Ernest Wilkerson, Jr.
Ernest Wilkerson, Jr., has earned twenty certificates and four associate degrees in
automotive repair at Compton College. Growing up in Compton, college was the last
thing on Ernest's mind. After he graduated high school, he worked odd jobs part-time
while he balanced his responsibilities and daily life. Then, in 2015, Ernest's sister
started attending Compton College and after frequent trips to see her, he was inspired
to enroll. Five years later, Ernest has gained the skills he needed to make his part-time
passion a full-time reality.
"It took me a while, but it was well worth it. Now I'm a full-time employee doing what I love," says Ernest.
Ernest has always had a passion for working on cars. One of his favorite jobs was working as a crew chief at Jiffy Lube where he worked in management coaching teammates and driving store sales growth. Then, he switched to the body shop to get the best of both worlds.
"I like knowing I fixed something cost-effectively," explains Ernest. "When I go to dealerships, I know what to expect, and I share that with my family and friends."
Going to college wasn't easy for Ernest. Beyond the expensive price tag, he challenged himself to maintain good attendance and stay focused in class. On top of managing his work routine and family duties, he practiced firm discipline to complete his assignments on time. He wasn't always confident that he could do it, but the support he received at Compton College helped him find a path to the other side.
"Change starts within," Ernest says. "To become a good mentor to others, I had to go through the process myself."
Ernest found mentors at Compton College who taught him things he didn't know. He enjoyed his history class with Professor Evans, humanities with Professor Philips, and automotive repair with Professors Coolman and Nawasaki. Ernest appreciated how straightforward their teaching styles were and the real-world experience they brought to the classroom.
In addition to help from supportive faculty and staff, Ernest took advantage of free student resources. Compton's Satisfactory Academic Progress motivated him to earn good grades to maintain financial aid and the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services provided career counseling designed to keep him on track to graduation. Now, he speaks to other students on campus about the career pathways available at Compton College.
I always tell my daughter, if you want to set yourself up for later, start now," says Ernest.
In March, Ernest started working as a full-time utility maintenance worker and seven months later, was promoted to interim supervisor. Ernest credits the new opportunity to the certifications and degrees he earned at Compton College. Online classes helped him secure his education with flexible courses so he could learn on his schedule.
Next year he plans to graduate and transfer to California State University, Dominguez Hills, to earn his bachelor's degree in business administration. Then, he will move on to a master's degree in hopes of becoming the next president of Compton College. Compton College was there for Ernest and now he wants to return the favor.
To students interested in gaining new skills towards a fulfilling career, Ernest says, go for it. "If you want to better yourself for your family, education is the key."