My Story: Thomas McCleister

By January 10, 2013Team

My story begins with an overweight, pimply faced freshman kid dreaming of making it to the NFL.  Little did he know, he would fall short (way short in fact) as he didn’t even make it to the first practice.

When I began my freshman year of high school I was 6’-2” and weighed in at over 300 lbs.  Walking through the halls I would constantly be asked if I played football to which I would reply “I wish.”  Well one day the head football coach approached me, he was a mountain of a man, and asked me to try out this summer for my sophomore year.  He assured me that the team could use someone of my size on their Varsity team.  I thought to myself “Varsity team in my Sophomore year, IM IN!”

Summer came and it was time for try-outs and a little something called “2 a days.”  If you have spent any time in Las Vegas you know that the heat can be unbearable.  Well working out 2 times every day in this heat made it all that more unbearable.  So about two days into the work out (not even to practice yet) I decided to call it quits.  After having realized that I will not be making it into the NFL (since I can’t even get to high school football practice) I decided to try another route in life.

My next door neighbor at the time had just gotten a job for an expansion joint company in Las Vegas and was using a program called AutoCad.  I would always be amazed at the capabilities of the program and the technological aspect of what he did.  I didn’t know it at the time, but as I sat and watched my friend use this program, I was looking at my future.

Concurrently, another friend of mine had been attending Advanced Technologies Academy and had become quite close with the Vice Principal of the school.  You see, this was a small school at the time, maybe 500 kids total.  After realizing that I couldn’t face the head football coach at my high school I asked my friend if he could get me a meeting with the Vice Principal.  Odd that a 15 year old has that pull, but he did.  The next week I was meeting with her in the office.

The Vice Principal was a large woman and I knew that she would understand what I was going through so I played the sympathy card since I had no reason to be going to a technical trade school to begin with.  Heck, at this time I didn’t even know what majors they offered.  I began to tell her my story of the football coach and the two-a-day practices.  After a long meeting, she agreed to let me into the school as a sophomore.  You probably aren’t aware but back in the beginning of this school they didn’t let just anyone in the school and typically didn’t allow you to start after your freshman year.  But she made an exception for me (maybe she saw some potential).

So I was in…now the only thing left to do was determine what I wanted to major in.  She began rattling off the different majors (Law, Computer Science, Programming, etc.).  Nothing sounded overly exciting to me and I think she could see the look on my face.  Then she said “We have this new program starting at the school next year called ‘AutoCad’.  Would you be interested in that?”  Being as I would sit and watch my neighbor use the program and it intrigued me I said yes.  I figure anything was better than going back to my old high school and facing the unbearable torment of teenagers ridiculing me for skipping out before making practice.


Before starting at A-Tech, I was never really exposed to Architecture or Architectural Drafting.  I didn’t know anything about design.  But I can tell you that after my first week of school I was hooked.  I knew at that point that this would be my career (and I didn’t even get to the architecture part yet).  The program intrigued me and came very natural to me.  Throughout the next 3 years we were able to take part in multiple design competitions and my knowledge of the practice of architecture continued to grow.  There was no looking back now…I knew that my new path in life was that of Architecture.

During my senior year of High School we were visited by representatives from High-Tech Institute in Phoenix, AZ.  Me and three of my classmates decided that we would sign up and attend the fall after we graduated from A-Tech.  18 months later I graduated with a degree that would not help me to achieve my goal of becoming an Architect since it was not accredited but did provide me with invaluable experience.

After graduating from High-Tech Institute I moved back to Las Vegas and began my career.  My first position was as an Electrical Draftsman and moved on from there to work in the Architectural field.  I have successfully moved from Drafter to Job Captain to Project Manager throughout the years.  And to think, this is all because of the summer heat in Las Vegas, a neighbor with a program and a friend with a connection.  Or, could it have been meant to be all along?


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