As adult student, EVIT alum found niche in auto industry

Working at local auto shop, Triston got his start at EVIT
Posted on 04/06/2022
Change in career choices lead Triston to EVIT, now works at local auto shop

EVIT alum Triston Smith attended Northern Arizona University for two years before realizing that college wasn’t for him. It wouldn’t be until two years later as an adult student at the East Valley Institute of Technology, that he would discover what he really wanted to do: work on cars.

“Traditional school wasn’t for me,” he said. “Working with my hands was more up my alley.”


Today, Smith, 25, is an automotive apprentice at Mercie J Auto Care in Mesa. He says he couldn’t have landed in a better place. Mercie J is owned and operated by Michael Glandon, who received automotive training at EVIT when it was located at the old Mesa Vo-Tech. Three of Michael and Rebecca Glandon’s sons also attended EVIT, and Michael serves on the advisory council for the Automotive Technologies program.


“The people I work with are absolutely amazing,” Smith said. “We are one family and treat each other with respect just like we do with our clients. It's enjoyable to see everyone smiling during the work day.”


He added, “The amount of information and knowledge that I have attained is so much more than I ever learned in college.”


Smith attended Perry High School in the Chandler Unified School District, where he thought he might like to become a physical therapist for athletes. He also enjoyed cars, but Perry didn’t offer automotive classes. After graduating in 2015, he went on to NAU. When that turned out not to be what he wanted, he got a job in the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry. He was working with his hands, but it still wasn’t the right fit. So at age 22, he enrolled at EVIT.


“In 2019, my mom and best friend suggested I go learn how to fix cars since I was still unsure of what I wanted to do. They said ‘Try it for a semester. If you don’t like it, then try something else.’ Well, I enjoyed it,” he said.


Mercie J Auto hired Smith after he had finished one year of training at EVIT in 2020. He continued to work there after completing his EVIT training in 2021. “I really enjoy that we work on a variety of vehicles,” he said. “That forces me to search for information if I have any questions. I am always learning as this world keeps developing.”


Smith wants to earn a master’s technician certification over the next year and a half. He also continues to have an interest in sports training, serving as a speed and agility coach for athletes in the East Valley.


“Regular school” isn’t for everyone, Smith said, “and that is perfectly OK.” He recommends that students “try as many things as you can. Find mentors in whatever you want to do in life and ask them as many questions as possible … Enjoy what you do.”


Automotive Technologies is one of over 40 career training programs EVIT provides for East Valley high school students and adults. EVIT students have a 98 percent high school graduation rate, two out of three go on to college, and 94% are in jobs related to their training, college or the military within a year of completing their program.


Enrollment for 2022-23 is under way. Start the process at


Triston’s Career Path:

  • Enrolled at Northern Arizona University in 2015
  • Left NAU in 2017 and got a job in HVAC
  • Enrolled in the EVIT Automotive program in 2019
  • Hired by Mercie J Auto Care in 2020
  • Completed EVIT training in 2021
  • Today, still working for Mercie J Auto Care as an automotive apprentice
  • Future plans: Earn master’s technician certification. Continue to develop automotive skills


Get started on a career while in high school:


How to enroll in high school programs at EVIT:

  • Complete and submit application online at
  • Parents/legal guardians of new students will need an active email account to access and use the online registration system
  • Upload attendance record, discipline record, current unofficial transcripts and proof of immunizations
  • Admissions office will inform students via email once application is approved or if more information is needed
  • EVIT is for all high school students – public, charter, private or home-schooled – who reside in one of 11 East Valley school districts: Apache Junction, Cave Creek, Chandler, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Higley, J.O. Combs, Mesa, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Tempe
  • More information: Call (480) 461-4108


How to enroll in adult programs at EVIT:

  • Schedule appointment to meet with an advisor by calling (480) 461-4110
  • Complete online application form at
  • Tuition rates vary by program. Apply for financial aid by visiting and using school code 035723
  • Send questions about financial aid to [email protected]
  • More information: Call (480) 461-4110