“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.”