Orleans Tech took me and changed my life in just six months.
If there is one lesson every person learns in life it is that there are some things you can control, and others you cannot. But with all things that come your way, you alone can make the decision to either make something of it or take a less promising direction.
I’m proud to say that today, I feel like I’m the type of person to “make something” of the challenges in life. But it wasn’t always that way. I grew up in this area, however, with the wisdom of age behind me, I see now that at a certain stage of my life, the area was not the best place for me. There were tempting opportunities that I wasn’t mature enough to pass up, and, as they say, I “got in with the wrong crowd” and I ended up in Kansas.
To be honest, aside from the work and pay, Kansas also offered me a chance to break from the bad crowd and clean up my act. I remained in Kansas for years–until my mother became ill and required a kidney transplant. Her health needs brought me back to Philadelphia.
I had definitely matured and gotten on a straighter track while in Kansas, but being back in the old neighborhood really did test me. I felt myself starting to be drawn into those old temptations for trouble. As my mom fought for her life, I promised her I would fight for mine, too….that I would make something of myself, do something productive, and pursue a real future. That pursuit landed me at the doorstep of Orleans Technical College. I was very intrigued by stories of how they have helped people change their lives, and in only 6-months. I thought about all the “bad” I got into during six months and thought to myself, “okay, Daniel, why not see what good you can get into during that same time frame!”
From the moment I walked through those doors it was like I had a second family dedicated to helping me –and at times pushing me–to turn my life around. They were understanding of my challenges and never once considered “passing me up” because I couldn’t afford much. On the contrary, they were complete pros at securing me the necessary financial aid. I will always be indebted to Debbie Bello, Director of Admissions– if not for her welcoming manner and total belief in me–I very well could have ended up back in Kansas or still running with that bad crowd.
But instead, here I am today. A 43-year-old graduate and working at an amazing job. The job–with Ingram’s Plumbing–not only gives me a livelihood but also gives me great fulfillment. I’m a skilled, confident worker doing what I love in plumbing, heating and beyond for customer and residential applications. And I owe all of this to Orleans Tech, from the skills and confidence in myself to the level of responsibility with which I am entrusted, to the job itself–which the Orleans job fair and career services team helped me secure before I even graduated!
I graduated at the top of my class at Orleans Tech’s Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating training program. I won the Tradesperson award. I was even awarded a new car thanks to the Vehicles for Change program and North Penn Mazda, for the ways I overcame life challenges. I share these achievements not to brag about myself, but to encourage everyone reading this that you should never give up. With people and programs like Orleans Tech all you need is even a small desire to do something better for yourself and to be willing to work at it. Then, like me, in just six months you’ll be amazed at where your life is leading you!
By Daniel Rivera, Orleans Tech Graduate, Class of 2016
(September 27, 2016)