Demaris McCall, a third semester, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology (HVAC-R) student at Galveston College, comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His grandfather, Shern McCall, opened and operated a concrete business, which specialized in pouring slabs and driveways for new construction. Demaris began working at his grandfather’s business at the age of 13 and worked in the concrete industry over the next ten years. During 11th grade, Demaris dropped out of high school and assumed a full time, position with his grandfather’s company.
At the age of 20, Demaris became a father and his financial responsibilities dramatically increased. He typically worked at his grandfather’s business during the day and then worked in lawn care until 8:00 at night. From the age of 23 to 26, Demaris was also a client of Workforce Solutions and was enrolled in the “Labor Ready,” program. During that period, he earned his driver’s license and Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential (TWIC). While Demaris acquired additional skills in plumbing, sheetrock and basic electricity, prior to enrolling in Accelerate Texas, he worked for a cemetery service, earning $12 an hour.
In May of 2016, Demaris had a conversation with brother, Malcolm Norris, who had just completed a semester in a new program at Galveston College, called “Accelerate Texas.” Malcolm explained the program was designed for adults, who had not completed high school and provided an opportunity for students to prepare for the High School Equivalency Exam while also earning a certificate in a career trade. Mr. Norris referred Demaris to Galveston College Career Navigator, Sharon Pagan, to learn more about Accelerate Texas. When Demaris learned Accelerate Texas included GED Preparation and HVAC Training, he eagerly signed up to begin the program in August, 2016. Demaris explained, “I could not pass up the opportunity to prepare for the GED test while learning a technical skill.”
When questioned about his experience of taking a GED Preparation Class and HVAC classes simultaneously, Demaris said the Accelerate Texas’ GED class helped him better prepare for HVAC classroom assignments. For example, the GED Algebra review helped immensely, when he later had to estimate HVAC heat-load calculations. Galveston College Career Navigator, Sharon Pagan, explained Accelerate TEXAS programs truly accelerate students, helping them begin their career faster and also motivating them to do so by contextualizing basic skill training with technical training. The Accelerate TEXAS program is funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, with support from the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A & M University.
At the end of Demaris’ first semester in HVAC, the Accelerate Texas Program covered the fee for him to take the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA 608) Exam. Mr. McCall passed all three areas of the EPA Exam and earned the EPA Universal Certification. The Universal Certification permits Mr. McCall to work on small and large appliances, residential and commercial HVAC units as well as HVAC heating and cooling towers.
Demaris earned the Texas Education Agency, Certificate of High School Equivalency on March 11th of this year. Since he was enrolled at College of the Mainland Adult Education classes last fall, he was invited to participate in the College of the Mainland, May, 2017 Graduation Ceremony. He proudly wore a cap and gown and was recognized for earning his Certificate of High School Equivalency.
Demaris is well on his way to a life-long career. His next step? After completing his third and final semester of HVAC classes this summer, he will enroll at Galveston College in the fall and take the remaining academic classes required to earn his HVAC-R, Associate of Applied Science Degree. He looks forward to entering the HVAC workforce in January, 2018.
Galveston College’s HVAC Program Director, Ronald Foster, was asked about the hourly wage a graduate, with an Associate’s Degree, typically earns. Mr. Foster said beginning technicians are typically offered $15 to $18 per hour.
Mr. McCall said his children are proud of his progression through college and he plans to encourage them to follow in his footsteps. Mr. McCall is living proof that it is never too late for learning!