From Student to Staff at Gary Job Corps

Heather Burdick loves talking to students at the Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas.

“So, what’s your trade?” she asks a couple of students as they walk down the halls of the center. “Pharmacy tech,” replies one student. “Oh, good trade,” says Heather with a smile on her face.

Another student chimes in, “I’m medical assistant.” “Medical assistant, that’s awesome,” says Heather.

“I feel like I relate to them,” explains Heather. “They’re like, ‘You don’t know what’s going on.’ And I’m like—actually, I really do know what’s going on. And I feel like I get down on their level. And I related to them, and I can give them advice.”

The reason Heather connects so well with these students is because she too was once a student at Gary Job Corps.

“You know I’m a graduate of the program.,” she says to a couple of students in the Gary nursing program.” “Really?” says one of the students. “Yes. I’m right next door, so if you guys ever need anything.”

Heather loves Job Corps because it lifted her from a life of drugs, worry, and conflict.

“I was tired of living the same old job, eviction, from apartment to apartment and drugs and job to job. I just had enough of it.”

So, she joined Job Corps.

“Oh, it was the best decision I ever made. I’m not who I used to be. I’m different. I didn’t really know what goals were. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.”

Heather graduated from the center’s computer service technician program and landed a job at Texas A&M.

“I was real insecure at first,” she explains, “because I didn’t I think that I could do it. But once I got in there, I was like ‘wow’ they trained me really well. I knew more than, you know, people that were teaching me.”

Heather eventually found herself back at Gary Job Corps, this time as a staff member.

She’s worked at Gary for six years and was recently promoted to work in student training.

Heather graduated from Austin Community College with an associate’s degree in science in business administration and just enrolled at Western Governors University to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and management.

“I love this place. I love what it does. And I want to continue to give back to the students, because the staff gave to me.”

Today, Heather is happily married, successful in her career, and loves motivating students. And did we mention she’s the state chili ladies champ?

“So, on the weekends, we go out and cook chili for charity. And on one of the occasions, breast cancer awareness was the charity, and I won the ladies state chili champion of Texas. My grandmother is a two-time survivor of cancer, so I cooked this chili for her.”