A Family Affair: Fullerton Graduate Uribel Mejia Student Spotlight

January 31, 2023
Fullerton Graduate Uribel Mejia

“It’s a family affair.”

At least that’s the message from the Mejia family of Orange County, which has made Fullerton College its home and is reaping the rewards of the campus’s Career Education programs.

Uribel Mejia was first to graduate, with several certificates, along with an associate degree in printing technology, and began working in his field of study immediately after completing the printing technology program in 2017. Mejia’s wife, Cynthia Bluford-Mejia, is earning a certificate in photography and has taken the skills she learned from that program, along with classes in digital marketing, to build her company, Inspire Creative Solutions. Mejia’s mom, meanwhile, graduated a year later with a degree in early childhood education.

Despite their current successes, Uribel struggled in high school and never thought of himself as “college-bound.”

Born in Burbank and raised primarily in Anaheim, Uribel struggled in school as a teen and opted to attend an alternative high school for his GED. That was followed by a steady stream of low-paying jobs, primarily at fast-food restaurants, that were anything but rewarding.

“It was good, but it was only, like, minimum wage and wasn’t very fulfilling at the time.”

He turned to Fullerton College, exploring programs in early childhood education, and then construction, before settling on printing technology. The printing technology certificate of achievement incorporates practical hands-on practice and classroom lectures. Students learn to set up and operate offset and digital printing presses and process print jobs. They also learn to create and print digital graphics, with programs such as Adobe InDesign. Graduates are introduced to specialty printing as well, including flexography, package prototyping, and screen printing. The associate of science degree includes all that and more, such as offset lithographic presswork, flexographic presswork, package production, and digital imaging.

“I kind of fell in love with it,” Mejia said. “I learned everything there was to learn.”

To top it off, tuition is just $46 per unit, allowing students to complete a career education program at a fraction of the cost charged by private trade schools. Certificates can be earned within a year, associate degrees within two years.

Mejia graduated with honors, earning straight A’s the first semester he was there. “When I got into Fullerton, I was 100% focused. I tried to be involved. I talked to my professors. I wanted to get A’s in all my classes.”

He also developed a strong support network and benefitted from programs such as EOPS (Extended Opportunity Program and Services), which is dedicated to assisting students of educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds to earn their degree, vocational certificate, or transfer to a four-year college or university.

“There are so many great professors willing to give you the guidance and share their experience, always encouraging you, always willing to talk to you.”

He began his new career almost as soon as he graduated when a Saddleback professor of his got a call from a former student working at an offset lithographic company and recommended him. Being hired as an assistant to a printing operator led to another job in flexographic printing, and ultimately, to the position he has now at another company as a supervisor of a department that prints shrink sleeve labels for craft brew companies. He is now earning twice as much as he was making before he began the program.

“Having a degree gives you the confidence to say, ‘Okay, yeah, I can do this,’ “ said Mejia, who is considering transferring to Cal State Fullerton to further bolster his career.

His family agrees.

“This is better than going to a four-year university,” said Bluford-Mejia. “Fullerton College cares about you and will train you and give you the tools to go out and get a job. If you want to go out and get a bachelor’s degree, they will prepare you and set you up to transfer to a university for that degree. Coming here was the best thing we ever did.”