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    Santiago Canyon College helps utilities technician map out a career
    • May 29, 2024

    By Greg Hardesty, contributing writer

    Teresa Hodges recalls seeing surveying data on maps while working for the City of Carlsbad and wondering what the numbers meant.

    One day, she told herself, I’m going to learn about that.

    And so, at 62 years old, she is.

    Last year, Hodges took her first surveying course at Santiago Canyon College in Orange. The tough 90-minute, one-way commute from her office in San Diego County a couple of times a week for three-hour evening classes didn’t deter her.

    Things got easier, driving-wise, the next semester, when Hodges took a follow-up course on advanced plane surveying.

    Now, she’s also taking classes in SCC’s water utility science program with the goal of becoming a wastewater treatment operator or water treatment operator.

    “The instructors are all encouraging,” Hodges said. “It’s been a fabulous and wonderful journey.”

    The same could be said of Hodges’ life.

    Encouraging upbringing

    A former Marine with a varied professional career that has included managing a women’s athletic clothing store, Hodges, along with her husband, Joseph, has raised four children who now are in their 30s.

    Two decades ago, Hodges overcame two extended and potentially debilitating illnesses to return to college. Her thirst for learning comes from her parents.

    “They always encouraged us to be avid readers and to get a good education,” said Hodges, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. A utilities engineering technician for the City of Carlsbad’s Municipal Water District, .

    Hodges started with the city as an engineering technician in the transportation engineering department in 2018 but made a lateral move to her current job in 2021.

    Teresa Hodges at her job with Carlsbad Municipal Water District. (Photo courtesy of RSCCD Communications)

    In her current position, she uses computer tools such as Autodesk Civil3D to work with civil engineers in a 3D model-based environment to produce such things as location maps for complex infrastructure projects.

    Serious health issues

    In high school, Hodges became interested in fashion merchandising as well as drafting.

    She was 17 when she entered the military on the delayed-entry program. Hodges served four years in the Marines, working in supply and later as a chaplain’s assistant, and settled in Macon, Ga., after being honorably discharged in 1984.

    She got married while working as a store manager and taking business courses at a junior college. In the early 1990s, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and, after that, polymyositis, an autoimmune disorder.

    Those serious health issues brought her family to Southern California so she could be treated at Naval Medical Center San Diego (her husband works for the U.S. Navy).

    After doctors got those diseases in check with no serious lingering issues, Hodges started taking college courses in 2005 — first at MiraCosta College in Oceanside.

    “Going back to school was a marker, a signifier of me regaining my life back from these illnesses,” Hodges said.

    She went on to earn an undergraduate degree in history at Cal State San Marcos, where she was on the honor roll, and she also took water technology and wastewater technology classes at Palomar College in San Marcos.

    “I’ve always been interested in history,” Hodges said, “and when I took my first wastewater class, I simply fell in love with the history of it and the microorganisms that help clean up the water. I was just fascinated by that.”

    She found out about SCC’s surveying course while attending a water education seminar there in 2021.

    “Oh, my goodness!” Hodges recalls thinking. “There’s a surveying program here? I couldn’t believe it.”

    High-level education

    Hodges, who lives in Oceanside, plans to continue taking classes at SCC through 2025 and then work on becoming certified in wastewater and water treatment.

    She said all the professors at SCC have been very approachable.

    “You can ask them any questions,” she said, “and they’re always available.”

    Hodges is grateful for the high level of education she’s receiving at SCC.

    “I can’t believe I’ve been afforded the opportunity to learn surveying and water utility science at Santiago Canyon College,” she said. “There are so many aspects to both. It’s blown my mind.”

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    ​ Orange County Register