Chris Soule had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do with his life and with whom he wanted to spend it.

Soule was accepted to Texas A&M University after he graduated from Victoria’s Memorial High School in 2008. But he couldn’t convince himself to leave his father’s growing business or the love of his life.

“Compadres Design was starting to take off, and Chelsea was a year behind me in school, so had I went off to A&M, things probably wouldn’t have worked out so great,” Chris said.

Chris stayed home and obtained his associate degree at Victoria College. He is now vice president of Compadres, which produces graphic design for apparel, vehicles and large signage. Chelsea remained in Victoria as well. She attended Victoria College with Chris before being a part of VC’s first Physical Therapist Assistant Program graduating class in 2012.

“I had already started taking dual-credit courses with Victoria College in high school, so I knew I wanted to continue my education at VC,” Chelsea said. “The dual-credit classes made my transition to VC an easy one.”

Chris, who had toyed with the idea of going to Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine, attended Victoria College in the afternoon while working nights at Compadres.

“I knew what I was eventually going to be doing for a living, but my parents told me I needed to finish what I started and at least get my associate degree,” Chris said. “I’m glad I did.”

Chris said attending VC helped him learn the responsibilities of being an adult.

“I learned the value of the dollar,” Chris said. “I didn’t get into too much debt while going to VC. I was able to pay it off quickly. Staying here also helped me grow up. I was working and also going to school.

“You not only save money by going to VC, but you also grow up a little faster. If you want to later leave Victoria to go to Texas A&M or wherever, you’re mature and tested. VC makes your challenges easier for you.”

Chelsea had not determined her career path when she enrolled at Victoria College.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Chelsea said. “I didn’t really have a plan. I kind of wanted to go to physical therapy school, but I also kind of wanted to be a teacher. Finally, my mom and others ganged up on me and told me it was time to apply for the PTA Program. I applied and got in.”

Chelsea had a job waiting for her after she graduated from the two-year associate degree program in 2012, the same year she and Chris were married.

“Because Victoria College maintains high academic standards, you’re respected in the community as a VC graduate,” Chelsea said. “The PTA Program is an awesome experience. It’s a small group. You become very close. You learn to trust each other.”

Chelsea said she still remains in contact with Victoria College PTA Program Director Laura Crandall and her fellow classmates.

“Laura is like a mom to me,” said Chelsea, who now serves as an adjunct instructor for the program. “She is still there for us as a mentor to this day. I can still contact her anytime I have a question.”

Chelsea has been working with DeTar Healthcare System’s Crossroads Physical Therapy for seven years.

“I love my job,” Chelsea said. “You see your patients improve, and it’s so rewarding to know you were a part of that. They come into the facility in a wheelchair and weeks later are walking again. That is extremely rewarding.”

Compadres Design has expanded to 34 employees.

“The business was basically a side gig my father had with a buddy,” Chris said. “They only did boat wraps and were working full-time with Hartman Distributing Company. We then started offering screen-printed T-shirts and then embroidery. The wraps turned into vehicle wraps, trailer wraps, promotional products, signs, banners. We slowly began bringing more people on. Now we do pretty much everything. We’ve grown tremendously.”

Chris has learned that sometimes the best opportunities are right here at home.

“I think the smartest move somebody could make coming out of high school is staying here,” Chris said. “You stay here, you stay connected with your parents, your friends. You can live under your parents’ roof and learn how to become an adult while not putting yourself and your parents in a financial burden.

“You learn a lot about yourself between the ages of 18 and 20. Life doesn’t really start until you get out of high school. I understood that when I went to VC, and I knew going to VC would be the best way I could start investing in that new life.”

Coy Slavik - Victoria College

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