Graduates walk across commencement stage with stories of job offers and university transfers

12.17.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

Donald Baumhardt walked across a stage at Minute Maid Park on Dec. 14, 2014, as a new San Jacinto College graduate, with an associate degree, a job, a promotion, and acceptance into the engineering program at the University of Houston. He is an example of student success that keynote speaker Khambrel Marshall spoke of during the San Jacinto College commencement ceremony.

"These people right here are the secret to my success," Baumhardt said of San Jacinto College staff as he reunited with Kaye Moon Winters, founder of the N2L Outreach and Support Center for the Adult Learner, and Amanda Rose, student life coordinator. "I came to San Jacinto College to make a clean slate and start over. I have enjoyed every minute of it."

Baumhardt already had an associate degree in information technology and programming. However, when the recession reached its peak in 2008, he was laid off from his job in the field. The military veteran enrolled in the engineering design graphics program in 2013 and received guidance from veteran success coordinators through the College's Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. After just one year, he was hired as a drafter with TKE Engineering & Design. Within eight months, he received a promotion as lead designer. He is a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and Student Veterans of America, and a recipient of a President's Volunteer Service Award for his contribution of more than 600 hours of volunteer work with Relay for Life and PTK.

Asked if his community college education is paying off, Baumhardt says the engineering design program results in careers that pay "very good money." He said two other San Jacinto College graduates were recently hired on with his company as well. Baumhardt's next step will be to attend classes in the summer of 2015 at the University Houston to pursue a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

Karely Paredes already has a bachelor's degree in hotel management from a university in Venezuela, but is now working with foster care children and recently graduated with a San Jacinto College associate degree in criminal justice. Paredes will begin pursuing a second bachelor's degree at the University of Houston-Downtown in January.

"There are a lot of jobs within social services, and getting my associate degree allows me to attend a university and move up in this field," said Paredes.

Ilse Morquecho received her associate degree in art and design and is on a mission to teach autistic children through art. She will transfer to the University of Houston-Clear Lake to pursue studies in special education. Her journey took a little longer than expected, having attended school off and on since 2008. Her walk across the San Jacinto College commencement stage was one met with reflection and words of advice to others.

"I would like students to know that they should never give up," said Morquecho. "Life happens, but always try to take at least one class a semester if you can. It make take you longer than others, but you'll get there and it will all be worth it."

About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

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