“I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study,” said Mia Ruggiero. “I just knew I wanted to work with my hands. When I saw the programs Moraine Valley offered, I could tell they were in line with what I eventually want to do.” After meeting with some faculty in the technology areas, she decided to pursue an Associate in Applied Science degree in integrated systems technology (IST). And after taking her first welding class, which she loved, she decided to also earn certificates in welding. “People think it’s dirty and grimy, but it’s really a lot of fun. At first I was surprised I was good at it, but now I believe it’s something a lot of women would be good at,” she says.

Mia visited a few schools that offered similar programs, but she felt Moraine Valley has the best learning environment. And she liked the fact she could work on actual equipment here rather than programming something on a computer, which was the situation at some of those other schools. “I’m a hands-on learner. I can study books and get the concept. But when I’m actually holding that hydraulic cylinder in my hand, it clicks so much faster for me. The hands-on learning is a huge benefit here,” says Mia.

After completing her IST degree and welding certificates, Mia hopes to take a few automotive classes. “I love working on my car and trying to figure out how to fix a problem. I’d like to take classes so I’ll really know what I’m doing.”

Mia takes 18 credit hours or more each semester, and after leaving her night classes, heads to her job as a manager at an all-night restaurant. “It’s a lot,” she says. “But I want to finish.”