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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Electrician program student doesn’t let short attention span keep him from success

September 6, 2018

SJVC Ontario electrician program graduate Deven VelazquezEveryone remembers that kid in class who can’t sit still, the one who wants to do anything besides crack a book and focus on one thing. That’s Deven Velazquez.

“I’m a really hands-on person and just can’t get down with a desk,” he says. “From elementary to high school, I’ve always been the one who could not sit down. I get bored fast and am never at a job site too long.”

He lasted at McDonald’s two days. “Standing there, turning patties; I knew I’d have to do something more challenging to make me interested.” He tried working at UPS. “It was easy to sit around waiting for a plane to come in to load. But I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life.” He stuck it out for three months.

Deven was 19 years old and knew he needed a plan. His dad Adolfo worked in the electrical field and his uncle Robert was an electrician. His stepdad and stepbrother had both graduated from SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program in Ontario, where his mom Irma Jo also works as a Dental Hygiene instructor. As it happens, SJVC also offers an Electrical Technology program.

“Dad really pushed the electrical program for me because he really loves his job,” says Deven. “I thought about going to university but knew I’d have to go to community college first, and it would take time. SJVC was shorter time and would have way bigger impact on [me] being ready for a career and making better money faster.”

Deven enrolled with great enthusiasm for a new career…and immediately had concerns about his ability to buckle down to the stretch of classroom and study time ahead. “In high school, I wasn’t the best student and never put my total effort into it,” he says. “Honestly, I was going into it kind of blind.”

Whatever uncertainty Deven may have had about both his career choice and his ability to focus on its requirements were diminished after the first week.

“The way Mr. DeBerry taught electrical made a big impact on whether I would like this or not,” says Deven. “How he talked about the job and what you could do with the opportunities you could have made sense to me.”

Most importantly, he could be on the move. “I like to get down to it instead of a lot of writing,” he says. “Most of the job is hands-on and getting dirty, which I don’t mind at all. And it does take some physical strength to do it.”

Deven had lots of experience working with his dad on side jobs, so that early training was in play. “It came easier to me. And it intrigued me to see how a switch was wired, how a wall receptacle or half-hot receptacle works.  They were mysteries I was going to solve.”

Deven’s favorite class was Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). “Ever since I was a kid, I liked to play video games, making things work,” he says. “It was all in the computer, setting up traffic lights and when they would change colors. Using PLCs in class, we would first try to figure it out on our own before they (instructors) would show us how to do it. I could usually figure it out before they had to do that. I knew this was something I could do for the rest of my life.”

“Deven came directly from high school with no motivation, and he had lost faith in the school system,” says Jim DeBerry, Division Manager and Electrical Technology program instructor. “Deven came here, found interest and ran with it.” His Associate of Science degree was within his grasp.

All Deven’s new-found classroom success doesn’t mean it was easy. “There was a lot of theory to memorize and some writing and math,” he says. “But when the electrical started, I loved it and just kind of ran with it.”

To add more pressure, he was also working full-time and commuting to the campus 2 to 3 hours every school day, depending on freeway jams. “There were times I did want to stop,” says Deven. “But my mom straightened me out and reminded me that the reward would be a lot greater if I continued than if I quit.”

Deven was inspired by the example his mom had set years earlier when, as a divorced mom, she pushed through her own difficulties to secure a better future for her children. “She got her Master’s (degree) when she was working, and she, my sister Emily Jo and I were living with my grandparents,” says Deven. “She had gone through a lot more than I was going through in school.”

He held onto that image of her. “Always having my mom tell me I could do it even when I wasn’t sure I could really pushed me to do everything I’ve done,” he says.

The effort was worth it. “Not for approval, but to show my mom I actually can. In high school, she would fight with me to get my homework done and be on time to school. This time I wanted her not to have to worry about something like that. I wanted her to know that I’m growing up and can do something like this on my own. I’ve got it from here.”

And he does. Deven graduated from the Electrical Technology program earlier this year and works in his field of study. “I am happy at my job, but I live in a state of readiness for the next leap forward,” he says. “I want to get my Master’s, become an Electrical Engineer and work with nuclear power. I want to be the one making the plans for the site; make the blue prints and have others build it.”

Deven knows that all those plans will require another tussle with the discipline it takes to focus on additional education. “I know it will be challenging and education will get harder,” he admits. “But I know if I’ve done it once, I can do it again.”

No one in Deven’s life has any doubts. He turned 21 a few days ago and is well on his way to a life that appreciates his quick mind and insatiable need to explore whatever lies around the next corner. He won’t let it wait too long.

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