It was a stroke of bad luck that brought him to Orange, but it was the opportunities at Lamar State College-Orange that kept him here. Computer science student and 2012 LSC-O graduate, Joseph Catano, has had job opportunities lining up around the block for him since he graduated with his associates degree in information technology support specialist. However, he is currently balancing a full-time job and a full class load while he works towards his second degree in computer science.

In the spring of 2010 Catano transferred to LSC-O from Texas Tech University when his scholarship went bankrupt and he could no longer afford to stay in Lubbock. While he originally planned to only earn his ITSS degree, he was talked into also simultaneously working toward his associate’s degree in computer science. The change of pace from Texas Tech was glaringly obvious from the get-go to Catano, who claims that the attention given to him by his professors is why he is where he is now.

Taking both online and on-campus classes, he says while the material he was learning at Tech was the same level of difficulty here at LSC-O, it was the professors’ want to help that made it seem easier.

“I remember walking into my first chemistry class at Texas Tech, which was a class of 300 students,” said Catano. “The teachers didn’t take roll, they didn’t know your name, and they definitely didn’t have any motive to want to help you. But at LSCO, that was all different, and I immediately noticed the teachers wanted to help, and my grades improved because of it.”

Among his favorite classes were the CCNA classes where he got to work hands-on with the Cisco routers, as well as the programming classes. Catano is currently developing apps for Microsoft to use in their new app store for Windows 8, utilizing the skills he learned in Julie Jinks’ programming classes. In 2011, he says he was very close to getting picked over for an internship working with the Department of Defense, but because his favorite professor brought it to his attention, he was given that opportunity.

“The internship was brought to my attention by Mrs. Dotson,” said Catano. “She also contacted Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School and set up an appointment with the technology director for me to do another internship. In those internships, I learned valuable skills that a class simply can’t offer. I learned a little bit more about not only computers, but communication as well.”

At the end of his internship with LC-M, the school asked Catano if he would be interested in coming back for the summer to work, which he accepted and worked at until December. During that time, Dotson pushed Catano to join the campus chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. He joined and quickly took office as the vice president for the 2011-2012 school year. In the spring semester that year, a group of students from AITP traveled to San Antonio for the annual AITP convention.

“There I got to sit in on different seminars by IBM and Microsoft,” he said. “While we were there I also got to take certification exams for free and compete in competitions based around different technologies and programs.”

Dotson says it was his initiative to take the Microsoft Technology Associate exams that spring, and his ability to pass several of them, that has made him a successful student.

“He was very active in our AITP chapter, leading as both vice president and president when needed,” said Dotson. “I also had him in several classes and during that time, it was evident to me that he was an exceptional student and had the drive to succeed. Not only did he succeed academically, but he was also a team leader in group projects in the classroom.”

After graduating with his ITSS degree in spring 2012, he began applying for jobs in his field all over the area. Within a few days, he started receiving calls from potential employers. With his decision to keep attending LSC-O to work toward a second degree, he had to find a company that was willing to work around his class schedule. Eventually, he got a call from LC-M High School again, asking if he was interested in working part-time for the summer.

“I jumped on it, and as the summer started dwindling down, they told me I could stay longer if I wanted, so I did,” said Catano. “At this point I was working 32 hours per week at Wal-Mart, 20 hours per week at LC-M, and taking a class load of 14 hours at LSCO. That was a schedule I had to carefully balance.”

Eventually, Catano decided to apply for a help desk position at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas and was hired on. Still there now, he gives help desk support to Beaumont Baptist, Orange Baptist, and Yoakum Community Hospitals. Yoakum is a hospital 232 miles and Catano says it surprises people when he can fix their printers from his desk in Orange.

“I know for a fact that the degree was what got me this job,” he said. “That and maybe the speech class I took which helped me interview well. But yes, the ITSS degree has helped my career significantly.”

For the past two semesters, Catano has been working toward his associate’s degree in computer science, with which he plans to turn into a bachelor’s degree by taking “mostly” online classes at Lamar University in the fall. Ultimately, he would like to be a network engineer or director for a hospital in Dallas. Since working at Baptist, he says he’s decided he enjoys working in the health side of technology, a job that is extremely secure.

“I have no doubt that Joseph will succeed in whatever job he holds,” said Dotson. “He is very knowledgeable, has a great attitude and work ethic, and takes the initiative to get the job done. I am proud to say that he is an IT graduate of LSCO.”

“I know I may be on the bottom of the chain right now, but I can only go up from here,” he said.