In early 2021, coronavirus vaccines slowly began to roll out across the country. As Covid gripped the world and the vaccine offered hope for an end, one of Noble’s very own alumni played a pivotal role in ramping up production to help America beat back this deadly disease.
Before Jose Gonzalez graduated from Muchin College Prep in 2016, he was heavily involved in soccer and the Dreamer’s Club (a club designed to support undocumented students), while maintaining a successful academic career. Despite this, as he neared graduation Jose feared his options were limited, as a DACAmented student there was a lot of uncertainty about where he’d be able to afford college or where he could even get in.
Then, he heard about Noble’s Pritzker Access Scholarship (PAS) – a program specifically geared towards ensuring that Noble students could successfully transition to college regardless of documentation.
“It opened the door for more opportunities. Thanks to the PAS program, I was able to graduate college without any loans,” said Jose.
Muchin Class of 2016
That PAS scholarship enabled him to attend the Illinois School of Technology where he majored in electrical engineering. Through his four years in college, Jose experienced ups and downs.
“The biggest motivation I had was family. The support helped me come a long way. I was going through things in college and knowing they were by my side helped,” said Jose.
He was tested both in and out of the classroom as he sought to find a balance between both his personal and school life. Ultimately he was able to graduate in 2020 and was gearing up for a career as an engineer. But, again his path became uncertain. He had interviewed and been offered a job with Pfizer to work on the coronavirus vaccine distribution. But, he was unable to move to Michigan to start this new role, as the Trump administration made unfavorable changes to the DACA program and work authorizations.
Though he was able to help support the United States’ coronavirus response he was sidelined. Then, a breakthrough.
“I felt like after waiting for so many months and endless job searching I finally landed something meaningful,” said Jose when he received the call informing him he would be able to start work.
He packed his bags and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Since October, when the Pfizer vaccine was still in the trial phase, Jose has been involved in the production and quality control of the Pfizer vaccine.
“When you make something in massive amounts, everything is not going to be the same. You’re going to have defects. Our role is to minimize these occurrences,” says Jose. Jose inspects Pfizer vaccines during his shift, checking vials for defects and imperfections thus ensuring that the health standard is met.
He works the night shift as the facility churns out vaccines around the clock. He wakes up at 8:30 pm each night and drives 15 minutes from his apartment to the Pfizer production facility. Because of Jose’s long hours and the efforts of his colleagues, the vaccine’s production ramped up, literally overnight – distributing millions of doses to the US and worldwide.
Jose has made a few adjustments to his new life in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The long work hours coupled with the far distance from his family have taken a toll on him physically and mentally. Despite this, he is still finding ways to enjoy his time by making new friends and exploring the city.
When he’s not hanging out with friends in Kalamazoo, Jose is back at the Pfizer facility continuing to ensure the safety of Covid vaccines. By the end of May, 220 million Pfizer vaccines will have been distributed worldwide. Here at Noble almost all teachers and staff have received their vaccines and how, since Pfizer is approved for children as young as 12, thousands of Noble students have received vaccines that emerged from Jose’s facility.
When asked how it feels to know he’s been involved in saving millions of lives and helping to vaccinate his community here at Noble, Jose said, “Saving lives is our number one priority but it’s heartwarming to see that finally, things are opening up. Originally, there was a lot of insecurity and skepticism surrounding the vaccine, but awareness has been raised, encouraging others to get vaccinated. That’s awesome to see! ”