Marco Campos had to be a self-starter to go to college.
As a first-generation student from humble beginnings in Denver, he paid for his civil engineering degree at the University of Colorado through a Pell grant and working 20-25 hours a week while attending school full-time.
Now, the successful entrepreneur and philanthropist is so committed to easing that financial burden for other students that he’s funding scholarships at other schools where Campos has no connection, including Colorado State University.
The Campos EPC First Generation Engineering Scholarship, established with a $250,000 gift to the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, will provide $10,000 scholarships for first-generation students with the greatest need over the next two years.
“Thanks to the generosity of Marco and his company, many of our vulnerable first-generation students can keep their focus on learning without major financial stress or disruption,” said Dave McLean, dean of the college. “Marco’s gift helps us with our mission of teaching, research and outreach for all students, not just those who can afford college.”
Since 2015, the Campos EPC Foundation has funded a camp that introduces high school students from diverse backgrounds and underserved communities in Colorado to what it could mean to study engineering. This spring, McLean and Mary Jarchow, managing director of development, approached Campos about continuing his gift in the wake of the coronavirus. He not only renewed his gift of $50,000 supporting the camp, he multiplied it by five: $250,000 over two years.
“We’re fortunate to have so many excellent higher education institutions,” said Campos, whose aim is to “help get these kids into a stable path to a strong future.”
After college, Campos went to work for major pipeline operators including Texaco, but vowed to start his own company by age 30. He started Campos EPC in his basement and now owns four companies that help provide services to the oil and gas and staffing industries.
“Engineering was a path to a paycheck – my mission was to make money as soon as possible,” Campos said. “I understand what it takes to be a first-generation student and the economic barriers that can be in place. I had never been on a campus until I reported to duty the first day of school.”
Campos has received multiple awards and honors, including 9News Leader of the Year, for his commitment to promoting STEM disciplines from kindergarten through college. He’s also working to build a university partnership for each of his 12 offices across the country. The Campos EPC Foundation currently impacts 4,000+ students a year through scholarships, summer bridge programs, facilities and internships.
“It’s powerful and it’s fun,” Campos said. “It’s become part of our company DNA. People care, and they like to do something in the communities we serve. We’re making a difference with kids.”
His advice to students during these unprecedented times of coronavirus?
“What I’ve learned in my life is there’s opportunity in every circumstance,” Campos said. “We’re built on an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s going to take a while to get through this, but we’re going to do it. New businesses are burgeoning right now, there are new opportunities. Some are going away. This is the progression of our society. You’re graduating from a good college. Keep your head up. You’ve got the tools to make it happen.”