But at the same time, I could tell she understood why, and I was able to share with her all the life lessons I had been learning. One year later, she can now see how those lessons have paid off for all of us. All that I learned from Orleans Tech about taking chances, believing in a better future and working hard to get there I have now passed on to my daughter. They are lessons for the young, the middle-aged and the seniors. Don’t wait too long. Take the leap, accept the help that’s available, believe in yourself and it can all fall into place!

— Mark Porter, Orleans Tech Graduate, Class of 2016

(January 11, 2016)