MAY 27, 2021
Alumnus, Jason Lopez, shared the following remarks with Capital IDEA’s long-time supporter, the Sooch Foundation, during a virtual site visit on April 28, 2021. Jason was also featured in an episode of KLRU Austin PBS’s docu-series American Graduate: Getting To Work that aired in November 2019. Click here to watch »
Hello, my name is Jason Lopez. With the support of Capital IDEA, I graduated in 2019 from Austin Community College with a degree in LAN Network Administration. I came to college with developed perseverance and a motivation to succeed that I learned from my family. I needed to be a positive change for my family, and it was my responsibility for my future.
I am the only member of my family to attend college. I needed to be an example to my siblings. My parents made many sacrifices for us, and it was my responsibility to take advantage and flourish with the opportunities that I had.
I went to my local public elementary school and during my last year, I got the opportunity to apply to a magnet middle school where I got accepted and took advanced courses that I found exciting. Up until that point, being a part of the magnet program was one of the most challenging academic experiences that I’ve ever gone through.
After middle school, I applied for a similar magnet high school. Unfortunately, I did not pass my algebra proficiency in the entrance exam, so I had no choice but to continue with a regular public high school. Fortunately, the challenging courses in middle school made high school a lot easier for me.
During my childhood, I saw my parents struggle financially. Even though they are intelligent and hard workers, finding well-paid jobs was not easy because neither completed high school. During my teenage years, to my surprise, my parents divorced, which meant that my siblings and I had to live between two homes. Those experiences increased my resolve to help my family and be an example to others. I wanted to show that even though you did not grow up with the best of circumstances, you can still succeed if you are determined to look for opportunities. I knew education meant a solid foundation for my future. I wanted a growing career with excellent income opportunities. When it came to college, I knew that my parents could not afford to help me financially, so it was going to be up to me to support myself.
I was not following a high school academic track that would make me stand out to college recruiters for potential scholarships. One day in my high school college counselor’s classroom, we had a presentation from a speaker named Daniel Lopez. He was there to share about a good option besides going to a four-year university. He explained how Capital IDEA would pay 100% for tuition, fees, books, and tests for workforce careers that are in demand in our community. I realized that Capital IDEA supports you financially from start to finish, but they also only offer high-demand jobs so you can’t go wrong by picking any of their careers. That solves two of the biggest problems the majority of college graduates face: student debt and getting employed after graduating.
I listened with even more interest when he said that they even offer paid internship opportunities during your studies! I thought, “what do I stand to lose other than my time?” There was essentially no risk in getting support from Capital IDEA compared to a regular four-year degree so I signed up, and I am so happy and grateful that everything that they promised they would do was true!
James was my Navigator. His guidance helped me navigate through college, registering, signing up for classes, getting internships. Anything administratively was made very easy by Capital IDEA through James. Having a mentor while going through the college experience made me feel comfortable and gave me hope whenever I was going through demanding classes like the required math class I took when I started. It was definitely difficult, but I learned how to manage my time better and that helped me get through it. Once I started taking my career-related classes it got easier, and my interest grew. Throughout my journey I realized that challenges were simply opportunities to become better than before, this encouraged me a lot.
I have always been timid and an introvert. I needed to develop my social skills and connect with peers to succeed in my career. My navigator encouraged me to network, so I did, and I met a lot of like-minded individuals who were after the same career and education as me. My peers were very supportive of each other. Being a part of Capital IDEA felt like I had a whole community by my side.
I am grateful for the two internships I did while I was with Capital IDEA. It exposed me to professional work environments, and I had a job offer before I even graduated. I accepted the job offer and to this day I am an Enterprise Technical Support Specialist for Spectrum Enterprises. I am still studying for additional I.T. certifications to become a Network Engineer for my company.
I am honored to return the favor by mentoring other Capital IDEA students and alumni, and peers at my workplace. I am also graduating this coming semester with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Network Operations & Security from Western Governors University. I bought my first home at 21, a year after I started working full-time, and have grown my retirement investments since then.
I have deep gratitude to Capital IDEA and donors like the Sooch Foundation who invest in people like me. During my late teenage years, I began reading and listening to financial gurus like Robert Kiyosaki, Dave Ramsey, and Warren Buffet, and going forward, I would like to do what Capital IDEA does but focus on personal finance. I want to mentor and educate others on topics like how to build credit, the importance of investing at a young age, and how to manage debt. Financial education is as essential as a college education and flourishing in both areas is a powerful combination. This is the path out of poverty. To this day, I reflect on a T-shirt I received from Capital IDEA when I got started that says ‘Be Your Own Hero’. That is exactly what I did.
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