“I used to wait tables, but in 2003 I started helping my dad out in the air conditioning business he started in the early ’90s. He went through Eastfield College’s air conditioning program and is an adjunct faculty member there.
“I started the air conditioning program at Cedar Valley because it was close to where I lived, and my dad knew a lot of people in their program and said they were good. I worked days and went to school at night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., four days a week, so it was a hard schedule to keep up. It was sometimes challenging because there weren’t a lot of other women in the program, but I ended up being someone who helped everybody else. Because I was already working in the business, there was a lot I knew and had already done.
“The quality of my air conditioning classes at Cedar Valley was great. There’s a lot of information to learn in those two years, but it’s really hands-on, and there was always help if I needed it. Chris Colquitt and Loren Hines, who was the Saturday and evening tutor when I was there, were just awesome.
“I liked that Cedar Valley was a small college with only one air conditioning and refrigeration lab. It wasn’t easy, though. If you don’t pay attention to what you learn in the classroom and lab, you’re not going to know what to do in the field.
“I’m helping my dad manage his shop, but I’m technically an HVAC technician. I like the troubleshooting and problem-solving aspects of this job — it’s very mechanical and hands-on.
“People see me driving the company truck and ask me where they should go to school if they want to be in this business. I tell them, don’t spend $40,000 on an education when DCCCD has an even better program at a fraction of the cost. You’re still going to need field experience to get a job, but you’ve also got to have that educational base.”
Kathy Dana earned an associate degree in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology from Cedar Valley College in May 2007. She works in the small residential HVAC company, Dana Air, that her father, Joe Dana, founded in DeSoto in the early ’90s.