Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC Gives Student Chance at Success

(HARLINGEN) – Luis Silva, a stellar student at Texas State Technical College, learned the hard way that a four-year university is not for everyone.

The 23-year-old Mechatronics Technology student started his college career at a local university studying Electrical Engineering because everyone in high school told him he had to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I was always told I had to go to a four-year school. But that was the right choice for them, not for me,” said Silva. “My grades suffered and so did my confidence.”

The Roma native added that he considers himself a hands-on learner so learning solely from lectures and books was difficult for him.

“I learn by doing,” he said. “And TSTC has been able to provide me with the learning environment I need to excel.”

All TSTC programs are made up of at least 60 percent hands-on learning on industry standard equipment. And, the majority of faculty are seasoned veterans who have worked in the real-world industry.Luis Silva (left) Mechatronics Technology

Today Silva is pursuing an associate degree in Mechatronics Technology, which combines various disciplines within the engineering field, including electrical.

“A large part of my day is working hands-on with machines similar to what is in industry,” he said. “I’m not even close to graduating, but if I were to be offered a job tomorrow I would feel fully prepared and confident.”

Mechatronics Technology Lead Instructor Rolando Leija said he sees Silva going far in his career.

“He has a goal and has his eyes set on companies he wants to work for,” said Leija. “There’s no doubt he’ll be successful.”

The Rio Grande Valley is home to Silva and he hopes to stay in south Texas, but said he keeps an open mind and won’t shut doors of opportunities if they are opened.

Silva’s goal is to work for American Electric, Toyota or Oncor utilities when he graduates in either the electrical, maintenance or machine operations side.

TSTC’s Mechatronics Technology prepares students like Silva for careers in electronics, mechanics, robotics, instrumentation and computer control systems and positions such as electrical engineering technicians, mechanical engineering technicians and electro-mechanical technicians.

“This field is so broad and gives our students a number of career options to pursue,” said Leija. “And because the majority of our training is hands-on our students are highly skilled and ready to be productive in the workforce.”

As for Silva, he said transferring to TSTC was the best decision he could have made for his career and future.

For more information on TSTC Mechatronics Technology, visit

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Ashley Gonzalez is an Education and Training student at Texas State Technical College. She expects to receive her associate degree Summer 2018.

The 19-year-old, Los Fresnos native also serves as TSTC’s Student Government Association Treasurer and works as the TSTC Game Room lead attendant.

Ashley Gonzalez

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduating I plan on transferring to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in teaching, specializing in special education.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to be able to become the kind of teacher that changes lives and makes a difference. Someday though, I hope I can become a school counselor or an instructor teaching others how to be great teachers.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been becoming treasurer of the Student Government Association. It was a task out of my comfort zone, but getting involved has really opened my eyes to the opportunities that are available beyond the classroom and has allowed me to grow as a person.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is to not give up, no matter the situations life throws at you. Like almost everyone, I’ve had to overcome obstacles and that’s why I have a semi-colon tattoo that reminds me to keep going every day.

Who at TSTC has had the greatest influence on your success?

My brother and TSTC Biomedical graduate Roel Gonzalez has been my greatest influence. I saw how much school was a struggle for him, but he kept going and finally graduated with a job offer. In everything he does he perseveres and that is why my brother is my hero.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to get involved on campus through clubs and volunteering. It really helps you grow as a person and allows you to meet new people and make new friends. Also, study, study, study and do what you’re passionate about.

TSTC to Offer First Continuing Education Diesel Program

(HARLINGEN) – The Office of Workforce Education and Continuing Education at Texas State Technical College will offer a Heavy Duty Diesel Engine Specialist program that will launch in September.

This program is a first for TSTC’s continuing education office and the only continuing education course of its type in the Rio Grande Valley.

“We’re excited for this program,” said Adan Trevino, TSTC Continuing Education Transportation Center coordinator. “It has been in the works for some time now and it’s needed.”

The new diesel program was created through a partnership with TSTC Automotive Technology program in Harlingen and the Diesel Equipment Technology program in Waco, which have assisted with curriculum and have donated diesel engines, semi-tractor trailers and lab space for hands-on training.

