ELLISVILLE – Most know Mariano Arellano in Hattiesburg as the owner of La Fiesta Brava asking on TV, “How about lunch?” Now the 54-year-old is asking, “How about a career?” After serving thousands over the last 26 years, the impact of COVID-19 forced Arellano to sell his restaurant. With more people staying home, paying the bills became overwhelming.
“I never expected to close my business like I did. I was behind in payments, and I didn’t want to put my house at risk,” said Arellano. “I spent half of my life in the restaurant business and now I feel like I lost a member of my family. I feel like I lost everything. I was very depressed.”
But before the doors closed permanently, a customer suggested Arellano should explore some options through Jones College’s Workforce College. Building things always interested the former restauranteur, so after a few phone calls, he was signed up for the welding program.
“When I got to Jones and started taking welding classes and meeting all the employees here, it seemed like every person opened a different door for me. They really helped me get out of my sadness, my depression. Now, I feel like I’m going in the right direction, thanks to everyone because I don’t know if I would have made it without them,” said Arellano.
While learning a new trade through Workforce College, welding instructor, Tracy Warden inspired Arellano to explore even more options. Arellano earned his High School diploma when he lived in Mexico in 1981, but he knew he would need his American High School Equivalency to continue his education here. In one month, Arellano earned his HSE and the Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment Certificates. He also plans to begin classes in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration program in August.
“My life has changed 360 degrees,” said Arellano. “In the restaurant business, it seems like there is always equipment in need of repair. I often did some troubleshooting before calling a repairman. I always wanted to do something else, mechanical or build something. Now, it’s become my new career.”
Arellano is currently working at Smith Welding in Ellisville, as part of the crew building a two-story building structure. He also has new goals on his horizon. In fact, with his Certificate in Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment, along with his High School Equivalency diploma from Jones College, next year, Arellano said he may open another business after he earns his associate degree in Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. For more information about Jones College’s Workforce College, click on the link: https://www.jcjc.edu/workforce/