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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Ontario student discovers ambition for construction career

February 26, 2018

Ontario Construction Management Student Isaiah MotupalliIsaiah Motupalli has been working with his dad James since he was 15, using brick, rock, stone and concrete to pour driveways and build walls. “I saved up to buy my first car, a Ford Ranger pickup, when I was in high school,” he says.

After graduation, he tried junior college for less than a year but couldn’t stay with it. “I wasn’t totally committed to it, I lacked ambition and the teachers weren’t very good,” he admits. “I didn’t want to go to school and made up any excuse to go to work with my dad.”

His mom Jennifer wasn’t having any of it, though. “My mom was like, ‘What are you going to do (about education)?,” and I was like, ‘I know, I know.’” At 20 years old, the clock was ticking.

Isaiah really enjoyed the work he was doing with his dad, so he searched online for a school that could teach him more about construction. SJVC was one of the first to pop up with a Construction Management program. “SJVC offered a degree, and I thought that would be better, so I went to the Ontario campus to check it out,” he says.

He had a lot of questions ready. “I was curious to make sure that I would get out of it what I was paying for,” he says. “The way the program was laid out, they had all the classes I wanted; everything in construction such as reading blueprints, estimating, financial analysis and all the key points in how to run a company. I never checked out another school.”

Isaiah started his Construction Management program in December 2016 and buckled in. This college experience was going to be very different, and he was prepared to give it his full attention. This time he had a lot of support at home.

“My strongest support has been from my girlfriend Nivana,” says Isaiah. “She has been there from the beginning, always helping with homework. I’ve had a lot of support from my entire family while I’m going to school, her parents and my parents.”

Some of that support is in the form of sound advice. “My dad told me, ‘Look at your life on a timeline from age one through eighty’ – and he drew it on a piece of paper. He highlighted from 5 years to 25 years old. ‘This little dot is the time for you to become educated, and it’s this little dot of your life that can determine how the rest of your life will go.’ The front end is the investment on the back end.’”

Isaiah was listening. He earned a 4.0 GPA and was on the Dean’s List.

“Isaiah is one of the best kinds of leaders,” says Andria Marrs, Construction Management instructor. “If there is someone who has more experience or knowledge, he’s fine with taking a step back. He is able to lead and follow. He asks great questions; he’s like a sponge and sucks up any information people give him. He has a great memory that way.”

A big surprise for Isaiah was how close he would become with other students. “Everybody in class has somewhat the same goals and motivated each other,” says Isaiah. “We’re all going there to get the same degree and to connect and talk about work and families – we’re like a family, too.”

Mohammed was a fellow student who came from Dubai. “He made a huge impact on my life,” says Isaiah. “We had some good talks about how his family did things compared to my family. We motivated each other to do really good and helped each other. He was Valedictorian at his graduation before he moved back home.”

A couple of months before Isaiah was scheduled to graduate this March, he was contacted by his campus’ Career Services department about a commercial general contractor looking for a full-time employee. “I jumped on it,” says Isaiah. “The things I learned in school and with my dad, I knew I could use with this company.”

Coincidentally, the company’s first job site was an expansion project at SJVC’s Temecula campus for their new Surgical Technology program. Isaiah brought all his previous and newly-honed skills and knowledge into play.

“The training and experience Isaiah had with previous employers and his recent education have prepared him to succeed out in the field,” says Tom LaGumina, Superintendent, Park West Construction Company. “He came with a general knowledge and understanding of the tools necessary and a truck-load of common sense. And that goes a long way on the job site. I’m certainly glad to have him next to me and look forward to the future. If all of your (SJVC) students come out to work with his attitude and work ethic, we would love to have more, as production allows.”

Isaiah graduates soon and can finally get more than the five or six hours of sleep each night that has had to be enough to get him through each week. It has been difficult, but the perspective he has developed might help others.

“All your life, you can wait around for the right time, but sometimes you just have to go out there and get it done. Be self-motivated. Tell yourself that if you’re not going to school, you’re waiting on yourself instead of external stuff. Those things are always going to happen in your life, and you are just going to have to make them work.”

Sometimes you have to walk a mile in someone else’s steel-toed boots to figure it out.

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