Injured worker starts career institute

By Nancy Gutierrez

Hector Cartagena is a example of what hard work and dedication can do.

At a young age Hector started working in the groves of Lindsay picking olives for local growers. He got a job as a janitor in the Lindsay Unified School District and held both jobs in an effort to raise money to buy a house. With so many years of backbreaking work Hector slowly developed an injury that would force him to find another way to make a living and support his three children. He decided he would attend a technical school to learn computer maintenance.

"I went to school for sevenmonths and in that time only two months were productive," Hector said. "Of the 100 things I learned I use 30 on a regular basis."

It was this realization along with work experience as a teacher at a career institute that made Hector decide to open his own career development school for people injured on the job.

Hector had already been approached by his former boss to take over at the career school where he first taught. But Hector had his own vision for a productive and practical school.

Hector started looking for a partner to invest in his new school. There were relatives and friends who seemed eager to help but when those possibilities fell through he thought it might never happen.

"Then I remembered that I had retirement," He said. "I had completely forgot it was there. It was like God blocked it from my mind because there were times that I really needed money and would have used it. But I never did and suddenly I remembered I had it and used that to rent the bulding."

Hector shopped around for the perfect place to start his school. He was looking for something in town where other career schools were located. But high costs kept him from renting the building he had in mind. Then he found a building located on the outskirts of Visalia on Goshen and Akers.

"I didn't realize it at the time but this is the best location," he said. "The students love it. It's great for students form Dinuba and Tulare."

The first school was a 12X12 room that was used as a classroom. The classes offered included Computer Repair and building maintenance.

Hector said the very first class had one student.

"It was just me and her but she said she didn't feel awkward," he said.

And In a few weeks the school had six students. One of the first projects for the building maintenance students was to build a business room and a maintenance room for the school.

Carlos Sanchez taught the maintenance classes. He had worked with Hector in LUSD in the maintenance department and taught students the skills he learned.

Soon, the school increased in physical size and the number of students started to grow. Everything seemed to be going well But on April 4 a fire in an adjacent building caused major water damage to the school. A few months later another fire forced Hector to move the school. Luckily he found a place two doors down in the same complex that was bigger and could hold more students.

Today that new building has a reception area, a computer classroom an English classroom, a large break room and a construction workshop. The tables, reception desk, rooms and even computers were constructed by the students at CDI.

"Two weeks ago they built an office," he said.

Hectors school is certified by the state like many other career development schools. But after his experience attending a school that offered a 7 month computer repair program he decided he would run his school more effectively.

"In the seven month program I probably took apart a computer two times," he said. "I have the students take apart a computer thirty times."

Hector decided he would open a school that would teach skills that students would need, through hands on experience.

"They will learn what we said they will learn," he said. "They will learn the things that will get them jobs."

In building maintenance students learn how to install everything that fits between the ceiling and the floors. Sanchez teaches students electrical wiring, how to build rooms, how to build shelving and install sinks and plumbing as well as how to texturize walls and make dry-erase boards. Students complete all of these exercises several times in the schools shop and on the school rooms.

Beatrize Rodriguez teaches Business applications including, power point, internet skills, Word Processing and design. Students can also take advantage of the English as a second language classes taught by Luz Castillo. The school offers classes on front office medical assisting and customer service. The school and its curriculum was given a 5 year certification by the state.

But the service at CDI doesn

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