School was traumatic for me,” said Jesse Trejo. “I started first grade in Kansas, and because my parents are native Spanish speakers, I couldn’t speak any English when I started to school. In the early 70s, there weren’t a lot of Spanish speakers in Kansas, and I was the only child in first grade that didn’t know English.”
“I’m from a working-class background. Work has always been important to my family, and my parents instilled a strong work ethic in their children.”
Trejo persisted, however, until his junior year at Midland High School, when he dropped out to get a full-time job painting apartments. Eventually, he received his GED® from Midland College (MC) but didn’t think he would pursue any additional education.
“I’m from a working-class background,” explained Trejo. “My dad worked for a meat-packing company and did some migrant farm work. When I was in the fifth grade I started working in the fields, also—mainly in Kansas and the Texas Panhandle. Work has always been important to my family, and my parents instilled a strong work ethic in their children.”
So, it was natural for Trejo to work hard when he and his wife Irma were starting their family. Trejo stated that he eventually became frustrated because he was a faithful employee, knew the business and wanted to advance to management-level; however, his superiors told him that he needed a college degree.
Trejo said, “It became apparent that I would have to get a college degree if I wanted to further my career. That’s when I enrolled at Midland College. It wasn’t easy. Fortunately, the staff in the financial aid office helped me to obtain scholarships, such as the Abell-Hanger GED® Scholarship, which is awarded to GED® completers pursuing degrees at Midland College. At the time, I was in my 30s with a wife and two small children. Sometimes I would stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to finish writing a paper.”
Approximately 35 percent of GED® completers pursue higher education opportunities. Jesse Trejo was one of them and eventually earned two degrees from Midland College—the first in general studies, and more recently, one in computer graphics. The hard work was definitely worth it. Immediately after graduating, Trejo was hired to work in the engineering department at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) district office in Odessa. For the past three years, he has served as district facilities coordinator, overseeing maintenance of all TxDOT facilities in a 13-county area.
During the time that Trejo was working toward his goal of earning a degree, he also took classes in what has become a passion—ceramics
“I love creating things with my hands,” explained Trejo. “When I first started taking classes at Midland College, I wanted to take something fun in addition to my basics, so I enrolled in a sculpture class. I saw people working on the potters wheel and creating wonderful ceramic pieces. The next semester I enrolled in a ceramics course, and I think I’ve taken a class every semester since then!”
“From the start Jesse excelled in my art classes,” noted retired art professor Carol Bailey. “He is now an accomplished ceramic artist with numerous awards for his unique and challenging ceramic works. He not only is talented, but also is generous in sharing his knowledge and skills with others. It is certain that whatever Jesse takes on, he will go the extra mile and produce something way beyond average.”
Trejo is more than just a student—he mentors new students. In fact, recently, Trejo rebuilt the kiln in the MC ceramics lab. Approximately three years ago, Trejo was a featured artist in one of Midland College’s Studio 3600 Series art shows. In addition, Trejo has been a juried artist in several Midland Arts Association exhibitions, including their spring 2013 show at the Museum of the Southwest where he won a first place award. His specialty is producing intricately designed teapots.
MC Director of Alumni Relations J. Don Wallace stated, “Jesse is a true asset to the Midland community. Not only does he value the importance of education, but also is a very talented artist and stays active in the promotion of art. He is an advocate for higher education and makes it a point to tell our younger generation his story of how he is a first-generation college student.”
Trejo and Irma have been married for 27 years—Jesse said that he noticed Irma when he first moved to Midland in the eighth grade and knew she was the girl he would one day marry. The couple has two children—Courtney, age 24, and Brandon, age 19. Courtney also graduated from Midland College and now works at Community National Bank in Midland. Brandon is currently enrolled in MC classes and is following in his father’s creative footsteps—his photography was chosen for display at the Midland Arts Association spring juried show.
Trejo said, “When I dropped out of school at the age of 17 to paint apartments, I did not even dream of being where I am today. While I was growing up, college was not something that my family discussed. On the other hand, my children would say going to college was discussed all the time! I am proud to be a first-generation college graduate. I owe a lot to Midland College. The degrees helped me obtain a great job and advance in my career, and it is through ceramics classes at Midland College that I have found a lifelong