You could say Jordin Olivarez is finishing what she started 21 years ago.
In December 2000, the San Jacinto College student's mom, Stacy Harris, was pregnant when she began the new eye care technology program. Her daughter attended classes with her until she was born the next June.
Now the 20-year-old Olivarez is on track to graduate from the College's eye care technology program herself.
"We both did it to get on our feet," Olivarez said. "She needed something to start providing for me. I was the same age as her, and I wanted to work in an adult field."
Once she earns her occupational certificate, she will have the skills to enter the optical field like her mom before her.
Eyes on San Jac
Olivarez took a year off after high school, working as a restaurant hostess while figuring out her next steps. She wanted to find a career that interested her and paid better than seating restaurant guests, but nothing had clicked yet. Her mom stepped in to help.
"Just like my own mom did, I told Jordin about San Jacinto College and how they have a lot of programs to help students learn skills and kick-start their careers," Harris said.
Then, in a "why not?" moment, Harris shared how the eye care technology program had launched her into the workforce. After graduating in summer 2001, she landed an optician job. She got married, welcomed another daughter, and continued working while moving with her active-duty husband.
In all, Harris worked almost a decade in eye care until she became a single mother again. She joined the Army herself and eventually wound up with her girls in Washington, D.C., with positions at the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.
Thanks to the Hazlewood Act, her veteran disability, and Texas residency, Harris could offer her daughter this perk: 100% of tuition covered at San Jac.
That sealed the deal. And with a little more time, Olivarez was eyeing just one program. Everything had finally clicked.
Partners in the journey
Now 1,400 miles away from her mom and sister, Olivarez admits the distance has challenged her. But she is staying with her grandfather while taking classes.
Although "not a big school person," she has found a comforting routine in helpful teachers and hands-on training.
This spring, Olivarez started her practicum at Safety RX, a local company that creates custom prescription glasses for industrial workers. Unlike her classmates, she has an unusual study buddy — her mom. They connect via FaceTime for tutoring sessions.
"It's kind of nice that she understands and can help me through everything," Olivarez said.
Twenty years apart, mom and daughter share similar journeys. Although Harris already has a storied career behind her, she thanks San Jac for writing the first chapter and for giving her daughter options too.
"I am grateful for programs such as these that help single moms like me and others in similar situations gain skills for a better future," she said. "I am very proud of Jordin and hope this program provides the same kick-start to her career as it did mine."
Eyeing a career in eye care?
Gain the knowledge and skills to work under a licensed eye care professional. Learn how to perform diagnostic tests, fit patients for glasses and contact lenses, and more. With 100% job placement, San Jac's eye care technology program at the Central Campus guarantees student success!