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East County Thursday, Sep. 26, 2019 2 months ago

MTC graduate pursues her passion

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Manatee Technical College graduate was a full-time student while working as a custodian.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

While she worked as a night custodian at Manatee Technical College, Claudia Estrada Carmona’s mind was always on her web development classes from earlier in the day.

Between being a full-time student and working full time, the 31-year-old didn’t have much time for homework.

Even when she went to sleep at night, Estrada Carmona said she thought about the challenges presented in class.

“When I’m dreaming, and I have an idea, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I have to wake up to write down my idea,’” she said. “In the morning, I say, ‘OK, let me try that idea to see if it works with that.’ It’s not only in the class that you improve your skills … but also when I go home or when I’m here working. My brain continues working on the project or that specific challenge.”

She graduated from the college’s web development program in April and continues to work as a custodian at the college in the evening while she freelances in web development during the day.

As a web developer, Estrada Carmona uses the skills she learned throughout the program every day to create websites for her clients. She said it’s amazing to see the websites she created online and being used by her clients. She hopes she’ll be able to get a full-time job as a web developer in the future.

“I don’t see web development as a job,” she said. “I can say that I don’t work anymore. I just have fun every day.”

Estrada Carmona said she always knew she wanted to further her education. She received a bachelor’s degree in information technology in 2012 in Cuba.

She moved to Miami in 2016 and later to west Bradenton almost two years ago. After finding out about MTC’s 10-month web development program, she knew she had to enroll in it and pursue her passion.

MTC web development instructor Vera Bourenina said Estrada Carmona is “the most hard-working student.” When given a challenge, she “will try to do everything possible to solve the problem first without help.”

Monday through Thursday Estrada Carmona would start her day at MTC by 7:30 a.m. with web development classes. At 2 p.m., she began working as a custodian at the college until 10 p.m.

On Fridays, the college worked with her to adjust her hours because her work schedule conflicted with her classes. To make up for the hours she missed at work on Fridays, she would work every other Saturday.

“It was amazing because it’s a great opportunity to do both: study and work,” she said. “It was incredible. I’m really happy to have been doing that.”

Estrada Carmona said it was difficult juggling being a full-time student while working full time, but she believes that if you have passion for something, it’s worthwhile.

“We have fun,” she said.

She said it was also easier knowing her husband, Nelson Pena, was supportive of her going back to school.

She said her parents, Maria Eugenia Carmona and Jose Francisco Estrada, who live in Cuba, are the reason why she’s independent, resilient and able to adapt as she moved to the U.S. and went through the web development program.

Estrada Carmona has won awards as a web developer and a custodian. She competed at a national SkillsUSA competition in June, when she received a silver medal in the web design category with her classmate Shivangi Contractor. Estrada Carmona also received an incentive award from the School District of Manatee County for having perfect attendance at work.

“She’s an excellent worker,” said Ricardo Zarate, custodial department plant manager at the college and Estrada Carmona’s supervisor. “She’s very smart, always on time and very responsible.”

Zarate knew Estrada Carmona would do well in her studies and at work “because she was very serious about what she was doing.”

“People that come in like that I wish them the best, and hopefully, she finds a career that she falls in love with, and she’d like to do in the near future,” Zarate said. “I’d hate to lose people like that, but in the end, you want to see people better themselves.”

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