Eric Mitchell grew up on Chicago’s East Side, and attended Bronzeville Military Academy. After he graduated in 2008, Eric worked various jobs, but nothing he wanted to call a career. In 2012, he began an eight year stretch in the Army National Guard, posted in Washington State. He is now finishing his last two years of active duty back in Chicago. Once he started his final two years of what is called “wait time,” or non-active duty, Eric worked at an auto parts store.

In 2016, Eric, his wife, his new born daughter and four year-old daughter moved into a new home, and a worker from Peoples Gas came to turn on their gas. He noticed Eric was wearing his uniform, and told him about the United Military Assistance Program (UMAP) at Dawson Technical Institute. Eric had heard about it before, but finally decided to look into it, knowing he didn’t want to work in the storefront forever. Once he began the training program, he worked full-time in fast food, which allowed him a more flexible work schedule.

“Working and going to school can be challenging. Everyone told me to quit my job, but I had bills and was the main breadwinner in my house. If you put your mind to it, you really can accomplish it. There were days when I only had four hours of sleep, but we veterans have all experienced that. You just push through.”

Eric said he had a “really good experience” in the UMAP program, and felt like he had everything he needed to succeed. He completed the program in March of 2017, and started as a utility worker at Peoples Gas right away.

“I love my job,” Eric says. “There is always room for growth.”

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