Friday, June 16, 2017

Eclectic interests help guide career choice for MC student

MC Photo by Rebecca Bell
• Midland College Student Success

By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

“Love what you do, and you’ll be doing what you love.” That is 20-year-old Tony Harris’ take on life.

So, what exactly does he enjoy?

“My interests are weird; I love using math to solve problems, but I also have hobbies in LEGO, fiction writing and the Second World War,” Harris answered. “God willing, I plan to use all of these things to make a career for myself in mechanical engineering.”

Harris and his siblings spent most of their school years as home school students. The family used curriculum from Texas Connections Academy at Houston, a tuition-free virtual school that gives students the flexibility to learn at home with online and video-synchronized instruction that meets rigorous state educational standards.

In the summer of 2015, he began taking classes at Midland College.

“I was originally looking into a career in law enforcement,” Harris stated. “My family encouraged me to take an advanced math class – just to see if I liked it. The class was Calculus 1 and my instructor was Joseph Severino. He was so good that I gave him a nickname: The Mathemagician!

Harris cited his older sister Rachel as a tremendous source of help as he continued taking math and science classes on campus.

“I took a physics class last summer and really enjoyed it,” continued Harris. “It was then that I realized that I really ought to look into becoming an engineer.”

Harris credits his MC professors with teaching him how to solve a problem and also with explaining the reason for solving the problem. He said the small class sizes and one-on-one instruction enabled him to see how a problem in the classroom can relate to real-world situations. He feels confident about continuing his studies at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin because of the excellent background he received at MC. He has maintained a 4.0 grade point average at Midland College and takes 12 to 14 credit hours each semester.

“You may as well do your best, or don’t do them at all,” explained Harris with a laugh.

Not only is Harris an accomplished student, but also is a hard worker, who has managed to pay his entire tuition at MC over the past two years himself. He has earned a good bit of his money working in the college’s math lab.

“Working in the Math Lab is the best job I ever had,” said Harris.

His previous jobs included helping his grandfather with his side business of picking up brass casings and melting them down for scrap metal. During his high school years, he worked for his stepfather’s lawn business and did some janitorial work at a warehouse in Odessa.

Family is important to Harris, who has 6 siblings—3 older sisters, two younger sisters and one younger brother.

“The way we spend time together is entirely unique,” explained Harris. “My siblings and I used to play with LEGOs when we were young and we haven’t ever stopped. Of course, we’ve moved on from building forts and cars; now we play a kind of sit-com. One of us will start with a basic idea, and then everybody begins to add to it. We end up with these wild adventures that you’d have to hear to believe. Over the last ten years, we’ve come up with well over 500 characters and made a fairly continuous story out of all of it!”

Harris said that the LEGO stories serve as inspiration for one of his other hobbies – writing fiction. He has taken Creative Writing at MC, and last fall he won first place in the Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Contest.

His favorite pastime centers around World War II, a passion he inherited from his grandfather. He collects WWII memorabilia, including clothes, equipment and arms.

“I have always loved the 40s,” stated Harris. “It gives me a sense of reference for all the wonders of the modern world.” Harris listed It Happened One Night and Key Largo among his favorite movies.

“But more importantly, my interest in the past gives me a standard to for which to strive,” he explained. “I have read a lot about the Normandy campaign in 1944. The average soldier hitting the beach or dropping behind enemy lines was only 19 or 20 – guys my age. I think about all the terrors and grief they endured to win a foothold in fortress Europe, which led to the liberation of France and eventually victory on the Western Front. I know why they are called ‘the greatest generation,’ and this gives me the motivation to do whatever work God puts before me – academic or not – and do it well.”

Harris is certainly living proof of a young man destined to achieve great things.

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