“We built this course around industry need,” said Trevino. “These types of positions are in demand statewide and nationally.”

The six-week course will offer day and night classes and will mirror Waco’s diesel program. Every class is 90 percent hands-on training to prepare students for a career that could pay up to $50,000 to $70,000 a year.TSTC Continuing Education Diesel Program

“We took courses TSTC offers in our diesel certificate programs and combined them into eight classes,” said Trevino. “With this program you can earn a certificate in six weeks instead of one year.”

Students who complete this program also have the opportunity to take the Cummings Engine Certification program online.

Trevino said earning this additional certification makes students more marketable and competitive when looking for jobs at dealerships and trucking companies.

“We have contacted some of the most respected companies to work with and asked them to give us industry advice,” Trevino added.

Instructors, with more than 25-years experience in the field, and Trevino are working closely with companies such as Rush Truck Center, First Truck Choice, Swift, Longhorn Bus Sales and PetroChem Transport Inc. to customize training.

Garrett Wright, son of PetroChem Transport Owner Chris Wright, will be one of the program’s first students.

The 18-year-old is familiar with TSTC since attending as a dual enrollment student in high school. Wright said he and his dad knew immediately that enrolling was the right decision.

“Our company works closely with TSTC already and we know the success that people see when they leave the college. So as soon as I heard about this program I enrolled,” Wright said. “I know I’ll run my dad’s company one day so this will help me become well-rounded in the industry.”

Students enrolled in the course can expect to learn diesel shop safety and procedures, diesel engine testing and repair, powertrain and diesel tune-up and troubleshooting and tractor trailer service and repair.

And because each six-week class is made up of only six to eight students, classes are small, allowing for more one-on-one with the instructors and an opportunity for students to learn from each other as well.

Those who successfully complete the course can find career opportunities in areas such as fleet maintenance, heavy equipment maintenance and dealership service.

“Our goal is to accommodate everyone who is looking to come back to school to fulfill their dream of an education the best way we can,” said Trevino. “And we are so excited to get started and meet our first group of students next month.”

TSTC Mechatronics Technology Helps Student Gain Confidence

(HARLINGEN) – The first week of the Fall 2017 semester is in full swing at Texas State Technical College, and students like Mechatronics Technology major Rogelio Salas Vento are happy to be back.

Vento said he is excited about this semester because he has finally found a career path that is right for him and also a therapeutic escape.

The 30-year-old La Feria native is an Army veteran. During his five-year service as an infantryman he was deployed for 13 months to Afghanistan, where he sustained a traumatic brain injury after an explosion.

In addition to the brain injury, Vento suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and experiences occasional panic attacks, which led him to choose Mechatronics Technology.

“This is a very hands-on program, which helps me relax and stay calm,” said Vento. “The class sizes are also small and bearable for me. Too many people put me in a panic.”

When he first enrolled at TSTC after being medically discharged from the Army, Vento signed up to pursue an associate degree in biology. But the class size was too much for him to handle.

“I couldn’t sit in class without panicking,” he recalls. “I couldn’t focus, and it was discouraging because I really wanted an education. I want to make something of myself for my wife and children.”Rogelio Vento

It was TSTC advisors and instructors like Mechatronics Lead Instructor Rolando Leija that helped Vento explore other career options.

The TSTC Veteran Center also has services available for veteran students and their dependents who are dealing with PTSD or other conditions through internal resources such as TSTC Support Services and external resources like the VA Clinic, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health and veteran-led peer-to-peer support groups.

“At the Veteran Center our goal is to have students succeed,” said Veteran Center Director Steve Guevara. “We’re here to work at getting students the resources they need. We’re here to help.”

The Veteran Center serves as a centralized department that assists with advisement and GI Bill, Hazlewood Act and scholarship applications. It also provides computer lab access and tutoring.

“Everyone was so helpful and empathetic to my issue, and for that I am thankful,” said Vento. “I’m now in a program I love, I’m looking forward to my future career and my confidence level in myself has increased.”

Vento is now looking toward a future with job opportunities at places such as Toyota, American Electric Power, Oncor utilities and manufacturer Toyotetsu North America as a field service technician, maintenance technician, electronic technician or engineering technician.

