35-year-old Trevin Cox and his partner were thinking about buying a restaurant and bar before the COVID-19 pandemic changed their plans. Instead, Trevin was laid off from his job in the service industry due to the virus—twice.

After the second time in September 2020, he was motivated to go back to school, though he had spent years away from the classroom. Trevin googled, “What’s the community college in Chicago?” When he saw “City Colleges of Chicago” in the results, he thought, “sounds great.”

He met with a CCC advisor over Zoom and enrolled in 12-week online classes shortly after that. His partner did the same.

Trevin says he had always been interested in engineering but never had the motivation to follow through. So, when he heard about the Engineering Pathways program at Wright College during one of his physics classes, he was curious to learn more.

Trevin met with the program’s executive director, Dr. Doris Espiritu, who explained the benefits, including guaranteed admission to the engineering programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign and the Illinois Institute of Technology. He applied right away, ultimately getting accepted to the transfer track to IIT.

From transfer help to extra-curricular activities like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Trevin says the “engineering pathways program offered so much support.” Additionally, his associate degree in engineering science was fully funded by a federal Pell grant, and he received emergency grants from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), part of the CARES Act.

That support will continue when he transfers to IIT this fall. In addition to a $25,000 scholarship he received through the Engineering Pathways program, Trevin was one of six City Colleges students to earn the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The prestigious award covers up to $55,000 per year, which will allow him to receive his accelerated master’s degree in aerospace engineering at no cost.

“I won’t have to stress about paying for my classes,” he said, referring to the scholarship. “I feel like I can succeed without constantly worrying how I will pay my tuition.”

Trevin will be 38 by the time he completes his degree, and he’s looking forward to starting his career in the engineering field then. His dream of working at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, or anywhere at NASA is a far cry from his aspirations just a few years ago, but Trevin has advice for others like him and his partner who are thinking about starting over in a new industry.

He says, no matter what stage of life you’re in, “it’s always possible to switch careers.”

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