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SamaraGiron

Hometown: Chicago; currently living in Hainesville.

Degree or certificate program at CLC: Mechatronics technology; planning graduate in 2016.

Prior college experience:  Bachelor's degree in industrial and organizational psychology from DePaul University.

Current occupation: Project Support Intern, AbbVie (internship arranged through CLC).

Interests and hobbies: Hanging out with friends; attending my two daughters' activities, from soccer to school plays.

Samara Giron

I’m a single mother of two, and I enrolled in the mechatronics technology program to learn a new career in one year so that I can support my family. The mechatronics field combines mechanics, electronics and computer technologies to create or fix “smart” products. These can range from industrial robots to automatic teller machines.

I have worked in human resources, in both a corporate setting and in a home office, but I grew tired of sitting behind a desk. The online video of CLC’s mechatronics technology program caught my eye, because when I look back at subjects that have really captured my interest, I think of my high-school years and how I loved drafting as well as machine shop and automotive shop.

In December 2015, I finished my first semester in the mechatronics program, and so far, the program has been very good. Starting with the first class, we went on field trips to companies, where we got a chance to see practical, real-world examples of ideas such as building and maintaining assembly lines. On other field trips, workers have said they’re learning the same programmable logic controllers and the same CAD design software that we’re learning. So it’s good not only to make contacts, but see that the skills that we’re learning at CLC are relevant. LaMar Black, a CLC career programs coordinator, has done a great job of arranging the field trips and giving us leads on jobs.

What I like especially about the mechatronics classes is the hands-on learning and the helpful instructors who want you to succeed. Doug Ochranek, who taught an electronics class, has been great. I struggled at the beginning of the class, because I and my lab partner were not on the same page as far as learning styles. I prefer to begin a lab by reading through all the steps, whereas my lab partner just wanted to jump right in and start doing things at our electronic station. Doug took me aside and spent extra time to review the lab. He went out of his way to help me. Margie Porter is another great instructor and chair of the program. In highly technical subjects such as programmable logic controllers, she’s organized and does a good job of explaining the same concept in several ways to help you understand it.

I’m a returning adult student, and it’s nice to see a variety of age groups in my courses. The younger students are friendly, and I’ve built camaraderie with other working adults like me. A friendly atmosphere makes the learning fun.

Besides the classes, I really appreciate the student services such as the Career and Job Placement Center. At the recommendation of a friend, I signed up for career counseling and complete a personality test to find out what interests me. That was helpful because it confirmed that I don’t like a job whose main duties are sitting behind a desk. I need variety and hands-on activities, and a mechatronics career meets this need. An excellent entry-level job in the field is in repair, which gives you a different challenge every day, and you can move up from there. The staff has made helpful suggestions on how to improve my resume.

My advice for a new student is to buckle down and study hard at the beginning so that you’re off to a good start. I found the mechatronics program to be very challenging at the beginning, because many courses in the program contain five-week modules held back-to-back, and you need to pass one module to begin the next. If you can get through the first five weeks, you will gain the self-confidence to get you through the rest of the semester. When I passed my courses, it felt great because I proved to myself that I could do it. Now it’s rubbing off on my 11-year-old daughter, who is starting to learn basic coding herself and has been bugging me to buy a kit to build a simple robot.