Alumni Spotlight: Michael Ibarra

The odds were stacked against Michael Ibarra in 2011. He was 17 and had dropped out of high school. Although his motive was admirable – to get a job and help his mom with the bills – his future looked dim.

“As soon as I turned 18, I started working warehouse,” Ibarra says. “I guess by that time I wasn’t even thinking about a diploma or GED. I was just in love with the fact that I could help my mom with the bills and still have leftover money to buy myself things.” At 18, what else would a guy want? “I didn’t think about my future and, honestly, it was because I doubted myself,” he admits. “I was my own worst enemy.”

Life as Ibarra knew it all changed five years later.

A life-changing event and a self-revelation

Ibarra’s daughter was born in October of 2016. “I asked myself what I had going for me in terms of a career, and the answer was NOTHING,” he says. “I didn’t have anything going for me to be able to provide for my daughter in the future.” By this time, he was working for a well-known company delivering packages and making decent money. It wasn’t enough. “I would pull up to the nicest houses in the most beautiful neighborhoods,” he laments, “and I knew I wouldn’t have a house like that working where I was.” In 2017, he started spending his lunch breaks calling schools, getting more information about vocational programs that might help him get out of his rut and change his life. The obstacle he consistently faced was that they all required a high school diploma for admittance … all except Summit College.

Earning a diploma and studying for a career simultaneously

Ibarra’s timing was perfect. Summit College had just begun their Education to Career Pathways (C4L) program that allowed him to earn his high school diploma when he enrolled in one of the vocational programs. Ibarra chose the Electrician program. “My cousin – someone I grew up with – is an electrician,” he says. He, too, was in a bad place but managed to graduate and make a solid career choice. “I knew that if he can do it, I can do it.” Ibarra enrolled in the nine-month Electrician program in November. He earned his diploma in eight weeks, taking classes in his chosen trade from 8 am to 1 pm every day but Friday. In the afternoons and on Fridays, he would take at least three tests toward his diploma. “There was a lot of studying, but you just have to stay focused and not give up,” he says. “Start with the easy tests first. Take your best subjects and your electives because it helps you stay positive.”

What the Electrician program means to him

“My experience at Summit has been a blast,” Ibarra says. “My electrician instructor has been great. He has so much to share with us and knows everything about electrical. Not only is he an instructor, but he can talk to you like a friend and make you feel comfortable to ask questions.” Ibarra enjoys the program – especially that it is 70 percent hands on. “I’m learning something every day,” he says. “It’s something I love doing and never did before.”

Looking toward the future

Right now, Ibarra is taking it all in and learning as much as he can. He talks to his cousin about his progress, and looks up to him for advice. ”He tells me what to focus on.” One day, Michael Ibarra wants to be his own boss. “Starting my own company is one of my goals,” he says. “I want to go more toward residential. I want to do a little bit of everything so when I start my own company I have that background.”

Reflecting on the past

“As soon as I got rid of that negative mentality where I doubted myself, everything started looking up for me.” Ibarra’s daughter is now 15 months old. “I can honestly say that I have something going for me now,” he says. “I can provide for her with this career I’m pursuing. It’s never too late for anything – I am living proof.”

If you can relate to Michael Ibarra’s situation and want to take steps to earn your diploma and find a rewarding career, consider Summit College. When you register for the Education to Career Pathways program, you can earn your high school diploma while studying in these career training programs:

  • Dental assistant
  • Medical assistant
  • Physical therapy aide
  • Payroll, AP/AR and Human resources
  • Electrician
  • HVAC
  • Welding

It takes dedication, perseverance and a lot of hard work, but it pays off. You earn your high school diploma – a necessity for finding a good job – and learn valuable skills that prepare you for the challenges you’ll face in the workforce. Your career training includes field experience and traditional classroom learning, along with the opportunity to participate in internships and externships. Once you’ve completed your program, Summit College’s Career Services staff works with you to find that important first job.

To jump-start, your career, contact Summit College today.