Ariel’s Story: Motivated to Melt Metal
How welding student Ariel Mari-Ayala found his future fusing with flames
Watching welders work: Igniting inspiration
“All my life, since I was very young, I liked to work with my hands,” Ariel Mari-Ayala stated.
Growing up in San Germán, Puerto Rico, Ariel used his hands to splash around in the city’s rivers, play games with his family, and repair local cars.
So, when he relocated to the United States and found himself working at a recycling plant in West Central, Texas, it came as no surprise that the hands-on welding profession sparked his interest.
“Every day, I saw employees building trailers, making parts, and restoring machines,” he described. “I watched one guy create a 50-foot-long trailer from scratch, and I thought it was pretty cool.”
When opposition and obstacles create opportunity
Not long after, Ariel was practicing his welding skills at work. Once immersed in the trade, Ariel asked a coworker about becoming welding certified. It was then that his less-than-encouraging colleague tried to steer him away from his aspirations to learn more.
“One time, I asked a guy, ‘Hey, do you think it’s a good idea if I go to welding school?’ and I remember his words,” Ariel recalled. “He told me ‘Don’t waste your time, don’t go to school, you can learn this in the streets.’”
Thankfully, Ariel knew that life was guiding him in a different direction.
“I told him, ‘Yes, you can learn it in the streets, but right now, places in the United States are asking for certification, and if you don’t have that certification, it’s like having a car but not having gas to drive it.”
“That’s why I started looking at welding schools,” he explained, “Because I had a dream in my head, and I wanted to show this guy that I could be a welder, too.”
But before Ariel could begin his search for welding programs in the west Texas area, his wife became pregnant with their youngest son. During a routine ultrasound, his son was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a congenital disability in which the spinal cord fails to develop correctly.
Ariel’s wife soon learned that she had to attend specialist appointments once a week for all nine months of her pregnancy. It was then that the Mari-Ayala family decided to move to Connecticut so their son could receive the best healthcare treatment possible.
Conducting his career
A testament to Ariel’s hard-work ethic, once settled in the Nutmeg State, the company owner he once worked for called him for six months straight, every week, asking Ariel when he would be coming back on the job.
To Ariel’s relief, once his son was born a perfectly healthy boy, instead of returning to work at the Texas recycling plant, he decided to remain in Connecticut and worked his way towards a cutting-edge career.
Planning his future profession, Ariel searched the internet. After asking around and seeing the great reviews about Goodwin University’s welding program, he knew it was his time to become a student of the trade.
Arc and alloy academics
“Everything was flexible and pretty perfect for me,” Ariel admitted, adding that any free time he had was spent with his wife, five children, and new grandson.
Ariel enjoyed an assortment of projects throughout his time in the program. Always appreciative of opportunities to strengthen his skills, he enjoyed molding metal sheets in Goodwin’s manufacturing stations and found the virtual reality welding training simulator helpful in honing his craft.
“With the simulator, it feels like you’re playing a game, but it’s a useful machine because it makes you practice the control of your hands, and it makes you more attentive to what you’re doing,” he described.
“You can look at your results and say, ‘Oh, this is what I did wrong’ or, ‘Oh, I didn’t do too good this time, but next time, I’ll improve my score,’ and it gives you the courage to say, ‘Tomorrow, I’ll be better.’”
“For me, the hardest welds were vertical,” Ariel readily admitted. “If you don’t have the right control and speed, the weld looks bad. All the metal that’s burning falls and sticks to the other metals — it’s a mess. It was one of the hardest parts to learn, but I learned it.”
“Then, once I started real welding, it was the best,” he relayed with pride, “because I learned beforehand how to control my hands, my time, and my breathing. And my first welds — the flat weld, horizontal, and overhead — they all looked pretty nice.”
Teachers with torches who light the way
Ariel quickly learned that Goodwin’s welding instructors not only educated but encouraged their students to succeed.
“After I started the program, I found good teachers who were smart, knowledgeable, and patient,” Ariel disclosed.
“All my life, I’ve never been a very talkative person,” he revealed. “I’m a listener, and the instructors encouraged me to talk more and share with the group. I was shy in the beginning, but once I was in, they had to stop me from talking and say, “ok, ok, that’s it!”
“My teachers took the time to explain how to weld correctly. If you had doubts or were lost in something, they were the kind of teachers you could count on. I appreciated that they all explained things, had lots of patience, and believed in the students,” Ariel said.
Students of tools, temperature, and transformation
“My classmates were friendly too. Some were young, very talented, and smart, and some were old guys like me,” he laughed. “We shared our different experiences, and we shared ideas back and forth. Sometimes, if I got stuck, I’d ask them for help, and if I did a project one way, and someone else did it another way, we shared that, too.”
Ariel graduated from Goodwin’s welding school in August 2020 — proving that just like his profession, under high heat and pressure, he bends to adapt, and, despite discouragement, he welded his dreams into a real-world reality.
“I went to school for welding because I wanted to prove that I could be a welder,” Ariel affirmed, “and now, I am.”
Interested in learning more about Goodwin’s welding program? Visit our welding page!
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.