Paving their own roads

PEC scholarship recipients to enter trade programs

For 25 years, PEC has been supporting our young members and some adults in continuing their education efforts with scholarships. And while most use these scholarships to pursue education at four-year universities, three students are paving their own way through trade programs.

Answering a call to serve

Jeremiah Bales played football as a lineman at Marble Falls High School and received scholarship offers from several universities. While accepting one of them could alleviate financial pressures for his family, it’s not something he’s passionate about.

“I love being able to help people,” Bales said, noting that his father’s career in law enforcement inspired this. “I just knew that public service was the path I was drawn to.”

Upon seeing a photo of the Daytona Beach Fire Department working a major structure fire, he felt an immediate calling. After some research, he took a liking to Daytona State College, which would be close to his dream fire department, applied the next day, and received his acceptance within a month. Since then, he’s visited the department and made a lasting connection with one of the lieutenants, and he’s been making changes, like starting a strict cardio and strength training program, to be in proper shape for the journey.

A need for speed

Stephen Yates graduated from Lake Travis High School in May, and will be pursuing the auto technician field at the University Technical Institute in Austin. Ever since seeing the Disney Pixar film, “Cars” as a child, Yates has been obsessed with making vehicles run.

“The demand for auto technicians is rising,” Yates said. “As the automotive industry expands, so does the need for qualified professionals who can navigate the intricacies of modern vehicles.”

Throughout his young life, he’s driven in Quarter Midget and Micro Sprint races, made connections with car enthusiasts in Central Texas at car meets, and worked on his own Dodge Charger, which he has modified to his liking. He hopes to own his own auto shop, where he could work with professional drivers.

Welding below sea level

Nathan Lemley, a Rouse High School graduate from Leander, will be pursuing the welding industry through Texas State Technical College in Hutto. Since discovering welding during his sophomore year, Lemley has fallen in love with the trade. He hopes to use that passion in combination with his other unique skill, scuba diving. He became a certified diver to attend Sea Base in Florida as part of the Boy Scouts of America program, where he earned his advanced open water certification. Since then, he’s earned his Rescue Diver certification and intends to return to participate in the master diver program.

Lemley plans to pursue a career in underwater welding, where he would work on ships, pipelines, submarines, and more. It’s a dangerous task, but one he feels comfortable doing.

“When I’m under water, there is nothing else to worry about,” he said. “Welding provides an escape for me from the traditional classroom. It became something I knew I could do well, something I could see myself doing as a career.”

About the PEC scholarship program

Each spring, PEC offers scholarships to regional students who will attend the college, university, technical school, or trade school of their choice. High school students and adults are eligible if they are a PEC member. Scholarships are funded by unclaimed property funds returned to PEC by the state. To learn more about the program, visit

Jeremiah Bales, a 2024 PEC scholarship recipient, has had a successful football career, but he is pursuing his passion of helping people as a firefighter. (Courtesy photo)
Stephen Yates, a 2024 PEC scholarship recipient, has always had a need for speed, racing Quarter Midget and Micro Sprint cars. He plans to pursue a career in the auto technician field. (Courtesy photo)
Yates will use his scholarship to fund his education at University Technical Institute.
Nathan Lemley will combine his welding and diving skills to become an underwater welder. (Courtesy photo)
A career in underwater welding would mean Lemley would work on ships, pipelines, submarines, and more below sea level. (Courtesy photo)

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