Thanks to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, El Campo native Ismael Mendez is able to continue his education.
Mendez has completed three semesters at Wharton County Junior College, with a fourth semester seemingly in doubt. Earlier this fall, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Educational Programs division awarded Mendez a $5,000 scholarship – funds that will keep the 19-year-old in class and one step closer to his dream of becoming an engineer. Since 2015, the HLS&R has providing scholarships for WCJC students entering technical fields like engineering design, process technology and welding.
“It was incredible to get this scholarship because I have been going through some pretty serious financial issues,” Mendez said. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to pay for college after this semester.”
Living with his parents and three siblings, Mendez splits his time between classes at WCJC and his job at Crop Production Services in El Campo. Over the summer months, he worked full-time, roughly 56 hours a week, harvesting and testing different varieties of rice. Once the fall semester started, Mendez still managed to put in 30 hours of work per week while tackling a demanding 15 credit hour load in the Engineering Design Program.
“My backpack usually consists of books, paper, pencils and a drafting kit as well as a change of school clothes,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like Superman running and changing from one uniform to another, glasses and all.”
A portion of the money he makes goes towards helping his parents with the expenses of running a household. His mother works for the Louise Independent School District while his dad is employed in pipe irrigation. Like other south Texas residents, Mendez’s family was personally affected by Hurricane Harvey and has since struggled to return to normalcy.
Unanticipated repairs and costs meant there might not be enough funds left over for Mendez’s college. Thanks to the HLS&R Scholarship, Mendez’s immediate educational future is now set.
“I’ve been pretty blessed,” he said.