Seeing her son graduate with his mechanical engineering degree was a proud moment for Joshua Lademora’s mom. Not because of all she had sacrificed for him throughout his six-year journey, but because of what he had sacrificed for her.
Lademora’s interest in engineering began in high school after taking an engineering class and noticing soldiers returning from war who had suffered injuries that required prosthetics. With limited engineering knowledge, but a strong desire to help, he decided to study engineering and hopefully one day design medical devices for those who need them.
He started on the long road toward his degree in 2008. He wasted no time getting involved with the engineering organizations around campus, made tons of friends, and became an active member in the student council.
During the summer of his freshman year, he returned home to see his mother struggling to make ends meet. His parents had divorced a few years before, and she was unable to work due to an injury she had sustained years prior—the bills were starting to pile up.
“My mother and father came from the Philippines, and we didn’t have many relatives in the United States, let alone any who were able to help,” Lademora explained. “So in the Fall 2009, I invited my mother to live with me, so I could take care of her.”
He rented a small one-bedroom apartment for them to share. He gave her the bedroom so she would be comfortable, and he took up residency in the living room. He had two part-time jobs and would occasionally work as a tutor to earn extra money to support his mother and himself.
“My days were definitely packed,” Lademora said. “I didn’t really have time to waste doing things that weren’t going to help for tomorrow.”
For two years, Lademora and his mother lived together in the tiny apartment until he had saved up enough so she could move back to the Philippines to be with her family. While she was away, he concentrated harder on school and work and saved up money for when she returned.
Her trip was short-lived, however. Her visa expired before he had a chance to earn his degree, and she once again came to live with him. That’s when things got really tight.
“I had just started my senior year, and I was really focused on school so I wasn’t working at the time,” Lademora explained. “I was living within my own means, but not within the means of two people.”
He couldn’t support them both. Shortly after she returned, they lost their apartment. They were homeless until a friend offered them a room in his house.
“There were times where I was at the point of depression, I was asking myself if what I was doing was right, and there were just endless nights of tossing and turning, wondering ‘do I really want to keep doing this’ or ‘do I want to keep taking care of my mother,’” Lademora said. “It would be a lie to say it wasn’t tough—it was extremely tough.”
His bouts of depression and hopelessness were short-lived. On top of his full course load and work schedule, he served as president for the engineering student council, directed the Texas Energy Expo, and founded the Monster Mash Pumpkin Smash.
He also worked with other students in founding a company during the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship’s $100k Student Technology Venture competition. With his team, he developed a prototype sleep apnea machine better than any on the market. The prototype earned him and his team first place in the competition, and gave him another avenue for success.
Throughout his ordeal, Lademora never gave up, and credits his friends within the engineering department, the dean’s office, and the many engineering organizations he was involved in with keeping him going. He says his friends believed in him more than he believed in himself, and that kept him going.
“Josh is one of the most dedicated and persevering students I have ever come across,” Mauli Agrawal, vice president for research said. “Despite his family issues, he stayed in school to finish his degree. Moreover, he played a very active role in the COE student council and was instrumental in starting several of the student traditions for the college. He is a winner.”
The future looks bright for Lademora now. He is pursuing a career in engineering, figuring out what to do with his fledgling company, and still taking care of his mom. He says he is finally taking more time to be happy with himself and not stressing out about the little things in life.
“If I could go back and give myself any advice, it would be to learn to be happy, and don’t sweat the small things in life,” Lademora says. “The day to day stuff is gone when you go to sleep, and when you wake up there are new problems.”