San Jac Certified: Finding the right path
07.03.2017 | By Madelon Zimmermann
PASADENA, Texas – Vanessa Ochoa says that it was a challenge not knowing where her career would lead her, but through San Jacinto College she found her path, working in higher education.
Ochoa, a Pasadena native and first generation college student, was drawn to San Jac for its proximity and affordability. “I always saw the college and thought that this would be the best fit for me,” said Ochoa. “I wanted to apply to other schools outside of the area, but with financial obstacles this worked out perfectly.”
While at San Jac, Ochoa was involved in multiple programs and student services on campus. In 2008, straight out of high school, she started as a G-Force tutor/mentor under a grant. Although very rewarding, Ochoa found a challenge in her close proximity in age with the students she was tutoring. “I was not that much older than a lot of these students, some of them looked at me like ‘how can I take her seriously,’” said Ochoa. However, when she sat down and talked to them, she was able to make them comfortable, often finding they shared very similar backgrounds and educational struggles.
After the grant for the mentoring program ended, Ochoa became involved in the campus’ First Year Experience (FYE) program and more specifically orientation. “I chose to stay to be an orientation leader because I would be able to develop those soft skills that I would need later in life and break out of my shell,” said Ochoa, adding that she also knew she would be able to help other students coming to the College in a new and different way.
Ochoa graduated from San Jac with an associate of arts degree in general studies. She then attended the University of Houston - Clear Lake, where she majored in psychology. “I chose psychology because I knew I wanted to do something that would enable me to help people on a day-to-day basis. Walking across that stage when I received my degree and having my family in the stands, knowing what I did, and paving the way for my siblings to follow, that was so rewarding,” said Ochoa.
Ochoa continued to work at San Jac as a part time administrative assistant in educational planning and counseling and tutored as an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) tutor for Pasadena High School. In January 2014, she was hired as the full-time administrative assistant for the career services office and was then hired as a career specialist for the career services office.
During her eight years at the College, Ochoa has learned to always believe in herself. “There will be obstacles that come our way; mine started at a very young age. But those obstacles helped me to stay focused and accomplish my goals,” said Ochoa.
Ochoa is currently working toward her master’s degree, hoping to one day teach at the college level. Her goal is to continue to work with career services and assist as many students as she can whether it is with career advising or looking for a job on-campus. “San Jac is a great place for students to begin their career journey. I think it’s important for them to remember that they are not alone, they may think that we do not understand, but many of us have walked the same path.”
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, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 30,000 students each semester benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers seven areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.