(WACO) – Texas State Technical College students Hector Corujo and Jose M. Rodriguez have a lot in common.
Corujo, 34, and Rodriguez, 45, are natives of Puerto Rico and U.S. Army veterans. They are both studying in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program and have received a national scholarship for members of the military and veterans.
The students received the 2017 3M Hire Our Heroes scholarship sponsored by the 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division and the Collision Repair Education Foundation. Corujo and Rodriguez were among 12 veterans receiving $2,000 scholarships. The students also were among 40 veterans who received tool grants.
“It helped me a lot,” Corujo said. “It took a burden off my shoulders. I feel like when I go out in the industry, I will be a more complete technician.”
The students were encouraged to apply for the scholarship by Clint Campbell, department chair of Auto Collision and Management Technology at TSTC.
“Any of the ex-military students tend to be mature coming to class and doing their work,” Campbell said. “They are prompt in being on time. They become leaders in the class.”
Corujo moved as a teenager from Puerto Rico to Florida, where he graduated from high school. The Killeen resident spent 14 years in the U.S. Army and worked as a light wheel vehicle mechanic. His Army stint included three tours of duty in Iraq.
Corujo is studying for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Refinishing Specialization with future plans to pursue the Advanced Technical Certificate in Auto Collision Refinishing.
He is scheduled to graduate in December 2018. His goal after graduation is to open his own auto collision and refinishing shop and own a home in the Hill Country with horses.
“I just like working on cars,” he said. “It keeps me at ease in dealing with PTSD for me.”
Rodriguez, of Kempner, grew up in Puerto Rico and studied criminal justice but could not find a quality job. His sister convinced him to join the military at 32 and he spent 11 years working in military intelligence. Rodriguez did one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two tours of duty in Iraq.
Rodriguez is working on a certificate in Auto Body Refinishing and is scheduled to graduate in December. He wants to work in an auto body shop after graduation.
He hesitated to apply for the scholarship at first because he felt others needed it more than he did. But in the end, Rodriguez said he was happy he received the recognition.
Rodriguez said he has enjoyed meeting other veteran-students while at TSTC.
“You exchange experiences and advice and opinions,” he said. “You get to help the younger students to be more proactive. We tell them to look ahead of the situation and think two steps ahead.”
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.