From Fast Food, to Earning a Degree, Fast

From Fast Food, to Earning a Degree, Fast

Gabriel Castellanos exemplifies dedication and perseverance in his pursuit of academic and professional success.

Currently enrolled as a student in Electronic Engineering Technology at ECPI University’s Greensboro campus, Gabriel manages to balance multiple roles in his life, including being a husband, a father of two, a student ambassador on campus, and a Dean’s List scholar. Recently, he achieved another milestone by securing a paid internship with Qorvo Inc.

Gabriel’s journey to this point has been marked by resilience and determination. Following his graduation from a college in Mexico City in 2004, he faced disappointment when he missed a job opportunity due to his lack of proficiency in English. To overcome this challenge, he made the pivotal decision to move to the United States and enrolled in ESL classes at a local community college. During this time, he also took up employment as a crew member at McDonald’s to support himself.

Recalling his initial struggles, Gabriel laughed, “When I went to McDonald’s – first day – I didn’t understand what they were telling me. They told me to go and sweep. I went home because I thought they’d pointed to the door.” However, his difficulties in taking food orders and communicating with colleagues served as a catalyst for his determination to learn and progress.

At McDonald's, Gabriel steadily climbed the corporate ladder, progressing through various roles such as crew member, crew trainer, swing manager, and assistant manager. Eventually, he reached the positions of second, first, and store manager.

Recognizing Gabriel’s managerial acumen, McDonald’s assigned him to improve the performance of another store in the Greensboro area. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges. Gabriel found himself working tirelessly, seven days a week, for long hours. The situation prompted him to contemplate his future, leading to serious conversations with his wife.

Inspired by financial expert Dave Ramsey’s advice that “the best investment is education,” Gabriel and his wife embarked on a journey of higher education. After conducting thorough research online, Gabriel visited ECPI University, where he enrolled in the Electronic Engineering Technology Mechatronics program. Simultaneously, his wife pursued an accounting program at a nearby college. Their lives transformed into a balancing act of college coursework, family responsibilities, and more.

Reflecting on his return to the classroom after a 20- year hiatus, Gabriel confessed, “I was super nervous to get started and be in class again.” Language, especially within the context of mechatronics, initially posed a challenge. However, he gradually acclimated and overcame this obstacle. He affirmed, “I don’t think it’s a barrier anymore.”

Amidst his academic journey, one course, in particular, stood out as a turning point for Gabriel. He shared, “Digital systems is the hardest class that I have taken so far. It’s like all the classes I took about math, electricity, and all that. It’s like it sinks in and I know, oh so this is exactly what it is.”

Gabriel’s journey continued to ascend as he attained official U.S. citizenship in June and bid farewell to McDonald’s to embark on a competitive paid internship with Qorvo Inc., a prominent manufacturer, designer, developer, and marketer of radio frequency (RF) solutions and core technologies. At Qorvo, he is actively involved in the schematic design and development of microchips for diverse applications, ranging from cell phones and cars to airplanes and military systems.

With just a few terms remaining until he completes his associate degree in electronic engineering technology, Gabriel shows no signs of slowing down. As a dean’s list student and the current student ambassador for ECPI University’s Greensboro campus, he is already planning to pursue his bachelor’s degree. Qorvo has committed to supporting him throughout his academic journey, a wonderful investment in his future.

Gabriel’s ultimate goal is to secure a job that allows him to spend quality time with his family without the burden of excessive stress. Given his determination and achievements thus far, it is evident that he is well on his way.