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Meet Alan Cerna and Branden Wells of Apprentice Builds in Santa Ana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alan Cerna and Branden Wells.

Alan, Branden, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Our story traces back to our childhood days. As kids, growing up in bad neighborhoods of Santa Ana, Branden and I were exposed to bad vices that ranged from drugs, gangs, etc. Both of us saw people we knew fall into that bad lifestyle, some dead, and some we haven’t heard of and till this day, haven’t heard anything about them. We weren’t very familiar to having many friendships due to the fact that it wasn’t safe for a kid being out playing with everything bad that went on.

Cars were a big getaway for us that kept us away from falling into those bad life styles. Working on cars became a part of our lives having taught us responsibility and that good things come with hard work, dedication, patience, and time.

It’s amazing how life works and how it crosses individuals in your path to be in your life. Thanks to cars, both Branden and I met while waiting outside of Professor Alemansour’s Business Calculus class one morning at Cal State Fullerton. I remember I heard Branden talk about LS motors and like all car guys, I had to get in the conversation. From that day on, we both clicked with each other.

As we got to know each other, we learned from each other as well. We both realized that our childhood days were very similar and realized that till this day, what we lived is still a problem and that it can be changed. With that, we talked ideas that would be of great help for these young and new generations to be great and influential people in future days to come. This is how Apprentice Builds came to be.

Now, I am a Cal State Fullerton grad with a degree in Business Admin with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. I am currently in an agent aspirant program at a State Farm agency which came as an opportunity after a consulting project that was part of school. I as well am currently working on getting my Contractor’s License to help expand my family’s business of home remodeling.

Branden is in his last semester of Cal State Fullerton as well working on getting his Business Admin degree with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. Currently he is a part time Part Sales Manager at AutoZone while attending school and helps with his family painting business.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not one step of the Apprentice Builds journey has been easy. Till this day every step we take is harder as we work to make the organization grow. Yes, plenty of great and inspiring people in the business and automotive world have shown interest in wanting to help the organization, but one thing is showing interest and another is compromising yourself to action. Even to this day, we are on constant communication with people who we talked to and to those that we believe might be potential donors or sponsors to the organization.

Although this has been the hardest challenge we’ve faced throughout our life time, our advisory board has made it much easier for us with all the people they’ve connected us to in order for Apprentice Builds to succeed. Without JJ, Bob, Dave, and Tony, Apprentice Builds might not have existed like it does today.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Apprentice Builds – what should we know?
Apprentice Builds is a non-profit organization program that serves all high students in the low income or at-risk areas by providing knowledge and an opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship. Apprentice Builds works to reduce gang membership, drug use, and dropout rates by providing an outlet where the youth can learn valuable skills needed in today’s workforce. Students gain hands on skills building hot rods with experience mechanics and fabricators.

What makes the organization unique is not only the fact that students get to work on cool hot rods and cars but are taught responsibility taking the apprenticeship as a job and not a program anyone can be a part of. One of the biggest goals of the organization is to help these students leave the program with a second chance at knowing they’re better people than what they’re taught to be. With a mentor by their side, every student will have the proper guidance to stay on track with their life goals.

Having their own profile, every student may be seen by employers like Pep Boys or Big O Tires to help these students get an entry level job with an opportunity of leaving the program ASE certified in their desired automobile specialty.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being consistent and persistent are the two main keys to success with Apprentice Builds. In reality, if anyone who has a business or is working on a start-up idea must be consistent and persistent. For our organization, it’s a necessity to do both in order for us to even be operable as we are a non-profit organization and our doors staying open depends on the help we get from outside people and organizations.

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Image Credit:

Bryan Vicente

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1 Comment

  1. James Bray Jr

    July 31, 2018 at 23:03

    I’m interested in helping out or volunteering with your organization. I work in the automotive Industry and buy and part out C6 Corvettes. Feel free to contact me if I can be of help.

    James Bray

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