PASADENA, Texas – The NRG Stadium on Saturday evening, May 16, 2015, served as an exuberant occasion for families celebrating alongside their new college graduates as San Jacinto College held its Spring 2015 commencement.
The event was witnessed by thousands and featured Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the United States Coast Guard Sector Houston – Galveston, as keynote speaker. Capt. Penoyer asked graduates 12 key questions that will serve to guide them on their educational and professional journey, and added, "With the entire spectrum that you bring of life experiences, I see a mirror of my own command and I see an affinity with you and the coast guardsmen that I serve every day."
Many of the San Jacinto College graduates plan to transfer to universities and start their careers with a renewed sense of direction, much like Alexander Corona. Corona once thought he would work as a laborer to earn a living after he was court ordered to earn his GED diploma after missing too many days in high school. However, his time spent pursuing a GED diploma turned into studying for an associate degree.
He is now heading to Sam Houston State University this summer with scholarship assistance for his tuition.
"Three or four years ago, I was expecting to go into hard labor work and turn that into that career," said Corona. "After coming to San Jacinto College, I realized there's more out there and that people like me are able to step up to the next level."
Corona took advantage of the college preparatory courses at San Jacinto College and passed the courses needed to get him to college-level courses. He became president of Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) and committee chair of the student government association. He even found an enjoyment for mathematics after taking an Acceleration in Mathematics (AIM) course with Professor Tammi Rice.
"In high school, I didn't know that I liked school yet," said Corona. "Tammi Rice pushed me to strive and to better myself."
Like Corona, Brianna Siller found enjoyment in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subject as well. She discovered her love for chemistry and is now heading to Rice University this summer to complete a research internship and will pursue a career in forensic chemistry at either the University of Houston or the University of Houston-Clear Lake in the Fall. She is a recipient of numerous STEM scholarships and has been selected to the NASA Aerospace Scholars program this semester to work with a team of fellow students to study Mars and create a prototype of a rover for a Mars mission proposal.
Alondra Moran is one of many Pasadena Early College High School students to earn the first college degree in the family. Moran walked in the San Jacinto College commencement as the first ever PECHS class valedictorian, as this year marked the first graduating class of the early college high school. Moran will attend the University of Houston in the Fall on a $20,000 scholarship to study mechanical engineering. She was also accepted to Texas A&M University and the University of Texas.
Clear Horizons Early College High School valedictorian, Rama Imad, is on her way to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, this year to study neuroscience. She is a recipient of $398,000 in scholarship earnings, most recently, a $2,000 from KPRC 2.
For Miguel Escamilla, earning a San Jacinto College associate degree in air conditioning technology creates an opportunity for his business to expand, and consequently he will inspect the mechanical systems of Houston Independent School District schools this summer.
The husband and father of three children is the owner of a home and commercial inspection business. He began taking heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) courses at San Jacinto College to learn more about the HVAC field, because much of his work deals with new energy codes. He took advantage of the College's flexible course scheduling to juggle his classes, family, and work and earned the San Jacinto College North Campus HVAC 2015 Outstanding Student Award.
"For me, this means a boost in business," said Escamilla. "Earning my associate degree is a dream come true."
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.