In 1992, Lee College in Baytown, Texas established Project LeeWay to help low-income students, single parents, displaced homemakers, and single pregnant women have the chance to seek technical careers and gain access to vocational technical education and training.
In preparation for college-level work, students enrolled in Project LeeWay undergo six weeks of intensive training in math, reading, writing, study skills and computer skills. Upon completing Project LeeWay, students are eligible to enroll at Lee College.
“Although students may enroll in any program of their choosing, LeeWay does emphasize technical and vocational fields of study as a means of helping these students get back to work and back on their feet quickly,” explained LeeWay Director Clare Fleming.
“Many of our students have been out of a classroom environment for an extended period of time, so when they first enroll, many wonder whether they are even fit for college,” she continued. “But what we’ve seen is that after completing the program, they have new confidence and many set their sights on careers in science and technology.”
According to Community College Week Magazine, Lee College is currently ranked fifth in the nation among two-year institutions for awarding associate degrees in science and technology. The school is reporting continued record-breaking enrollment in technical programs—such as Process and Instrumentation Technology—which prepare students for careers with petrochemical plants and refineries as process technicians, operators, research technicians, and laboratory technicians.
Lee College is the perfect place for a degree in science and technology. One reason is the demand for skilled workers. According to recent reports from the Baytown-West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation, local plant expansions are projected to result in 22,000 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs over the next five years.
Another reason is the quality of the college’s programs. Students participate in an experiential learning curriculum that combines classroom experience with hands-on learning at the college’s multi-million dollar Pilot Plant, state-of-the art MicroPlants and instrumentation labs. Also, students have access to internships and co-op programs, many of which lead to full-time employment at area facilities.
“We have seen incredible success with our internship and co-op programs,” explained Lee College Director of Workforce Development Debi Jordan. “Nearly 100-percent of student interns are securing full-time employment upon graduation.
“Many of students are enrolled in these programs ‘just to find a job,’ but are now moving into lucrative, high-demand, high-skill, stable careers, providing a better life for themselves and their families in the process.”
One of the success stories of Project LeeWay is the journey of April Lemus. Eight years after enrolling in Project LeeWay, she is a level three instrument designer at Dow Chemical. She earned two associate degrees in Instrumentation and Computer-Aided Drafting and Design from Lee College and was able to recently buy a new home. She loves the professional challenges she faces everyday, and says the greatest reward comes from her children. “My son is 11 now, and he still remembers what life was like before Lee College. He came up to me the other day and said, ‘Remember the old house, Mom? We’d still be there if you hadn’t gone to college.’ And that makes me proud.”
For more information on Project Leeway visit http://www.lee.edu/special-populations/project-leeway/ or call281-425-6559.