In December 2022, Isaac Garcia sat in the Don Haskins Center at the University of Texas at El Paso as names were called to the stage.
When it was his turn, he climbed the stairs, and shook the Dean’s hand as he accepted his diploma, recognizing the completion of his Master of Science in Construction Management.
In any circumstance, a master’s degree is a significant feat and Garcia completed it only nine months with a 4.0 GPA. However, he’s no stranger to adversity. In his 28 years, he’s known struggle and grief but used each challenge to fuel his future success.
Garcia grew up in Hondo, Texas, approximately 40 miles west of San Antonio, and for most of his childhood, he lived with his mother and younger brother, Lorenzo. His father was never part of his life, but he had a close relationship with his grandparents who often stepped in as extra support. It wasn’t an easy upbringing, and Garcia and his brother were often uprooted, moving from house to house. But he was adaptable and remembers much of his childhood fondly, until a tragedy changed the course of his entire life the summer before his freshman year of high school.
Garcia’s mom passed away when he was only 14 years old. He was left with his 8-year-old brother and a quiet grief that would follow him through every major event in his life over the next 14 years. However, Garcia refused to be swallowed by the void left by his mother’s passing, and instead focused on his new priority – raising Lorenzo.
“It was two weeks before school started and all I could think about was my little brother,” Garcia said. “He’s growing up, he needs to learn things and needs help with homework and projects. I taught him how to ride a bike, how to play sports, how to drive a car. I had to do everything that parents should do, both sides.”
For the next ten years, Lorenzo was Garcia’s focus. Even after graduating high school, Garcia stayed close to home and attended The University of San Antonio, studying Public Policy and continuing to help with his then middle-school-aged brother.
“I was new to [higher education] and didn’t have much guidance of the classes I should take or whether or not I should look into certain majors,” Garcia said. “I took some courses with my friend that were interesting – like criminal justice – and I thought I may want to be a lawyer someday.”
Over time, he realized that law school wouldn’t be the best fit for him but decided to continue forward with his degree. In 2016, he became the first person in his family to graduate from college.
After graduation, he returned to his job as a team leader with the paving company where he worked alongside his grandfather and within a few years, it was time for Lorenzo to graduate from high school. It was an emotional moment for Garcia to see Lorenzo moving on to this new stage of adulthood, especially as he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps and would be leaving for training. Even though he’d miss Lorenzo, Garcia beamed with pride.
After his brother left for basic training, Garcia felt it was time for him to finally return to focusing on his own future.
He started by looking for careers that incorporated what he enjoyed. Since Garcia is a self-taught artist who is known for his exceptional portraits, he investigated a career in architecture. After speaking with practicing architects and sharing his strengths and struggles, many asked if had considered a career in construction management because of his construction experience. He thought it was worth exploring.
Sure enough, it was the perfect fit, and he began his master’s program through the University of Texas at El Paso in January 2022 and simultaneously began looking for a summer co-op or internship opportunity. That’s when he found Robins & Morton.
In May 2022, he came onboard with Robins & Morton’s San Antonio office, learning the ropes of real-time construction management and client support. A few short months later when his coursework was complete, he was offered a position as a field engineer to continue work on local projects. He’d finally found his place.
Since beginning his career with Robins & Morton, he’s earned field, estimating and project management experience and he wants to continue learning about operations. He’s currently supporting several of the projects managed by the San Antonio team, including Westover Hills Baptist Hospital on the west side of the city. One day, he hopes to become a project manager.
“It took me awhile to figure things out, but I always understood that we all have different timelines,” Garcia said. “Regardless of mine, I know my mom would be proud.”