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SPC banner bearer will earn degree, sets sights on career in engineering

LEVELLAND – Ely Orona of Denver City will be among the first graduating class in South Plains College’s Fall Commencement ceremony set for 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 15 (Friday) in the Texan Dome. She will carry the banner for the Technical Education Program.

Orona’s participation in the event not only represents the culmination of three years of hard work in the classroom, but it also represents the first of many goals she has set for herself academically.

When Orona arrived at SPC, she was a pre-engineering major. She soon discovered that mathematics was not her strongest subject. It took a presentation by Travis Osborne, instructor in industrial manufacturing-emerging technology (IMET), to spark Orona’s interest and persuade her to pursue IMET.

“He came into one of my math classes, and he described the program to a tee,” she said. “He was telling us all about hands-on experiences and that if you like to break things and put them back together or see how things work and use some coding, that’s everything I wanted.

“I took the shot, and I asked him more about it and got more information,” she said. “He gave me a tour of the shop, told me how the classes would be, and I enrolled in that following semester.”

Orona grew up in a household of mostly women. Her father, Samuel, is outnumbered as the lone male surrounded by females. He and his wife, Elidia, are the parents of three girls: Carolina, also an SPC graduate, is a traveling nurse who recently joined the staff of the new University Medical Center on 114 Street and Slide Road; Samantha, also a recent graduate from SPC is now a student at New Mexico Junior College who plans to pursue a career with Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and Ely, who will soon receive her associate degree in IMET at SPC.

Orona arrived in the program, and she was greeted by at least 12 male students. She knew that, as the only female student, she was not going to be intimidated. In fact, she reverted to her quiet persona until she started garnering praise from the program’s faculty.

“That motivated me and gave me confidence to do everything just like the guys,” she said. “In time, they warmed up to me, and we all started getting along.”

Orona was intrigued by the Tin Man Robot Competition, which featured competitors from each SPC location as well as high schools in the area. Her team finished third in the competition, she said. Although their robot didn’t get blown up or torn apart, they had too much power running through their lines, which fried them and disabled their robot. Orona said she was devastated, but she learned how to trash talk the other competitors.

Since her arrival in the program, four female students have enrolled this semester. Orona said the course that focused on PLC which dealt with programming different types of scenarios was the most challenging. She said she loved how the professor would reassure her almost daily that she was progressing nicely through the program.

“They would say she’s killing it in this class – she’s doing great,” she said.

In the fall of 2022, an opportunity from Texas Tech University was presented, and with a little push from her professors, she took it. She was to work closely with engineers for the Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC) where they made a prototype of a wind turbine at a competition filled with numerous top-notch universities.

“I figured it was an extracurricular that would benefit me in more ways than one such as, the experience working with engineers, hands on work, making connections, etc.,” she said. “It is what I am most proud of during my time at SPC. I feel like I had made a huge impact during this time, my friend/classmate and I made some noise being a crucial part of the team as well as being top women! Every chance I had I made sure to let everyone know I am from South Plains College.”

Orona is now planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado. She said being in the IMET program has helped her excel despite being a male-dominated program.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity with a great support system,” she said. “I realize I’m not done yet.”

Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technology The Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technologies program is designed to prepare graduates to proficiently perform within various aspects of the manufacturing profession. The program prepares graduates to be employed as “Production/Service Technicians” in multiple career options including Drone Repair, Petroleum/Alternative Energy, Semiconductor/Electronics, Network Communications, and Cotton Production. Successful completion of the 60 credit-hour curriculum awards an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technologies. Although opportunities to achieve “TSI Waived” Certificate of Proficiencies are available to students as well.

Program advisor at the Levelland Campus and SPC Reese Center is Bill Tackett, Associate Professor of Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technologies. Program advisor at the Lubbock CTE Center is Rodney Busby, Instructor in Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technologies. Program advisor at the Plainview Center is Salvador Molinar, Instructor of Industrial Manufacturing/Emerging Technologies.

IMET instructors have extensive backgrounds and training in their specialized areas, and an advisory committee of experts in their field meet regularly to review the program and keep it up to date with industry and employment.


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