A BETTER FUTURE
Takanda Epps laughs now when she thinks about her start in automation robotics and her lack of knowledge about tools. ‘For me, a hammer was a high-heeled shoe, and a screwdriver was a butter knife,” says Epps, the mother of two young boys. It was her sense of humor and her determination that helped her overcome obstacles that would have kept many individuals from achieving their goal. Completing her studies in December 2012, Epps is the first African-American woman to graduate from HTC’s Automation Robotics Engineering Technology program. But it’s something that happened by accident.
Epps didn’t intend to pursue a degree in automation robotics. She had worked at the Minneapolis Veterans Hospital for 13 years and thought she would complete general education courses at HTC and then transfer to a Twin Cities college offering a respiratory therapist program. That all changed when her work study job in HTC’s Admissions department turned into an Admissions Specialist position and she began taking prospective students on tours of various departments, including manufacturing areas. The more she saw, the more she liked the career prospects. At first, Epps considered studying fluid power, but then she decided that robotics, a career she had briefly considered after high school, was the right choice. Generally considered a non-traditional choice for women, automation robotics offered Epps an opportunity for a career that will provide financial stability for her and her sons.
“To go from not knowing anything, to where I am now, it’s just amazing,” Epps says with enthusiasm. She enrolled at HTC in 2010 and declared her major in 2011. “I have taken 19 or 20 credits each semester in order to get through as soon as possible.” With sons who were two and six years old when she began, that meant a lot of juggling to keep up with her family responsibilities as a single mother, all while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average. “When people asked me how I kept up that pace, I told them, ‘Sleep is overrated,” she recalls with a laugh.
Keeping her sense of humor and faith helped her over the rough spots. At one point, Epps and her boys were homeless; for eight months they moved from hotel to hotel. She kept on going to class and studied after her boys went to sleep at night. When she couldn’t access the Internet on her computer, she accessed it on her cell phone in order to keep up with her studies.
Along the way, she applied for and received scholarships from the Hennepin Technical College Foundation, which made it possible for her to continue her education. As a speaker at the Foundation’s 2012 fundraising dinner and auction, she shared her story and her appreciation. Now she’s proud to encourage other young women to go to college and prepare for a better future.
“My niece dropped out of high school, but now she’s going back to school,” says Epps, who knows that hard work and perseverance have gotten her this far. She hopes it’s an example that will resonate with girls she has mentored. As she explains it, “They can do so much more with their lives when they have an education.”
After graduating from HTC, Epps plans to find a full-time job in the robotics field and also continue her education as a part-time student through the University of Minnesota, Crookston. She plans to take one class a semester so she can eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Management. HTC’s articulation agreement with UMC will facilitate transfer of the Automation Robotics A.A.S. credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
Excited about starting her career, Takanda Epps appreciates how far she has come. “You don’t have to know a lot about technology or tools to get started,” she emphasizes. “HTC instructors are great and you’ll learn all you need to succeed.”
Last updated by jlaabs : 2014-03-17 13:29:15