Homeless HCC student on path to success
Nov 19, 2015
Mark Gonzales has spent a great deal of his young life displaced, but the Houston Community College (HCC) student is not allowing the circumstances to determine his future. When Gonzales was nine, his mother lost custody of him and he was sent to live with his father. By the time Gonzales reached high school, he was homeless because his father could no longer support him.
“I spent my entire highschool career staying with friends and luckily they had family who supported me along the way,” said Gonzales.
That support system guided Gonzales to excel in school, participate in ROTC, and become a star athlete. Gonzales went to live at Covenant House Texas, a place that shelters homeless teens and abandoned youth. He graduated with honors and was presented with two amazing opportunities: one to attend the Naval Academy and the other to attend the Robert Garner Firefighter Academy at HCC. Mark chose the firefighter academy so he can get a certification and a job to support his younger sister, who is also at risk of homelessness.
Gonzales is one of three recipients of the Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to freshmen students for fire certification and emergency medical training at a local community college. Once he completes the fire and EMT training, he will be eligible to begin a career with the Houston Fire Department. Gonzales has also received support for training gear from the Robert Garner Firefighter Foundation.
“I chose firefighting because it creates a life-changing bond and that is what creates success,” he said. It is all about teamwork. If you have that mindset, you will make it.
” Although attending school and living in a homeless shelter has it challenges, Gonzales remains focused in his studies and participates in speaking engagements where he shares his story of struggle and success.
“I let them know that I beat adversity and that I didn’t make any excuses,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales will complete the Basic Firefighting Certification in December and the EMT program in the spring. He praises HCC for the small class sizes, faculty expertise, and student success rates. Once he has those certifications in hand, Gonzales plans to become a Houston Firefighter.
The HCC Robert Garner Firefighter Academy is a part of the Public Safety and Automotive Technology Center of Excellence located at the Northeast Campus, 555 Community College Drive. For more information on public safety programs, visit hccs.edu/coe.