On Campus: The information technology pro

terrence_mcbride.jpg My hand-scrawled sign at the table I set up at Century College in White Bear Lake on Wednesday said conversations 25 cents. Terrence McBride, 24, of Inver Grove Heights was one of the first in line. He put 25 cents down. I put 25 cents down. “Whichever one of us enjoys the conversation more, the other one gets the money,” I said.

“Anybody’s life can get out of whack when they’re looking at the peak of a mountain,” McBride said when I asked him about looking at the challenge he faces in a bad economy. He’s one of thousands of students across the state who are pretty sure better times are ahead, because in some ways, they’ve already arrived. In a challenging economy, he’s biting off a daunting task in small bits.

McBride, who admits he “screwed up” when he was a teenager, was working at an auto dealership, performing oil changes when he saw which way the economy was heading. “There were firings and I have a six-month-old daughter and I wanted more job security,” he said.

He wants to become an information technology specialist and he talks “when,” not “if.” He goes to school fulltime and works fulltime.

“How hard is that?’ I asked.

“Not hard enough to keep me from doing it,” he said. “If something is really important to you, there’s nothing that can stop you.” His girlfriend is a nursing student and they get by by cutting expenses. “We don’t go to movies, we buy movies on demand, we don’t go out to eat. I study and I go to work. In the long run, I’m relatively sure it’s going to pay off.”

Despite the bad economy, McBride says the work will pay off. “You can have any perspective on this whole economy that you want to, but people still have jobs. No journey is impossible if the first step is belief.”

That’s when I gave him the quarters.

He says two years from now he hopes to be doing an intership in “some sort of conglimerate, slowly working my way up the ranks. I’ve been down and out myself and I bring more maturity than a normal 24-year old.” He says his girlfriend will be in nursing, and his daughter will be in preschool “to get a head start on her education.”

“I don’t want to raise my daughter as a statistic. I want her to have a choice as to which school she goes to. I want her to have me in her life. I’m a black guy with a daughter and there’s so many prejudices about that. I want her to have as good of a life as anybody else,” he said.

And what will he says to the kid in the auto dealership when he needs his car’s oil changed? “Stay in school. Get into school if you can. Apply for financial aid if you need to. Set a small goal each day. That’s what I did. I broke it down to tasks. Check out a school, pick a school, apply for financial aid, get books, arrange my schedule and work schedule, then all the pieces start fitting together.”