student paul prado poses next to an orange schneider semi-truckWhen Paul Prado enrolled in classes at San Bernardino Valley College in the spring of 2009 at the age of 22, he knew he wanted something more from life besides jumping from one minimum wage job to another. A 2005 graduate of Redlands East Valley High School, Paul admitted to making some poor choices and not exactly filling the role of a model student. In fact, he had no idea what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

With more than 80 different fields of study from which to choose, Paul started taking classes in SBVC’s Truck and Bus Technology (Diesel) Program for reasons that would become clearer with each passing day.

“At the time, I didn’t actually have a job and did not even know how to change oil,” Paul said. “But, my dad is a truck driver and I figured that this would give us something to talk about.”

Paul’s hypothesis was correct as his relationship with his father began to blossom—one lugnut at a time—as the two found common ground under the giant hoods of diesel trucks.

“Over the last few years, I’ve gotten closer to my dad,” Prado said. “Before, I could never talk or connect with him.”

Paul has been focusing on his education while learning on the job at a $12/hour apprenticeship at Schneider National, Inc., a trucking company in Fontana. Once Paul finishes his Heavy Duty Diesel certificate program in December 2011, he’ll be promoted to a full-time technician position that pays nearly $20 per hour with benefits. In addition, he has plans to don the cap and gown in spring 2012 when he expects to have his associate’s degree completed.

“Lots of guys didn’t have the chance to get a scholarship and go to school. They had to try and learn on the job,” Paul said. “Instructors here take extra time to make sure you feel comfortable—they teach you very well here. Mr. Hook (SBVC Diesel Professor) is a good, patient, teacher who stands right beside you and is very hands-on. There’s no way I would be where I am today without him because he has so much experience in the industry. Now, I can actually say I’m doing something with my life. It’s not just about the grease, it’s learning about computers and technology.”

“I am the first in my family to go college and I’ve worked really hard,” Paul said. “My dad said he is proud of me and I’ve never heard him say that before—and that’s why I can’t wait to walk in May.”

In recent weeks, Paul has been asked to share his story with kids at local charities and at his old high school. So, what is Paul’s advice to people looking for direction in their lives or those without jobs?

“There are lots of opportunities out there. Don’t complain about your problems, go out there and do something with your life. This program pretty much saved my life. I’ve made mistakes and paid for them. But, without the education I’ve gotten here, I’d probably still be messing around with my life.”