Lupita Escandon has heard her fair share of “nos.” The mother of three young children had faced plenty of obstacles in balancing life at home with her dream of embarking on a career path for the betterment of her family and herself. “Mom’s going to have awkward hours and all of that,” she explains. “Honestly, a lot of us don’t do it because we get a lot of nos.”
But when the petrochemical industry gave her a resounding “yes,” she went for it.
When Lupita decided to return to school two years ago—uncertain in her ideal future career path—she found the Process Technology program at San Jacinto College (about 20 miles east of Houston) to learn the ins and outs of how to be an operating engineer and the safety practices at refining and petrochemical manufacturing facilities. “I took it and I ran with it,” she recalled.
Lupita knew she wanted a career she could challenge herself with and earn enough money to make the years of juggling school and tasks at home worth it.
“We chose [Process Technology] as a dream, it’s a career,” Lupita said of her and fellow women and working moms. “It’s something that we want to do to fulfill our dream, our family’s dream, and it makes us confident to know that we can go out there and do it because a lot of other women are doing it as well.”
San Jacinto Process Technology student Lupita Escandon with her husband and three kids.
Gabriel Mckinzie, one of Lupita’s peers, plays a big part in making sure students like her take advantage of the abundance of opportunities the school provides to help them succeed in a rapidly changing and expanding industry.
“All of our professors are top-notch,” Gabriel said. “They actually bring equipment back from their previous companies and share them with the students. ‘Hey, this is what a valve wrench is. This is a smart pig. This is what it’s used for. This is what you’re going to see out in the field.’”
Gabriel is president of the Process Technology Club, a student-led organization that aims to provide its members the tools and knowledge to increase their chances of finding a career in the industry. As president, Gabriel takes charge in welcoming in companies such as ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell to conduct mock interviews with students right on the spot for internships.
And for Gabriel, the club also means an opportunity to give back and help fellow students like Lupita reach their highest potential.
He has co-founded two scholarships, one of which Lupita was awarded. “We all sat down, came together, and brought this to the chairman’s attention,” Gabriel said. “He thought it was a great idea as a way for all of us to be able to give back to the program and to the students who are getting ready to step into the industry.”
Scholarships like this are important to student parents like Lupita and Gabriel, and Congress has taken notice, increasing national funding for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program from $15 million to $50 million a year.