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Co-Ops Build Solid Foundation for First-Generation Civil Engineering Major

A first-generation civil engineering student

Now in his third co-op, Jason Vasquez ’22 is ready to take the lessons he learned—and a commitment to giving back to the community—out into the world.

Jason Vasquez ’22 was 12 when he started tagging along with his dad on landscaping and construction jobs, so he’s used to getting his hands dirty. But he’s always liked making something out of nothing, and he loves creating with purpose.

Over the years, he’s seen his dad use his skills to give back to his community, and Vasquez wants to do the same. As a senior at York College of Pennsylvania studying Civil Engineering, he’s well on his way.

Hands-on learning

For Vasquez, the co-op program was one of the biggest selling points of York College. He’s now in the middle of his third co-op, this one with Century Engineering. “Having that experience is very valuable,” he says.

Vasquez isn’t fetching coffee or watching from the sidelines with the company; rather, he was one of the designers for a new segment of Route 1 in Delaware. If accepted, his concept design could help ease congestion.

Being a part of such a major project, Vasquez says, was huge. “It was a life-changing experience.”

He’s also sketched 2D models for roadways, worked with drones to take aerial photos, and contributed on major projects. “Having a co-op definitely allows you to know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do,” he says. “I think that’s really important.”

A York College family

York College’s Civil Engineering program keeps classrooms small, so professors really get to know all their students. It’s something Vasquez values. “It’s like a family bond,” he says. “Having that relationship with the teachers has encouraged me to want to become better every day.”

With knowledgeable professors, Vasquez says he’s been exposed to a wide variety of subjects that prepared him to succeed in his co-ops—and beyond.

“I’m prepared for whatever is next,” he says. “It's just allowed me to grow as a person and a future civil engineer.”

Following in his father’s footsteps

Through his co-ops and classes, Vasquez has found his passion and hopes to innovate new infrastructure working as a design engineer. He wants to carry on his dad’s legacy of a strong work ethic and giving back to the community, something he says is ingrained in his Central American Hispanic background. “I do see myself following in my dad’s footsteps,” he says.

He remembers his dad helping to design and build a church and how meaningful that was. “I think it’s really cool to be able to build something with purpose behind it,” he says.

Vasquez will be the first in his family to earn a college degree—a major source of pride for him and his family. “Now that I’m about to graduate, it’s kind of mind-blowing,” he says. “That will be a great moment.”