Julio Calderon considers himself blessed to have discovered his chosen career path in his early 20s, but his plans for the future weren’t always so clear. He bounced around between construction jobs and restaurant serving until he finally discovered his passion in one of the most unlikely places – at a quick lube oil change facility.
“Immediately, I just fell in love with the possibility of working on cars,” Calderon, 38, said. “I was a sponge; as soon as someone taught me something, I’d absorb it and then I was ready for more.”
Having discovered his true career passion, he worked his way up at Mobile Lube Express to Associate Manager, then went on to work at Greenway Ford in Orlando. It was there that the trajectory of his career changed forever, when he saw Mike Ossmer – a professor in the Automotive Program at Seminole State College – walk through the door.
“We started talking and I told him about how I wanted to further my career in the automotive industry,” Calderon added. “He told me about the Ford-Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET) program at Seminole State College and I knew I had to be a part of it.”
Calderon started as a student at Seminole State College in 2001, and graduated from the ASSET program in 2003. Following the completion of that program, he remained at Seminole State College to earn his A.S. in Automotive Technology in 2005 specializing in Ford Lincoln Mercury vehicles.
Professor Ossmer played an integral role in ensuring Calderon’s success in the program. When there were financial aid issues and when Calderon was in between jobs, Ossmer remained in contact and even used his own industry connections to help Calderon land a new job at Mullinax Ford. Calderon worked there for five years, becoming one of the top diagnosticians in the business, often able to identify and fix problems that no one else could figure out.
His success at Seminole State mirrored that found at the companies he worked for, so with the encouragement of his wife Nancy, they decided to open Calderon Automotive Repair Services in 2007. A decade later, their company now employs four people and is one of the highest-rated automotive repair shops in Central Florida. In fact, in 2014, Calderon Automotive Repair Services received the Best of Orlando Award in the Auto Repair category as rated by the Orlando Award Program. Calderon says the business would not be as successful as it is today had it not been for the enduring support of his wife and parents.
Nowadays, Calderon, who is the Owner/Shop Foreman at Calderon Automotive Repair Services, smiles as he reflects on how critical his education has been to his success. “If I could go back and do this all over again, I absolutely would. I only wish I had found the program sooner.”
This article originally appeared on seminolestate.edu