Midland native prepares for engineering career

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Midland native prepares for engineering careerAugust 18, 2020

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Juan Padilla

“I’ll be honest—the whole reason I enrolled in the Petroleum Academy when I was a high school freshman was because I thought it would be an easy ‘A,’” Juan Padilla said.  “I had no idea I would enjoy it so much and that it would be a determining factor in my career choice.”

Padilla graduated from Lee High School this past May.   In addition to his high school diploma, he also received a certificate in Energy Technology from Midland College (MC).  As a student enrolled in the Midland College/Midland ISD College & Careers Petroleum Academy, Padilla was able to take dual credit courses from Midland College while still in high school.  In approximately 18 months, he will complete all required coursework to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Energy Technology.

“My ultimate goal is to get a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineer,” Padilla said.  “By getting an associate degree first, I hope to be able to work in the energy industry while I’m completing college.”

As a high school student in the Petroleum Academy, Padilla took hands-on Energy Technology courses at the Midland College Advanced Technology Center.  Academy curriculum prepares students for entry-level positions as lease operators, lease managers and general field service technicians within the oil and gas industry.  Coursework focuses on highly specialized technical classes as well as safety practices and training

"I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn in a hands-on environment,” Padilla said.  “We worked on projects and experiments as part of a team.  It wasn’t just about learning course material, though.  We practiced job interviewing, resume building—really getting prepared for the real world.  I also had the opportunity to make connections to jobs and people through guest lecturers and job fairs.  One of my instructors, Mr. Cummins, would also tell us about various scholarship opportunities.”

Padilla said that he followed up on these opportunities, and when Cummins told the class about a scholarship being offered through Lockheed Martin, Padilla completed the application. 

“It wasn’t a very difficult application to complete, so I decided, why not; I didn’t have anything to lose,” Padilla stated.  “One day I was sitting in the kitchen reading my email, and to my surprise, there was one from Lockeed Martin telling me that I had been awarded a $6,600 scholarship!”

In February 2020, Padilla earned 1st place in mechatronics and 2nd place in automotive tool identification during the regional SkillsUSA competition in San Angelo.  SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  The program helps students excel in leadership, technical and occupationally related skills.  Padilla and other MC/MISD academy students were slated to compete at the state SkillsUSA competition in Corpus Christi in April, but the competition was canceled due to the pandemic.

“It has been a pleasure knowing Juan,” Pete Avalos, MC department chair of Petroleum Energy, said.  “From the first time we met, it was apparent that he was very dedicated and self-driven.  With his work ethic, there is no doubt that he will one day achieve his dream of completing a degree in one of the engineering fields.  We are extremely proud of Juan because he is a wonderful young man, great example to other students and represents MC very well.”

Padilla has lived in Midland his entire life.  He currently lives with his parents Jeannette & Danny Freeman.  His biological father Juan Antonio Padilla, Sr. passed away when he was just a year old.  Padilla’s grandmother, Belem Morales, has been hospitalized for the past month with COVID-19, and Padilla is excited to finally have her home. 

“I want to make my grandma proud by becoming successful, impactful and encouraging because I want to show the love and support I’ve received through my family and her, and reciprocate those things to my community,” Padilla said.

He attended Anson Jones Elementary and later Bush Elementary and then Abell Junior High.  As a high school student at Lee, he was a member of the drum line in the Lee High School Band and a three-time Division 1 solo contest recipient.  He also competed at state UIL solo and ensemble competitions at the University of Texas, Austin. 

“So, it hasn’t exactly been an ‘easy A’ like I originally thought, but it has been fun and interesting,” Padilla said.  “I’m glad I took Petroleum Academy courses when I was in high school.  I think that I’m more prepared for a career than a lot of guys my age.  I’m looking forward to taking more Energy Technology courses at Midland College this fall.”

 

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