After 10 years in the food service industry, Crystal Counselor traded her spatula for a wrench.
“We would always have people coming in to fix our refrigeration equipment,” Counselor said. “I liked the idea of fixing things so I would go talk to the heating and air guys as they were working and it sparked my interest.”
It took Counselor a few years before she began to look into air conditioning and refrigeration as a career, but the idea of going back to school seemed daunting.
“I have a son who just turned 16,” Counselor said. “So, I didn’t know how I would go to school and still pay my bills.”
Counselor saved up for a few months and applied for financial aid through Meridian before making the switch.
“I got a few scholarships through Meridian,” Counselor said. “I even received Christmas gifts for my son through one of their programs.”
In August 2022 she started in Meridian’s full-time Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program.
“So I would drive from Ponca City and be at Meridian around 7:50 every morning then I would stay until class got out at 3:30. After that I would go to work,” Counselor said.
Counselor transitioned into the Registered Apprenticeship Program and on-the-job training in February 2023.
Meridian’s Registered Apprenticeship Program allows students to receive hands-on, personalized training while working. She applied and was accepted as an apprentice at Ward’s Air Conditioning, Inc. in Ponca City.
“At first I felt like a fish out of water,” Counselor said. “You can go to school for something but actual hands-on experience is where you are going to learn. I’m really excited to get some of that experience so I can develop my own process and find my groove.”
Counselor graduated from Meridian’s full-time Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program in June.
“Everyone at Meridian is friendly and helpful,” Counselor said. “It’s really helped me to build my confidence in being able to take systems apart. It’s a great place to push yourself to do more.”
She will work in the Registered Apprenticeship Program for another year. Once her apprenticeship is finished, Counselor plans to continue working as a journeyman at Ward’s.
“Going back to school was hard, but I like challenges,” Counselor said. “I will eventually try for my contractor license. My next big goal is to have my house paid off.”
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, Business and Industry services and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts.
For more information or to enroll visit www.meridiantech.edu or contact a career counselor by phone at (405) 377-3333 or toll-free at (888) 607-2509.