In this week’s edition of Faces of Grant, we introduce to you Alberto Figueroa. Alberto is a senior Metal Fabrication student who is currently on early work placement with Dedienne Aerospace in Batavia.
When asking Alberto about his journey in getting to Grant Career Center, we found out it was a rather unconventional one. Most of the students who choose to attend Grant have visited during their eighth grade and sophomore years. However, Alberto did not have either one of those opportunities, stating, “My first visit was a shadowing day at the end of my sophomore year because I just moved schools the second semester of my sophomore year.”
When reflecting on his first visit, Alberto said, “I was coming from a school that was huge in comparison. You get to actually interact with everyone better. I think that’s what really kicked it off for me. Being able to sit there in a lab and have the one-on-one with your instructor instead of him micromanaging. Understanding how the whole system worked was the big thing for me. Not being focused in on one thing, but having the opportunity to learn as much as you can in that one period of time. I was able to touch everything in that shop on my first visit.”
When it came to selecting a program for Alberto, the choice for him was pretty easy.
“I come from a family of tradespeople – a lot of auto body workers and mechanics, and I never really liked working in a construction environment or auto body. But when I was in sixth grade my brother just finished his program at Diamond Oaks, and I saw everything my brother was doing in a welding environment I knew I loved it. I did whatever I could to make sure I got here. I went to open houses, et cetera. I just made an effort to come and got my approval letters. I was just ready,” Alberto explained.
After being here for a little over a year, Alberto then discussed his experience in his program up to this point, saying, “Last year, the beginning of the year I didn’t really pay attention to a lot of the students; I was really just trying to read on how my instructor was, Mr. Ayers, and just trying to figure out what kind of guy he was.”
Alberto is at the top of the Metal Fabrication program. Very mature. Eager to learn, teachable, great rapport with class mates and all students. Member of National Technical Honor Society at Grant and Williamsburgs' National Honor Society. Earned his AWS Welding Certification as a junior. Excited to see what his future holds for him. - Doug Ayers, Welding Instructor
Soon enough, Alberto found out exactly what Mr. Ayers was like. “He is a phenomenal person. He is a person, not just an instructor. He treats you with the same respect you give him. I’ve always treated him well, so he’s really helped me out. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now. He’s always working overtime for students, and I appreciate it,” he said. When asked about what is fun about being in lab, Alberto said, “We get work from people on the outside in the area, and I just like to apply all the things I learn to actual real-world work.” He went on to describe the joy he gets out of completing the jobs they have in lab, as he stated, “When you look at something that you sat down and you put some time in and built that satisfaction that you see on people’s faces and how you feel is always so awesome.”
With all the hard work and dedication Alberto has displayed in lab and his academics, he has earned the opportunity to go on early placement at Dedienne Aerospace in Batavia. The process leading up going on placement has been an interesting one, as he describes it by saying, “It was a weird day. One of the seniors was offered a job and he came by the lab and was talking about it to another senior. He was talking about this job and I didn’t really pay too much attention to it. Then Mr. Graybill pulls me in his office and says, ‘I think I have a job for you.’”
Despite having this opportunity available, there were some other obstacles Alberto had to face before taking it on. His parents did have some concerns about the balance between school and work. A meeting was scheduled between Mr. Graybill, Mr. Ayers, Mr. Daulton and Alberto’s parents, eventually leading to Alberto being able to begin working on early placement. When asked about his parents’ feeling towards him being on early placement now, he said “They’re excited, but they were cautious with the situation. Now they’re just amazed that it has happened.”
After starting his job at Dedienne in the summer, Alberto has been given a multitude of roles and responsibilities with the company and was even able to travel to Miami, Florida for two weeks to be trained. While talking about his time in Miami, he said “Oh my gosh. That was crazy. That was the first taste manufacturing and real-life job and work situations that I ever had… When I went in, I’m the kid with the green behind his ears. I’m the little baby, and everyone treated me like that. So when I get in there and do my work, they look at me weird because most men don’t do what I do, and not only was I welding, but I was learning all sorts of other stuff. I had to learn the whole flow of the shop for when people came in. The first week was overwhelming, but second week was a little laid back because I knew the whole flow and knew all the people.”
Shortly after returning from Miami, Alberto began working in the Batavia facility for Dedienne. This has been quite the adjustment, but a good one, as Alberto said, “I just have so much on my plate. I have so much responsibility because my boss doesn’t go easy on me. He’s very hard on me, but he makes sure that he doesn’t’ overload me. There’s not a lot you can overload me with, because I just take it and run with it.” The schedule Alberto has for his senior year includes first period English at Grant, then he is able to report directly to work. When asked about the amount of time he works per day, he stated “I work about seven hours a day depending on whether they need me to stay later or not.”
To sum up his experience on early placement overall, Alberto left us with this:
“I started as a child; now I’m like a 50-year-old man. I grew up a lot.”
When asked about his overall experience being a student at Grant Career Center, Alberto said, “My experience has been great. Grant isn’t like a normal school. I just couldn’t imagine going back and not being treated like an adult and not being treated like I have responsibilities and having someone else always holding my hand everywhere. And not only that, all the connections we try to make with other people outside school and younger kids and try to teach them things other than the norm like college and higher education; that’s old. And not a lot of kids understand that, so when you get a kid who has to have things hand on, he looks at something with a confused look and then he comes here and sees how easy-going it is. You just need to sit down and think about what you’re doing and figure it out.”
Alberto ended our conversation by talking about the importance of continuing to build the culture at Grant Career Center by reaching future students by telling us about his time working with the sixth-grade girls who visited last year for the Girls with Goggles event, saying, “So when I did the Girls with Goggles, they came in and were scared. They were wearing all of their PPE (personal protective equipment), and I’m just standing there in a t-shirt, a pair of gloves and a welding helmet, and I’m trying to make sure they don’t take off their welding helmets when I try to explain to them what’s going to happen and I lay down that first bead and they see it, and you see them calm down a little bit, then they do it, that gives me a lot of satisfaction because I know I love to teach that to younger kids and let them learn, so they can go through the same experience I went through. Not only could they have that experience, but they could be that kid who is better than me and make Grant look better than it already is.”
Without a doubt, Alberto has set a standard for our students who seek new opportunities through our programs. His humility, work ethic, and willingness to engage in new experiences is inspiring to his peers and the staff here at Grant Career Center. We are all excited to see what the future holds for you, Alberto!
Grant Career Center hopes to highlight a wide range of our students as possible. If you would like to nominate a Grant student, past or present, to be showcased in Faces of Grant please submit your referral here.