Leija said Vento is a great student and that a degree in mechatronics will open doors of opportunity for him and his classmates.

Students in the program will learn a broad range of skills including electronics, mechanics, robotics, instrumentation and computer control systems.

The program has a 90-percent job placement rate.

“I call the students in our program ‘Jacks of all trades,’” he said. “The demand for a trained workforce is high in this field, and this degree can take them anywhere.”

For more information on Mechatronics Technology or on the Veteran Center, visit

TSTC in Fort Bend County Holds Inaugural Commencement Ceremony

(FORT BEND) – Texas State Technical College’s commencement ceremony held Tuesday at the Rosenberg Civic Center was a celebration of many firsts for the college and for Precision Machining Technology student Eleazar Alanis Dorantes.

“You are the first graduating class of this newly created Fort Bend campus,” said Randall Wooten, TSTC vice chancellor and chief execution officer. “Tonight as you walk across this stage, many of you will become the first to graduate in your families.”

Which happens to be the case for Dorantes.

The 20-year-old Mexican native moved to the United States four years ago with his family and siblings and is a first-generation college graduate.

He received his certificate Tuesday night in Precision Machining Technology and was named one of only four Board of Regent honor graduates for his perfect 4.0 GPA (grade-point average).

“Graduating feels great. I can’t believe I’m finally here,” said Dorantes. “It’s exciting and it shows that all of my hard work paid off.”

Despite a slight language barrier and a daily 45-minute drive to and from school, Dorantes persevered.Eleazar Dorantes

“I’m proud of what I have accomplished,” said Dorantes. “I hope I’m setting a good example for my brothers and sisters and that this encourages them to continue their education. If I can do it, so can they.”

Dorantes’ mother Guadalupe Dorantes said she is very proud of her son. From a small machine shop in Mexico as a helper and a runner to a college graduate, she said he has come a long way.

“Since kindergarten he would tell me he was going to graduate from college. And here he is,” she said. “I am so proud of him. He is a great kid and it makes me happy seeing him work so hard and achieve everything he sets his mind to.”

Tuesday night’s commencement ceremony marked yet another milestone for the TSTC legacy and TSTC Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer Mike Reeser had three important pieces of advice for the college’s graduates.

“Keep up with changes and reinvent yourself, stay true to principles and be someone your employers will treasure,” he said. “You want to be the person with world-class skills and be the someone they want.”

Other speakers included Master of Ceremonies and TSTC Field Development Officer John Kennedy and TSTC Board of Regent Joe Gurecky, a product of technical education.

“A technical education can change hundreds, even thousands of lives, the way it did for my wife and me,” he told graduates.

He spoke of his past from having to choose to pay rent or feed their children and about their found success.

“We took a risk starting our business, the way many of your took a risk coming back to school, but with hard work you find success,” he said. “Speaking of hard work, I have a Czech proverb I use often: Bez Prace-Nej su Kolache — Without work there are no kolaches.”

The night ended with faculty lining the aisle and giving every graduate a high-five, handshake and a hug.

And as for Dorantes, he will return to TSTC in the fall to begin his journey to obtain an associate degree.

TSTC Graduates and Families Celebrate Together

(HARLINGEN) – Last night nearly 400 students earned their certificates or associate degrees during Texas State Technical College’s commencement ceremonies at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium.

Interim Provost Rick Herrera reminded those in their caps and gowns that the night was possible because of great ambition, sacrifice and commitment.

“In the words of American hero Cesar Chavez, ‘Si se puede,’” said Herrera. “I urge you to take this time on this day to remember that you stand on the shoulders of many who have paved the way for you. Do not take this day for granted.”

Business Management Technology graduate Elisa Ashraf earned her associate degree and said she credits and gives thanks every day for her husband and his endless support in helping her pave her educational path.TSTC Summer 2017 Commencement

“He has supported me in every way possible just so I could stay focused and achieve this goal,” said Ashraf. “It took a lot of late nights and a lot of coffee, but he never left my side.”

The 30-year-old Raymondville native will return to TSTC’s University Center to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Wayland University in either Human Resources or Business Management.

For Welding Technology student Gumaro Castellano, this was a night to remember because the weekends spent working for gas money and tools and the 45-minute drive every day from McAllen finally paid off.

