First college graduate in family enjoys career successJanuary 30, 2018

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Anthony Portillo

“The first time I was in an airplane was because of a class I was taking at Midland College,” said 24-year-old Anthony Portillo.  “The college sponsored a trip to the East Coast as part of their travel/study program.  We went to Washington, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.  Growing up, my family didn’t have the financial resources to take a lot of trips.”

Today, Portillo, now a mechanical engineer, travels quite often.  Last summer, he visited the Bahamas, and this coming summer, he is planning a cruise to Belize and Mexico.  He also enjoys weekend trips to places such as New Orleans and San Antonio.  One of his favorite pastimes is kayaking near Junction, TX.

Portillo is the seventh child in a family of ten children—eight boys and two girls.  His father was a nurse orderly, but suffered a back injury when Anthony was in the 7th grade.  His mom is a custodian at Fairmont Park Church of Christ.

“My parents didn’t go to college, and neither did my older siblings,” explained Portillo.  “College just wasn’t something my family considered.  When I was a senior in high school, my friends talked about college and started to get acceptance letters.  I remember thinking that if they could do it, so could I; however, my knowledge of college was vague.  I had no idea how to go about getting into college, and I knew that I was going to need financial assistance.  My high school counselor told me about the Legacy Scholarship for Midland College, so I started volunteering at nonprofit agencies in order to get the required hours to be considered for that scholarship.”

Portillo said that he was just about to also pay for an online resource that offers assistance with completing the application for federal student aid, a service which is actually offered free at Midland College (MC).  His mother intervened and called MC’s Cogdell Learning Center.

“An advisor at Cogdell walked me through the process of completing the federal application,” said Portillo.  “Before I knew it, I was enrolled in college, and not only received federal Pell Grant assistance, but also received tuition assistance through the Legacy Scholarship and the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship.”

That was in the spring of 2012, when Portillo was a senior at Lee High School.  In fall 2012, Portillo began taking classes at Midland College.

“I had no idea of my career goals,” stated Portillo.  “At first I wanted to be an architect.  I also love history.  However, when I took an algebra class at Midland College from Joseph Severino, I started thinking about becoming an engineer.  Mr. Severino is super laid back.  Everybody is always a little scared of math, but Mr. Severino made me realize that algebra was going to be ‘OK.’  I was always good at math in high school, but I was a little lazy.  I realized that if I was going to get ahead in life and have a decent career, I needed to start applying myself.”

Portillo continued to study and excel at MC, and with the help of MC advisors, he mapped out a degree plan that allowed him to transfer to Texas Tech’s School of Engineering. 

“The summer between transferring from Midland College to Texas Tech, I remember thinking, ‘Wow!  I’m going to Tech—and just a little over two years ago, I wasn’t considering college at all,’” said Portillo.  “My dad was born in Lubbock, and he was always a big Tech fan.  When I was growing up, I would watch Tech football games on TV with my dad, but I never dreamed that one day I would be going to school there!”

Portillo said that Tech was tough, but he had a great support team in Lubbock. 

"There were five of us who were transferring from Midland College to Tech and majoring in Engineering,” explained Portillo.  “When we got to Tech, we became a really close-knit group.  We studied together and even shared textbooks in order to cut down on expenses.”

In May 2017, Portillo graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He is now working for Milford Pipeline in Midland and enjoying the life that a successful career brings.  More importantly, however, Portillo said that he hopes he is an example to his younger brothers, nieces and nephews.

“My two younger brothers tell me that they also want to be engineers,” said Portillo.  “I tell them that they can do it.  It takes time and motivation, but if they are determined and work hard, it’s possible.  I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, but I know that I won’t be the last.”

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