Jose Perez Hurtado never thought much about airplanes. He never had that kid’s dream of flying one or taking one apart. They all kind of looked the same to him and were, so far as he was concerned, just a nice way to get from Point A to Point B.
Jose worked for a company that provided security for special events like concerts and sports competitions – even covering NFL games that let him see the 49ers wow the crowd. Three years ago he joined the National Guard and after a couple of years found himself in Afghanistan for a year providing combat support as a gunner in a mine-resistant, ambush-protected military all-terrain vehicle (M-ATV).
“I really like helping people and thought helping the country would make me feel better and proud,” says Jose. “I also knew that the veteran’s benefits would help me with school.”
Back in Fresno last year, twenty-two year old Jose was looking for work with a Sheriff’s Department when his mom, Laureen, suggested he check out SJVC’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program. She had enrolled just three months earlier and was excited about what she was learning and what kind of a career she could have when she graduated. It took less than a month for Jose to make up his mind.
“I thought I’d take a chance and learn something new,” says Jose. Good move.
Lots of things in the AMT program were a nice fit for Jose. “I’m amazed that I’m having fun with this at the same time I’m learning,” he says. “Right now we’re working on assembling an aircraft wing and my favorite part is whenever we have something hands-on.” Jose admits to picking up things pretty quickly.
He also likes all of the support he gets from teachers and how students help each other out.
“It’s the way teachers take their time to explain every detail,” says Jose. “Even though courses are really fast-paced, they take the time to make sure every student understands the subject thoroughly before they move on.”
Jose explains how students take care of each other; not just in the classroom and hangar, but as a family might.
“The whole school is like a family, so they will take time out of their lives to help you out,” he says. “Gas money, food, rides – whatever you need,” someone steps in to help.
Jose talks about a student who had to drive an hour each way every day from Visalia and a fellow student let him sleep on his couch during the week to save on commute time and gas. “We’re all willing to help each other with what you need,” he says.
Jose and his mom have been a big source of support for each other throughout the program. Even though Laureen started the AMT program 4-months before Jose, they occasionally share some classes.
“Jose represents 50% of an outstanding mother/son team at the Aviation Maintenance campus,” says Jack Macfarlane, Campus Director.
“I never thought I’d be going to school with my own mom,” says Jose. “At first I didn’t think it was ‘cool’, but as the days and months went by I realized it wasn’t so bad.” That is not to say that it does not get just a little competitive.
We help each other with homework, study together, quiz each other and, of course, we compete against one another,” says Jose. “At the end of the day we still have that strong bond, no matter who may have won the quiz war.”
Jose is a disciplined guy. He and AMT friend, Matt Kitavong, hit the gym every day after school and Saturdays for a 90-minute workout. It is a different story on Sundays.
“Sundays I just relax, watch movies and eat all day,” Jose laughs. Even then, if he catches sight of a plane overhead, he wonders what type of aircraft it is and about its mechanical and operational components and capacities. His aviation career seeds are firmly planted.
The thing that pushes Jose the most to succeed in the AMT program is the independence he will gain with these in-demand skills.
“I don’t want to stay in Fresno forever,” he says. “I want to go to SoCal, get a career and buy my first house. Airframe and Powerplant mechanics are retiring, so that means more positions and job opportunities are available.”
Jose has big plans for a life he never before imagined.