ic2

Amarillo, Texas: Small Town with a Large Population

Benjamin Stormer, Mechanical Engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering
Amarillo, America’s Small Business Development Center at West Texas A&M University


Home to Texas Program 2021Student Blog

Hi! My name is Ben Stormer. I’m a first-year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Texas who loves hip-hop music, rock-climbing documentaries (there are more than you think), playing basketball, and trying new foods. I am also a student participating in the Home to Texas program this summer in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas. I was born in Amarillo and lived there my whole life until my first semester at UT last fall. When Home to Texas gave me the opportunity to return to Amarillo after my first year of college, I was excited but also felt a little bit like the program was unnecessary. The goal of the program – as I understood it – was to gain a better understanding of small communities across Texas, like Amarillo, by giving students an opportunity to work in a professional setting and perform research on behalf of UT. I thought that if UT wanted to know what Amarillo was like they could have just asked me since I have lived there for eighteen years. However, when this program started, I realized that I was mistaken.

This summer I have been working at America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at West Texas A&M University. I had never heard of this place before Home to Texas gave me this internship, so I was shocked to see just how influential the SBDC was in my community. In my role as a business consulting intern my tasks included creating financial projections for local small businesses, reviewing business plans, performing market research, and even doing some digital design work. The majority of my job however is sitting in meetings with small business owners, learning about them, their businesses, and really just talking about anything. We meet around ten different clients a week, and despite having lived in Amarillo my whole life, I still have yet to run into someone I had known before college. This was a sign that I might have not understood Amarillo as well as I originally thought before this program started.

In addition to this internship, I also have been interviewing different members of my community for Home to Texas. In these interviews I ask questions such as “What five words would you use to describe Amarillo?” or “If you had a magic wand that could solve any issue in our community, what would you use it for?” The general point of asking these questions is to understand the attitudes, values, and concerns of the people in Amarillo. To my surprise, not only were almost all of the answers to these questions been different with every person I interviewed, but they are also things that I would have never considered saying myself.

Also, each of these interviews didn’t really feel like interviews. They were often long conversations with several stories and detours, which made them feel less like they were between an interviewer and an interviewee, and more like a chat between two friends catching up. These talks exemplified a phrase that Amarillo residents often say: Amarillo is a small town with a large population. Despite having around 200,000 residents within the city limits, we act like everybody knows each other here. No matter if it is our first time talking to someone or our hundredth, we aren’t reserved, we enjoy small talk, we tell stories, and we act interested in connecting because we are interested in connecting. I think this is one of the best things about Amarillo, and I hope to bring this attitude with me back to UT because it shows where I am from and who I am.


Find the Home to Texas 2021 Student Blog Series below:

  1. Intro: Developing Future Community Leaders Today
  2. A Day in the Life of a Home to Texas Summer Intern
  3. Herd Immunity Starts at Borders: Brownsville’s Maquiladora COVID-19 Vaccine Effort
  4. Eye-Opening, Confidence Building: Working with Port Arthur, Beaumont Area Leadership
  5. Internship Renews Commitment to Hometown of Tyler, TX
  6. Home to Texas Internship Leads to an Eye-Opening Juneteenth Experience
  7. Hometown Community in a New Light: An Intern’s Summer Well Spent
  8. Amarillo, Texas: Small Town with a Large Population
  9. Conclusion: Leaders at Home and Beyond

For more information on the Home to Texas program or how to support future leaders in communities across Texas, please send a note to info@ic2.utexas.edu.

Support the Home to Texas Program with a gift and support communities and future leaders!