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“I spent five years in prison because of gambling. While I was in prison, I did some welding and built trailers, and when I got out I got training through the Texas Workforce Commission with Project 4 Victory, through the Greater Dallas Urban League.

“I saw an ad in the newspaper for the Welding program at El Centro College, and I had talked to several welding schools. I talked to Byron Zarrabi; he answered all of my questions, and I just felt really comfortable with his knowledge. He’s sharp, and he really cares about people. He’s very approachable and is just full of knowledge, but he makes you feel comfortable about asking him anything.

“I took pipe welding, the only one welding area I didn’t really know how to do. I was offered about 10 pipe welding jobs a day, but I had to turn them down because I didn’t have that skill.

“What I like about welding as a career is that there are so many things you can do with it. You can join the American Welding Society, get certified as an inspector or sell parts or equipment. It doesn’t define you in just one area because you can do so much with your skills. In such an unstable economy, if you’re laid off in one welding job, you can get another job very easily. It’s always a career in high demand.”

Darryl Woods took noncredit classes in Pipe Welding at El Centro College’s Bill J. Priest campus.