GOOD NEWS: Cuban immigrant, US Army veteran graduates with computer programming degree

Special to the Odessa American

By Rebecca Bell

MC executive director, Institutional Advancement

MIDLAND Fourteen years ago, Reynaldo De Avila Antúnez and his mother migrated to the U.S. from Cuba and moved to Hialeah, Fla., located in the Miami metropolitan area. De Avila Antúnez graduated from high school in Hialeah and when he was 20, he joined the United States Army.

During the five years that De Avila Antúnez served in the Army, he was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen and at Fort Bliss in El Paso. He also served a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.

“When I was discharged in El Paso, I moved to Midland to work in the oil and gas industry,” De Avila Antúnez explained. “I worked for various oil companies, but working in the oilfield wasn’t how I wanted to spend the rest of my life until retirement. So, in August 2018, I enrolled in Midland College and started working toward credentials in Computer Programming. Thankfully, I was able to use scholarships provided through U.S. military veterans assistance programs to help fund my tuition.”

De Avila Antúnez said that he had always liked computers and had always thought that he would like to have a career as a computer programmer, but obtaining the necessary education and then finding a career in Cuba was not that easy. If De Avila Antúnez were able to get training and land a job in Cuba, his income as a computer programmer or software engineer would only be about $744 per year, according to In the United States, De Avila Antúnez has the opportunity to make over $40,000 a year starting salary.

However, it isn’t just the salary that draws De Avila Antúnez to a career in computer science.

“Computing is part of just about everything that touches our lives from the cars we drive, to the movies we watch, to the ways businesses and governments deal with us,” he said. “Everything is based on computers. I like being able to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to figure out the best code for the software or application to give the user the best experience.”

During the time that he was taking classes at Midland College, De Avila Antúnez also worked 30-35 hours each week at Whataburger on Interstate 20 in Midland. He has been married to his wife Myrna for nine years, and the blended family consists of four children ranging in ages from 2 to 16. De Avila Antúnez said that it is important to him to find time to spend with his family, and they enjoy watching movies and playing games.

On May 7, he graduated with an associate of applied science degree in computer programming, and he is looking forward to obtaining a job where he can design, develop, test and produce computers and their subsystems. While he enjoys Midland, he is also open to relocating. In addition, he would like to continue to go to school in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

According to estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow by 12 percent from 2018 to 2028—much faster than the average for all occupations. Moreover, the median annual wage for these jobs is $86,320, which is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $38,640. Also, the BLS reports that one doesn’t need to have a four-year degree to succeed in this lucrative field. It is not uncommon for computer programmers with associate degrees and five or more years of experience to earn around $80,000 per year.

Adriana Lumpkin, Midland College Computer Programming professor said that De Avila Antúnez is extremely hard working.

“He is one of the students that will probably go on to do great things,” she said.