Originally from Venezuela, Rafael Gamboa has wanted to live in Chicago since he was 12 years old. He streamed the WGN-TV channel on his television and spent years dreaming of a life in the city. As he grew up, he also developed an interest in mechatronics, a branch of engineering that combines electronics and mechanical engineering.

In 2019, Rafael’s dream of becoming a Chicagoan came true. Shortly after, he made progress towards his second dream by starting his mechatronics journey at Daley College.

Before jumping into the field, Rafael strengthened his English with ESL courses at Daley. While there, he’d often visit the college’s state-of-the-art Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center.

“When I found all the robotics equipment, I’d say to myself, ‘Here’s the place to learn, here’s the place to start, here’s the place to build a new dream to start again,’” Rafael said.

After completing an initial ESL course, Instructor Juan Martinez encouraged Rafael to join the Bridge program. Bridge is a tuition-free opportunity that helps students improve their reading, writing, math, and English skills while earning an industry certificate.

While completing the program, Rafael says he received nothing but encouragement and support from Daley staff. He was shocked the deans would walk around campus interacting with students and asking them about their studies—it was something he said never happened on campuses in Venezuela. Dr. Julie MacCarthy in Career Services always told Rafael he would succeed, and his instructors made learning so exciting for Rafael, he’d come to campus hours early.

“Dr. Julie MacCarthy helped me a lot,” he said. “Her advice and recommendations helped prepare my resume, my LinkedIn profile, and she shared how to communicate within a job interview.”

This support and encouragement were vital for Rafael. His wife and children remain in Venezuela for now, and he lost his father last year to COVID. He almost lost his mother and sister due to the virus, but both made a full recovery.

“When you have a bad situation, you can push yourself to walk through,” he said.

Rafael not only pushed himself but also his classmates. After completing the Bridge program, Rafael decided to pass along the encouragement and support he received during his courses to others in an inspiring graduation speech.

“I told all my classmates to never stop and to stay hungry for their dreams—because Chicago was my dream when I was 12 years old, and mechatronics was my dream 13 years ago,” he said. “Now it’s starting to happen. I never gave up, but I never stopped believing either.”

A video of Rafael delivering that speech is now making the rounds on LinkedIn. It brought Rafael several job offers, including one as a Robotics Technician at WeatherTech—a dream job for him.

“Now there are two dreams coming true. It’s like I won the lottery.”

Rafael’s now waiting on his wife and children to join him in the city. He wanted to be established with a job and benefits before they moved to Chicago.

In the meantime, Rafael continues studying at Daley in pursuit of his associate degree in mechatronics. He’s excited to see where that degree takes him next and now firmly believes dreams really do come true.

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