Jason Painter builds solid future for his family and future students
Jason Painter (BSME ’12) always liked school, and math was his strong point. But following high school graduation, he decided college wasn’t for him. He married his high school sweetheart and started working in residential construction. But after a few years, he began to reconsider his decision to forego a college degree.
“I felt like I was failing,” Painter says. “I went through a spiritual awakening and realized college was the answer.”
Painter talked to his wife, Tiffany, and she was supportive, even though it meant Jason would have to work nights and go to school during the day to make it happen. But the couple agreed college was the right decision and that they needed to stay close to home.
“We weren’t going to uproot our family, so I went to visit UMKC. I fell in love with the campus the first time I walked around.”
While the Painters were committed to his getting his degree in engineering, the reality was more challenging than they anticipated.
“Going to work, going to school and having a family at the same time was incredibly emotional and physically and mentally draining.”
Painter was a third-shift janitor at an elementary school. He did his homework in a closet during his breaks.
“I am so glad I had the opportunity to go to school, but the saddest part was coming home at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning when my wife was getting ready to leave for work. I’d be able to see my son for five minutes.”
While it was a challenging situation for his family, was it justified?
“Absolutely. Hard – but worth it.”
Experiencing this challenge inspired Painter to give back, even while he was in school. UMKC Missouri Society of Professional Engineers coordinator Jane Vogl recalls that he invigorated the MSPE student chapter while he served as president.
“He tripled the membership and was always looking for ways for the SCE engineering students to gain hands-on knowledge through field trips to super structures,” Vogl says. “He arranged visits to the Harry S. Truman Dam in Warsaw, Missouri and the Iatan Power Plant in Weston.”
In addition, Painter volunteered for competitions and the E-Week blood drive.
His giving did not stop when he graduated. Painter has recently established a $5,000 scholarship for non-traditional students in engineering.
“Knowing that there are other people who are struggling inspired me to give back,” Painter says. “I had people cut me down and tell me I couldn’t do it. But I had a lot of help from my professors. I graduated cum laude. Sometimes, I can’t believe I got through it. I just want to help other people.”
Dahn Phan is the first recipient of the Jason and Tiffany Painter Scholarship. Phan is a non-traditional student who is studying electrical and computer engineering.
“My family immigrated to the United States during the Vietnam War with nothing besides the clothes on their back hoping for a fresh start to life,” Phan says. “Growing up, my parents did everything they could to provide food on the table and to give me and my brothers the necessities to succeed in life. With their sacrifice and dedication, I am proud to say I will be part of the first generation graduating from college.”
Painter’s scholarship helped make that success possible.
“Receiving this scholarship motivated me to maintain my GPA and has given me the opportunity to complete my final semester in engineering school,” Phan says. “I’ve been able to take time off of work and be more involved with school organizations and activities. This helped me build leadership and team-working skills, which I knew employers wanted.”
Phan met Painter during the School of Computing and Engineering scholarship luncheon last semester and they had the opportunity to learn more about each other’s families and their personal paths.
“I got to know a little more about Jason’s family and his history as a non-traditional student. After meeting him and learning that he works as a controls engineer at Kiewit, he inspired me to becoming a controls engineer as well.”
Phan is anticipating graduating this spring. He has accepted a job with the Global Product Development Division of General Motors in Detroit.
Painter’s future is also bright. He is in the midst of a 2-3 year power plant project at Kiewit. His goals are both simple and significant.
“I feel as if I made it already!” he says. “My goal is to be a good father and be there for my son. I missed out on a lot of the early years. My wife deserves a lot of the credit. She gave me constant affirmation that it would all be worth it. I’m just looking forward to our life together.”