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Success Stories

Richard "Ricky" Valdez

Richard "Ricky" Valdez

Dear Mr. Mudano,

What you are doing at AmSkills is meaningful. The fact that AmSkills exists as a non-profit organization is a beautiful story of people making a difference.

I would like to explain my background and why I am currently enrolled at AmSkills. Hopefully I can contribute to this organization.

I decided to pursue Mechanical Engineering because I was great at math, liked to learn, and always asked how things were made. I studied drafting and design at Land O Lakes High School and enjoyed those courses immensely. 

Fall 2015 was my first semester at USF after attending community college. My first semester was completely life changing because now I needed to learn how to study for engineering level math and physics courses. I had a difficult first semester but managed to get through making A's & B's.

Semester after semester went on and each semester was difficult and stressful. The stress and anxiety was not necessarily due to the course load, but was linked to my financial situation... I was accumulating student debt quickly, even with a Florida Bright Future's scholarship. After my first semester at USF I realized I needed to be close to the University because commuting was adding more stress. So in order to pay for my living expenses I needed to continue to work while at school, which created more stress.

In 2016 I started looking for engineering internships to gain experience. When I finally got an internship opportunity, I quickly realized that it was not for me. I really did not like being behind a desk.

I am thankful of my internship experiences because it made me realize that great engineers need hands-on understanding on how things are made. I discovered the best time I had at my internships was programming a CNC machine, pulling nested laser cut materials, operating manual machines, bending sheet metal, and designing things that were related to production.

My real burnout started in summer of 2017 when I was taking a manufacturing course and had no hands-on instruction. The course was all theoretical instruction, which frustrated me. I wanted to operate a mill, learn speeds and feeds, program a CNC, and those opportunities were not available for students... So I decided to take a break from my courses due to the lack of instruction.

Thankfully, through hard work, I was able to pay off my student loans. The debt was a large contributing factor to my stress while in school. I will only return to my engineering courses when I am able to study free of debt. I only have        32 credits to graduate with my Mechanical Engineering degree. I would like an opportunity to return at some point in the future.

I was searching for something to do as a profession that would allow me to travel while pursuing my goals. So I chose welding and purely pursuing welding did not sit right with me. Then I discovered AmSkills through Fox 13 news! I signed up the same night I saw the broadcast. I knew that it would be a great fit and so far it has been a wonderful opportunity.

From the first week of classes I have rediscovered my drive of learning and my ability to accomplish my goals.

I have no idea where AmSkills will take me but I feel like this course has already taken me farther than my college courses have so far, because of the hands on experience.

I am still debating whether to continue my pursuit of a Mechanical Engineering degree, but I believe that if I am placed with a company that will give me an incentive to continue my degree, it can be possible.

Thank you for your hard work at AmSkills. I am excited that I have been given this opportunity.


Richard Valdez