BRENHAM, WASHINGTON COUNTY For 13 years, Magdalena Padron lived within walking distance of the Blinn College – Brenham campus without ever taking a class.
Both her daughters had taken advantage of the opportunities a college education offered, entering respective careers in nursing and accounting, but Padron never worked up the courage to enroll until a coworker completed the A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center’s Professional Office Specialist course, where she learned basic office skills for a career as an office manager, administrative assistant, executive secretary or general office employee.
In her 12th year as manager of the Quizno’s Restaurant on Highway 290 West, Padron saw an opportunity to learn the computer skills she struggled with on a daily basis.
“I didn’t know anything about computers, and where I work, I need some knowledge of basic computer skills,” she said. “I was so excited when I found out I could go to this course and learn what I needed.”
The 12-week course taught Padron far more than just computer skills. The class also covered bookkeeping, payroll, inventory management and bank conciliation, in addition to word processing and spreadsheet software. It also covered customer service skills, workplace communication and behavior, email, verbal and nonverbal communication and formal and informal communication and listening skills.
With more than a decade of management experience at her disposal, Padron was clearly knowledgeable about much of the course curriculum, but she was also extremely quiet.
“She was very, very timid in the beginning,” Instructor Donna Kelling said. “She would look at me at times and say, ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ and we’d talk and I’d tell her, ‘Yes, you can. You’re going to be fine.’”
It wasn’t until several weeks into the course, when they were filling out forms detailing their previous education that Kelling learned why: this wasn’t just Padron’s first college-level course – it was the first time she had enrolled in any form of organized schooling.
Padron had grown up in a family of migrant workers, traveling from farm to farm to pick crops. She was never in one community long enough to settle down and attend school.
Blinn’s Professional Office Specialist course was the first time she’d ever stepped foot in a classroom.
“I had no education and no experience at all, so I was kind of nervous,” Padron said. “At first I would just listen, but after two or three days I began to feel comfortable in the class and I began talking.”
Padron’s revelation came as a shock to her classmates and to Kelling.
“She truly was an inspiration, not just to me but to everyone in the class,” Kelling said. “It was very eye-opening for all of us who had been with her all this time because we’d had no idea that she had been self-taught and self-trained like this.”
Padron, who earned her Professional Office Specialist certificate in August, said the class has already made a difference in her job performance. She recently corrected an error with her daily sales spreadsheet using the skills she learned from the Hodde Center.
Padron said her next step is to earn her GED with the help of the Hodde Center’s friendly staff.
“I have more confidence in myself now,” she said. “I just wanted to know that I could do it. I did need the skills, because at Quizno’s I do need to know how to use spreadsheets and Microsoft products, but I did it mostly because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”
The 12,000-square foot A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center was built in 2009 to provide local training for a quality, viable workforce in Washington and the surrounding communities. Its staff works in cooperation with local businesses to provide a well-trained workforce that strengthens the local economy. For more information on the Hodde Center and its course offerings, call 979-830-4443 or visit www.blinn.edu/blinntec.