From Victoria to the Amazon: VC grad’s life has taken many turns

David Illingworth, a 2017 graduate of Victoria College, now works in Ecuador to help preserve a small portion of the Amazon Rainforest.

David Illingworth still wonders sometimes how he got from Victoria College to the Amazon Rainforest.

Illingworth graduated from Victoria College with an Associate of Arts in 2017 and an Associate of Science in 2018. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston-Victoria before his career plans began taking some unexpected turns.

Illingworth took up a friend’s offer to help him purchase homes, renovate them and then resell them for profit.

“It was going well,” Illingworth said. “But I kept asking myself, ‘I got a degree for this?’ So I just kind of reevaluated my life.”

Illingworth then received an offer from a land developer to join him on a project in Ecuador.

“I like to travel, and I was wanting to broaden my horizons, so I went down there,” Illingworth said. “They were building small subdivisions and condos.”

While in Ecuador, Illingworth saw firsthand how development had destroyed thousands of acres of rainforest.

“I was in shock,” Illingworth said. “You see it on TV and it looks bad. But seeing it right in your face, you just say to yourself, ‘Wow. This is really happening.’ ”

A new passion was born for the 25-year-old Illingworth. He and other investors purchased over 800 acres of rainforest that had been stripped to the ground. Now, instead of helping build homes on cleared rainforest land, Illingworth is working to reforest a small part of the Amazon.

After graduating from Victoria West High School, Illingworth attended a community college in Florida for one semester before returning to Victoria.

“I got homesick and really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Illingworth said. “I didn’t know how to properly study, and I think that’s something a lot of college students struggle with.”

Illingworth sought assistance from Victoria College’s KEY Center, a TRIO Student Support Services Program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides assistance for income-eligible, first-generation, or disabled college students.

“College isn’t just about how smart you are,” Illingworth said. “It’s a lot about how you use your time. The KEY Center really helped me with that, and I was able to find my way through college.”

During his first year at Victoria College, Illingworth’s mother moved out of town to be with her mother. Shortly afterward, Illingworth’s father passed away.

“When you’re 18 years old, have no parents and go through other things college students go through like suddenly being independent, you can go either way,” Illingworth said. “You can either stay in college or just drop out and party. The people at the KEY Center helped me stay centered. I don’t know if I would have made it without them.”

Illingworth was back in Victoria for a short time recently and visited the KEY Center before heading back to South America. He is now pursuing his master’s degree in public health at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

“I want to use what I am learning to understand the communities I’m working with more, and seeing what kind of impact I have on them,” Illingworth said. “I really want to help the earth, and the best way I can do that is by teaching others to do it sustainably.”

The KEY Center provides a supportive and academically enriching environment with services such as academic and career advising, individual tutoring, financial assistance, scholarships, counseling and free school supplies.

For information on Victoria College’s KEY Center, call (361) 582-2414 or email