Make Your Mark in Lubbock, Texas
Live Your Passion and Make a Difference
In a world offering people a chance to get their start, Lubbock, Texas encourages young professionals to make their mark here. From pastries and wine to advocacy and space-bound technology, see why these locals believe the “Hub City” is a place where they can live out their passions and make a difference in the community.
Benjamin Hernandez didn’t know if he’d be able to pursue his career and still live in the city he loves. As the Director of Wine and Head Sommelier at Burklee Hill Vineyards, a local hotspot for wine and bistro bites, he looks back on his path with appreciation.
“I left to study chemical engineering and plant biology at Cornell but the coursework didn’t feed my passions,” said Hernandez. “Fortunately, a professor suggested I try the school of hotel and wine chemistry, which was an extraordinary fit. Then, another mentor mentioned Lubbock’s up-and-coming reputation for winemaking.”
Now, Hernandez makes his mark one glass at a time, managing a myriad of details from the grape to the table and he’s excited to impact people’s lives.
“Whether they’re sharing a bottle as a gift, celebrating a football win, or enjoying a glass at a restaurant or The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, it’s gratifying to provide the option of extraordinary local wine,” said Hernandez.
He wants to leave an even bigger legacy: to let the world know that West Texas is producing phenomenal wines.
“Most people don’t realize the Texas High Plains area produces roughly 80% of the grapes used by the approximately 300 wineries in the state,” said Hernandez. “The mark I want to make isn’t for myself, it’s for Lubbock and the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area to make a mark in the nation.”
Originally from south of Houston, Jessica Marlar made her way to Lubbock to obtain her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Texas Tech University. She fell in love with the area, but worried she’d have to relocate to a bigger city to pursue her passion for large scale fundraising.
“It was the heart-wrenching passing of our 18-month-old nephew that put my career path into focus,” said Marlar. “It became crystal clear that I wanted to raise funds to support children’s healthcare and care for the families too.”
Through persistence and patience, she landed her dream job as Senior Philanthropy Officer for Covenant Health Foundation.
“Later this year we’ll launch a multi-million-dollar capital campaign to drive renovations and enhance specialty services,” said Marlar. “We’re also excited about a new round it up at the register campaign so that everyone can support children’s health.”
She relishes sharing stories of success. “There’s never a dry eye in the house when the kids in our pediatric oncology department ring the bell marking the end of their treatment. Being able to support this care is the mark I want to make,” said Marlar.
“Lubbock offers endless opportunities to make a mark in your profession, or as a volunteer. It has an exceptional sense of community and it is a place where you can find your dream job, make it happen and achieve a balanced life.”
As the Team Division Director of the YWCA, AJ McLeod, an East Lubbock native and graduate of Texas Tech University, has already left a legacy by inspiring kids throughout the “Hub City.”
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the Guadalupe Neighborhood Parkway Center, and I was fortunate to land a part time, second job there, in community youth development,” said McCleod.
Since then, his career has spanned roles at the Optimist Boys and Girls Club, the East Lubbock Boys and Girls Club, StarCare and now the YWCA. His desire to uplift comes from experience.
“Being raised by a single mom, it was my coaches and the men of Faith Deliverance Church who taught me how to be a man, to understand respect, to value work and to learn from the consequences of my mistakes,” said McCleod. “My passion lies in making connections, creating programs, exposing kids to a bigger world of possibilities and bridging the gaps between different parts of our city.”
He believes the YWCA is the perfect platform to bring change. “The YWCA is on a mission to change lives and change the community from within, by empowering women, eliminating racism and upholding freedom and dignity for all,” said McCleod. “Anyone can make their mark by volunteering, donating and being a part of kids’ futures.”
The desire to make a difference helped guide Kellen Ketchersid to Texas Tech and along his career path. His education and early job experiences led to a full-time position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually led to his return to Lubbock.
“Lubbock is a great fit for us,” said Ketchersid. “It’s a wonderful place to raise a family and we appreciate the values, people and culture of West Texas.”
As Director of Operations at NemaLife -- a company that provides data-driven intelligence to accelerate research -- Ketchersid wants to ensure people feel valued and wake up excited to come to work and make a difference daily.
“We work with a broad range of industries to screen and test compounds,” said Ketchersid. “Our highly efficient testing and screening service helps streamline research and lab experiments so companies can prioritize and focus on the right studies to continue. The Texas Tech Innovation Hub at Research Park provides an extraordinary opportunity to work on the leading edge of science and technology.”
According to Ketchersid, the future is now, and it’s in Lubbock.
“It’s inspiring to be part of a team of smart, innovative people working together to prevent problems and discover solutions,” said Ketchersid. “We’ve received federal grants to study Alzheimer’s and our technology was launched as far as the International Space Station to test how the neuromuscular system is affected by microgravity.”
As a husband and father of three, he and his wife also make their mark as active volunteers in the community, their church and their kids’ schools.
“It’s a blessing to be able to make a difference at work, raise my family and enjoy life in Lubbock,” said Ketchersid.