“This is another accomplishment in my book of life,” he said. “I hope I’ve made and keep making my family proud.”

The 20-year-old McAllen native earned his certificate in Welding Technology and said commencement speaker Patt Hobbs’ address really resonated with him.

“He told us that attitude is everything, and I firmly believe that,” he said. “It’s a good attitude that has given me so many opportunities, and I always keep that in mind.”

Hobbs serves as the executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron and has devoted almost four decades to higher education, including 20 years at TSTC as the former provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

“We desperately need more TSTC graduates for our workforce,” he told the graduates and their families and friends. “You will be in high demand and have a definite advantage in seeking employment over other applicants because of your TSTC certificate or degree.”

He added that these students made the right choice in choosing TSTC and gave them some work ethic hints before they moved their tassels to the left.

From aptitude, attitude and responsibility to communication, critical thinking and problem-solving, Hobbs advised each graduate always to take these skills seriously.

“I hope you take the tips I have given you to the world of work,” said Hobbs. “We really do want you to succeed and if nothing else remember this: take care of your job and your job will take care of you. And please be kind to all you meet.”

TSTC’s commencement ceremonies mark the moment a student goes from candidate to graduate to TSTC alumnus, joining the network of more than 100,000 TSTC graduates.

Student Success Profile – Kevin Sauceda

(HARLINGEN) – Kevin Sauceda is a Digital Media Design student at Texas State Technical College. The Brownsville native is expected to earn his associate degree Summer 2018 and currently holds a 3.2 grade-point average.Kevin Sauceda

When the 23-year-old is not busy studying or finishing projects in the graphic design and video editing labs he works as a work-study with the Talent Management and Career Services office. He is also vocalist for a local band.

Sauceda began his college career at the University of Texas at Brownsville as a vocal major, but soon realized he needed to find a career with stability and transferred to TSTC, where he said he found his place.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on moving to San Antonio or Austin and hope to find a job at an advertising agency where I can work as a video editor. In the near future I also hope to earn a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to be a touring musician and get paid good money, but realistically it may not happen and that is why I came to TSTC – to find a steady career and good-paying job in something that I have always loved.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been working at Career Services and helping students find jobs after they graduate. I love getting the thank you phone calls after they get a job. It makes me feel like I have made a difference in someone’s life.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned are about time management and punctuality, and I learned that here at TSTC. Our instructors instill in us to treat our class and our projects as we would a job, so that means being on time and meeting all deadlines. This is preparing and helping me in more ways than they will ever know.

Who at TSTC has had the greatest influence on your success?

The person who has had the greatest influence on my success is Jimmy Villarreal, one of my Digital Media Design instructors. He is always guiding me and giving me advice on classes, projects and my future. He helps me better understand the programs we use and truly cares about my success. He gives me hope in believing I can do whatever I set my mind to.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

Don’t be afraid to try different things or of change. Follow your heart to what you love and have a passion for, and no matter where you are in life that will help you find your place, the way I found myself at TSTC.

TSTC Employee Spotlight: Jesse Hernandez

(HARLINGEN) – Jesse Hernandez is known by faculty and staff at Texas State Technical College as the “go-to technician” around campus and July’s Employee Spotlight honoree.

“This recognition really brightens my day,” said Hernandez. “I didn’t know people paid attention to my work. This makes everything I do worth it.”

Hernandez is TSTC’s Video Network Technician for the Office of Information Technology and finds himself traveling almost monthly to TSTC’s sister campuses across the state.

The 32-year-old manages the audio and visual set ups and installations on and off campus for classrooms, offices, commencement ceremonies and other special events.

“TSTC is my second home and I try my best to keep everything working and everyone happy,” he said.

Altogether, the San Benito native, who is also a TSTC alumnus, has worked at TSTC for nearly eight years, counting his time as a work study and student worker.

“I always knew TSTC was the place for me,” said Hernandez. “Once I had my foot in the door I stayed and thankfully I’ve been able to grow with the college.”Jesse Hernandez

During his time as a student pursuing a certificate and associate degree in Computer System Management Technology, Hernandez worked at the media center, in online learning as a test proctor and in the department’s computer lab and finally in his current position.

