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Kristen Cyr
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Mechanic develops passion for career in business

May 10, 2013

Santiago Giron Santiago Giron

Santiago Giron, 23, thought that cars were his calling but a change of heart brought him from the garage to the classroom.

“It may sound corny,” he said, “but I traded in my tool box for a briefcase.”

The Central Falls resident wanted to get right to work after high school so he enrolled at New England Institute of Technology and embarked on a career as an auto mechanic. He hoped that this plan would allow him to contribute financially to his immigrant family, with whom he emigrated from Guatemala when he was 3 years old.

“In my family, we’ve had immense financial strain,” he said.

Giron envisioned a lucrative career working on expensive BMWs and Audis but he found himself doing oil changes and simple maintenance at an Infiniti dealership. He wanted something more. His last few classes at NEIT had been academic and he surprised himself when he developed an interest in social science and history.

“I felt something waking up inside of me,” he said. “I needed something else in my life. The objective became to get a bachelor’s degree. … The problem was I had already invested everything I had into NEIT and the balance of my credits were technical. I was at a dead end.”

Giron’s girlfriend is a Community College of Rhode Island graduate and she told him to consider enrolling there.

“I came and talked to an adviser and things changed after that,” he said.

Giron had $1,000 to his name at the time. His finances were largely tapped out after paying for New England Tech and his family could not afford to help him make a new start at CCRI. He enrolled anyway, paying for his first semester completely out of pocket.

Giron kept his full-time job at the dealership and took classes at night during the spring and fall semesters of 2011. Everything changed when he joined the Access program, which helps first-generation college students and the economically disadvantaged attend college.

“It was exactly what I needed,” he said.

Thanks to financial aid help Access arranged, Giron became a full-time student during the Spring 2012 semester. He became much more involved in campus life, becoming a student ambassador that semester and getting involved with the DECA business club in Fall 2012. He served as president of the club’s Flanagan Campus chapter in his final semester this spring.

“I feel like [the Student Ambassadors program] gave me an introduction to being a student leader,” Giron said. “School became about more than just getting a high GPA. … I wanted to take as much as I could from CCRI before I left.”

Giron said that CCRI gave him confidence and helped him find a new passion: the field of business. He is graduating with a degree in General Business and a 3.56 GPA.

“It ignited a new engine in me and it was running very efficiently,” said Giron, who remains passionate about cars.

He hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree and then go on to get a master of business administration. He is waiting to hear back from the admissions department at Bryant University, his top choice for the next step in his education.

Having completed New England Tech, Giron is already the first in his family to earn any kind of degree. He hopes to become the first to earn a bachelor’s degree as well and then go as far as he can.

“I’m very proud of the support I’ve had from my family,” he said. “My older brother plays a huge role. He could have gone to school but he chose to help out my family.”

Giron added: “When I first came to CCRI I said, ‘I’m going to breeze through and use it as a stepping stone.’ It was not like that at all. It was more like an elevator.”


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Last Updated: 8/25/16