On Friday, Jackie Cook joined nearly 100 other Texas State Technical College graduates who received a certificate or an associate degree during the college’s commencement ceremony at the Stafford Centre.
The 31-year-old walked across the stage to receive his associate degree in Cybersecurity Technology as his family and friends witnessed the graduate’s proud moment.
“This is a huge achievement for me,” he said. “It’s a brand-new chapter. I’ve been working toward this for a while now.”
After his first stint in college didn’t go as planned, Cook served in the Army for nine years, with a deployment in Afghanistan.
“College wasn’t going so well, so I enlisted,” he said. “I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps.”
Cook was no stranger to military life. His father served in the military, and the family moved to destinations around the world, including Japan, where Cook was born.
“It was challenging as a child, moving from place to place,” said Cook.
“But as I got older, I found the adventure in it, and meeting new people was always the silver lining.”
Although meeting new people and experiencing new places was exciting for Cook, he realized he wanted more stability for his family. In 2018 he decided to leave the military.
That was when TSTC came into the picture.
“I needed to return to school and get an education,” he said. “I needed a new career, and education was the key.”
With an interest in computers and a father who specialized in information technology and encouraged him to pursue a career in the field, Cook found Cybersecurity at TSTC and thought of it as a perfect match.
“I have found that I really enjoy network security processes,” said Cook. “I want to be the person that blocks threats, and TSTC has prepared me for that career.”
He added that although hands-on training and getting to practice what he learns has given him confidence to enter the real world, it has been his instructors’ eagerness to help that has made all the difference.
“Our instructors have been there to help and go above and beyond,” he said. “They ensure that we understand the material and that we are learning skills that will make us marketable to employers.”
And with his student worker position at the Cybersecurity labs, Cook has had the opportunity to learn even more by using his skills to help others in his class.
“Overall, my entire experience at TSTC has prepared me for the future,” Cook said. “And I’m definitely ready for what’s next.”
With several job offers in hand, the husband and father of one said TSTC has changed his life and his family’s life.
“It’s been an interesting journey to say the least. Being in school with a family had its challenges, but we got through it,” he said. “Everything I am doing is for them, and now I’m going to be able to support them and give them a better life.”
Statewide this fall, more than 1,000 TSTC students will receive certificates or associate degrees and join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.
Cybersecurity Technology is also offered at TSTC’s East Williamson County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses.
For more information, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/CyberSecurity.