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Inspired Pathways Helps Make College Possible

J.K. Rose | November 13, 2023

Impact | Hormel Inspired Pathways

Illinois students learn career basics and life lessons

Through its Inspired Pathways program, Hormel Foods provides free community college and one-on-one college advising for all children of its team members.

This past May, 20-year-old Janeth Hermosillo proudly strode across a stage in the gymnasium of Illinois Valley Community College to receive her diploma after completing an associate’s degree in medical lab science. Just moments before, the college president handed her smiling 19-year-old brother, Alejandro, his diploma for an associate’s degree in art.

College is helping me get to where I want to be in life. It’s not only teaching me the basics of my career, but it’s also taught me everyday life lessons, like saving money and time management.

Janeth Hermosillo, Hormel Inspired Pathways Scholarship recipient

The siblings were recipients of the Hormel Inspired Pathways Scholarship, which pays for two years of community college tuition for children of Hormel Foods employees.

It was a joyful achievement for the entire Hermosillo clan: Janeth and Alejandro were the first college graduates in the family. The occasion was marked by a big party featuring heaping servings of smoked brisket, Janeth says.

The siblings grew up in the small town of Mendota, Illinois, where Janeth distinguished herself by being the rare female tuba player in her high school band.

“I was given the opportunity to switch from trumpet to tuba in freshman year, and I took it,” she says. She played the unwieldy instrument at football games, parades, and in the town’s regionally renowned Sweet Corn Festival, which pulls in thousands of visitors each August.

The siblings’ father, Gerudiel, has worked at the Hormel Foods Rochelle Foods plant for 25 years, lately as a supervisor. (“We were never short on bacon,” Janeth jokes.)

Inspired Pathways Helps Pave the Way

When Gerudiel heard about the Inspired Pathways scholarship, Janeth and her brother were eager to take advantage of it. “Mendota’s a small town, right off Interstate 39,” Janeth says. “There’s not much to do, other than go to school and hang out with friends.” Alejandro sped up his studies to finish high school early, so he and Janeth could carpool to Illinois Valley Community College together, a 50-minute commute.

Illinois Valley Community College Campus on a bright sunny day

From there, their paths diverged: Alejandro studied art while Janeth gravitated toward science.

“I knew I wanted to work in the medical field, but didn’t want to be a nurse or doctor,” she says. She had an aha moment in a microbiology class, while she analyzed soil samples under a microscope to identify the squiggly, back-lit shapes of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes on the plates. “I really enjoyed the class and thought, ‘Hey, maybe this could be a career.’”

Turns out it is. Medical technicians, she was thrilled to learn, spend their days collecting and analyzing samples of bodily fluids so doctors can make informed decisions about patient treatment plans.

Transfer to the University of Illinois

This fall, Janeth transferred into University of Illinois in Springfield, where she’s studying for a degree in Medical Laboratory Science. The job market looks promising: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s a shortage of medical technicians in many parts of the country, which means an abundance of openings.

But Janeth already has her eyes set on one hospital in particular: Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago — the oldest hospital in the city and one of the top-ranked in the country.

“They probably have a whole lot of opportunities available there to grow and expand,” Janeth says.

Meanwhile, her brother Alejandro has transferred to Southern Illinois University, a college three hours away from his sister, to study business law.

Now both siblings are ready for the next stage of their lives.