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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

The Life-Changing Power of a Second Chance: Q&A with Maintenance Technician Grad Jason Alvarado

March 21, 2023

If you’ve ever doubted the life-changing power of a second chance, meet Jason Alvarado.

Back in 2008, Jason made some bad choices that led him to a 7 year prison term.

“It was the biggest mistake—and the biggest regret—of my life,” says Jason, now 41. “I was 27 at the time, and I lost so much. I have a daughter who was only seven at the time, and I missed seven important years of her life. I also had a newborn daughter, so I missed her first seven years. Hanging out with the wrong people and making one stupid decision cost me nearly everything, but you get to a point where you realize that focusing on the past will only destroy you. I was punished, I did my time, and I learned some tough lessons the hard way. My only choice at that point was to look forward and try to make the most of my life.”

That’s exactly what Jason has been doing. After first struggling to find a job, he was eventually hired as a forklift operator and materials handler. Back in 2018, when Jason’s cousin asked if he would like to join him in enrolling in the Maintenance Technician program at SJVC, Jason wasn’t ready to make the commitment.

“When I later found out he was making more than me at his new job because of the education and training he got at SJVC, I realized I had made a mistake,” Jason admits. “But I also learned the hard way that it’s never too late.”

In May, 2022, Jason enrolled in the Maintenance Technician program at SJVC’s Modesto campus. He graduated from the (in as few as) seven-month program in December and is currently completing an employee training program for a major online retailer.

We talked with Jason about the challenge of overcoming his past, his experience returning to a classroom after more than 20 years, and what he learned about himself during the process of completing his Maintenance Technician program.


What attracted you to SJVC’s Maintenance Technician program? 

After working for four years in warehouses as a forklift operator, I wanted more. I knew I was capable of doing more and earning more. I was working with guys who were making double what I was earning. What they had that I didn’t have was training and education. Enrolling in the Maintenance Technician program was my first step toward building a better career and making more money.


How did it feel to return to school after being out of a classroom for more than 20 years?

Making the decision to go back to school was tough. I hadn’t been in school for a long time and I was nervous that I might not be able to keep up. At first, it felt strange. But it ended up working out really well. My instructor is not only a good teacher, but he’s a good man. He was very understanding and he worked with me so I didn’t fall behind. I knew I could reach out to him and he would be there for me. I haven’t always had people like him in my life, so it’s something I really appreciated. It made a difference.


What have you learned about yourself—and life—while pursuing your education at SJVC? 

I’ve learned that hard work pays off. So does staying focused and committed. There were probably a hundred times when I wanted to give up, but I knew in my heart that if I just kept going, I would finish and the effort would be worth it. I’m proud of myself that I stuck with it when it would have been easier to quit. Life has taught me that if you just keep moving through the fire, you’re less likely to get burned.

When I got out of prison eight years ago, I felt like the world had changed so much and that I’d been left behind. Technology, for example, had advanced so much. When I went in, flip phones were the big thing. When I came out, smartphones were everywhere. Things like that don’t sound like a big deal, but those things create a sense of culture shock and makes you wonder if you’ll ever catch up or fit in again.

I knew I wanted three things: self-respect, to live a life of integrity, and to feel successful in creating a better future for myself and my family. Completing my Maintenance Technician program at SJVC has really helped me take the next steps toward achieving those goals.


Now that you’ve completed the Maintenance Technician program, what will you be doing?

I was one of eight SJVC Maintenance Technician grads selected to complete an employee training program for a major online retailer. I’ll be a Reliability Engineering Maintenance Technician. My job responsibilities will include performing preventive maintenance and repairs on all machines and equipment, connector lines, and electrical systems within the warehouse. If anything goes down or starts to not work, I’ll be part of the team they’ll rely on to fix it. There are 12 technicians per shift, so I’m sure I’ll learn a lot very quickly by working with people who have a lot more experience than I do. I’ll also have had a chance to apply everything I learned during my program at SJVC. A year from now, I’ll know a lot more than I know today.


What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

In ten years, I hope to be fully established in my career. I’d like to go back to school to earn my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, maybe even a master’s. I eventually want to move into a management position.


What advice would you give someone who might be thinking about enrolling in the Maintenance Technician program? 

I would tell anyone who will listen that getting through the door is the first step to building a great career, and the Maintenance Technician certificate really helps get you through the door. I’ve worked with guys who are not much older than me and think it’s too late for them to get ahead. They think the job they have is the best job they could get. I’m 41, and what I’ve learned is that it’s never too late to make a positive change in your life or your career. Starting later—or even starting over—is a lot better than not starting at all.

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