t-Rigoberto Cardenas

BC dual-credit student finds quick route toward career in local industry

BC dual-credit student finds quick route toward career in local industry

Tue Jun 25, 2019

Rigoberto Cardenas

Although he was only in high school, Rigoberto Cardenas knew early on that he wasn’t interested in taking the standard path through college. Rather, he wanted to find the quickest possible route toward a profitable career.  

He could have been similar to many others his age, finishing up his high school studies and then applying at a university. However, that path would still mean many more years of schooling before he joined the workforce.

Then a guest speaker at his high school changed his life.

“I was planning to go straight into college, but someone came to my high school and talked about what a process operator was and about how it made good money,” Cardenas said. “After that, I looked into it and realized that you can make really good money with good benefits with a two-year degree.”

While that helped spark Cardenas’ decision to attend community college, he still wanted to begin a career as soon as possible. It was then that he looked into dual credit courses with Brazosport College and discovered it was possible to earn an associate degree at the same time he graduated from Brazosport High School.

“I wanted to get ahead and start my career,” Cardenas said. “I had heard about people finishing their Associate of Arts before finishing high school and thought that I might be able to do that too.”

It took a few years of hard work, but he accomplished this goal in May of 2018. Actually, he finished his two-year degree one semester before completing his high school studies.

“It took a lot of staying up late, working on homework, every day,” he said. “And you have to make sacrifices in order to get the outcome you want.”

Less than three months later — a few months after his 18th birthday — Cardenas was hired as a production technician at BASF.

“I was working by August, but you really have to get out there and look for jobs,” he advised. “There are career fairs and many other things you can do to help you find the jobs, but you have to put yourself out there.”

Now, more than a year later, Cardenas is enjoying having a career — and a good salary — at a young age.

“Rigo has demonstrated the ability to learn the process and quickly become a contributing member to the shift from day one,” said his BASF supervisor, Omar Escobedo. “He possesses an excellent work ethic and has demonstrated the ability to work safely and incident free. In addition, he has contributed in safety improvements that have benefited our technicians.”

Cardenas is also a first-generation college student and has a family that’s proud of his accomplishments.

“I don’t come from a lot of money and my parents didn’t have a high school degree,” he said. “But the support was there.”

Today, Brazosport College is offering even more opportunities for its dual credit students.

Those seeking a fast-tracked pathway toward high-wage industry jobs might qualify for the new Catalyst program, which allows students from Angleton, Brazosport, Columbia-Brazoria and Sweeny ISDs to take a structured path toward the completion of an associate degree in Process Operations or Instrumentation Technology within one year of high school graduation or an applied baccalaureate degree in Industrial Management within three years of high school graduation.

As for Cardenas, he’s still taking classes at Brazosport College. The big difference now is that he’s not looking for a career, but rather, he’s seeking career advancement, as he’s working toward a Bachelor of Technology degree in process operations. Fortunately, Brazosport College is one of the few colleges in the state that offer this degree, so he can achieve this without leaving home.

“Everything is great here at the College,” Cardenas said of taking advantage of everything offered at Brazosport College. “But it’s just like a job, you have to put yourself out there. This College will help you if they know you want help.”