“Working on campus while a student was a great experience,” he said. “I got to practice what I learned in the classroom on real-world situations.”

Hernandez credits a lot of his success to two of his top mentors, former TSTC Media Center Coordinator and now lab assistant for Computer Systems Management Technology Joe Gonzalez and TSTC Computer Maintenance Instructor Elizabeth Martinez.

“Joe always made me figure things out before telling me. I never liked it, but honestly, it paid off in the long run and I’m better for it,” said Hernandez. “And Elizabeth always took her time explaining things to me when I needed help. I learned a lot from her.”

Just as Hernandez can’t say enough about TSTC, TSTC faculty and staff can’t say enough about him.

“Jesse always greets you with a smile whether he’s assisting you with a technical issue or just passing you in the hallway,” read one comment on his Employee Spotlight certificate.

Another comment read, “Jesse is always quick to respond whether by phone, email or in person. He is our go-to technician when we need any type of technical assistance.”


Lastly, “At the Challenger Center he is our go-to for all of our audio and video needs, including our space shuttle. Without him, our space missions would be, for lack of better word, grounded.”

In the future, Hernandez hopes to pursue another associate degree at TSTC in Computer Networking and Security Technology and also a bachelor’s degree from one of four universities offered at TSTC’s University Center.

“My goal is to continue growing professionally and with TSTC. It’s a great place to work and I love the friends I have made here,” said Hernandez.

He also added that he would like to send a big thank you and a hug to those who recognized his work.

“If anyone needs help, they know they can call me,” he said.

TSTC prides itself on being a great place to work. For more information on job opportunities go online at

TSTC Graduate Suffers Loss, Finds Hope

(HARLINGEN) – Sughei Castillo was one of nearly 400 students who realized a life-long dream last night during Texas State Technical College’s commencement ceremony at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium.

The Lasara native, only the second in her family to graduate from college, earned a certificate in vocational nursing.

This is a career she was first introduced to in middle school, but was fully inspired to pursue it when she would watch her mother care for her grandfather while he fought a battle with lung cancer.

“I’m drawn to this profession and being able to help someone is so gratifying,” said Castillo.

“Unfortunately, my grandfather lost his battle. But the idea of being someone’s comfort and help during their time of need makes everything I do worth it.”Sughei Castillo

Most recently, as close as she was to reaching her goal, a family tragedy almost got in the way.

A fire destroyed the 23-year-old’s family home a month ago. Her family lost everything and today they have no home to call their own. .

With only the clothes on her back, Castillo was ready to quit school and find a job to help her family replace what was lost, but with the support from her mother she returned to TSTC the very next day.

“I was devastated. And I didn’t see how I could continue school while my family struggled,” she said. “But my mother, the woman I aspire to be when I grow up, was searching for a way to replace my uniforms that same day. How could I let her down?”

Castillo credits her success after the fire to her instructors and classmates who pulled together to collect donations and organize a fundraiser for Castillo and her family.

TSTC even donated a dorm room so she could make it to her last three weeks of the semester and save the money she would use on gas for her 30-minute drive to class.

“I entered this program alone, but I’m leaving with a family,” said Castillo. “They (classmates) donated uniforms, money, toiletries – everything we needed to stand up again. I am so blessed to have these people in my life. God knew why he put them there.”

Castillo is once again looking forward to her future.

After passing her national licensing exam, Castillo hopes to find employment at Solara Hospital in Harlingen to start saving up for a home for her family and a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Ultimately, she hopes to become a nurse practitioner.

“TSTC and the vocational nursing program have opened doors of opportunities for me,” she said. “All of the training I have received has prepared me to work, be successful and continue my education. My possibilities now are limitless.”

Castillo’s mother Lidia Castillo said she is so proud of everything her daughter has accomplished and overcome so far.

“I’m so blessed to be her mother,” said Lidia. “I admire her strength to rise, ambition to overcome challenges and her will to move forward. I call her my warrior and will always be here to support her 100 percent.”

Castillo said although her family’s situation is not ideal, and she wishes she was headed to a home of their own after commencement, she still has a lot to be thankful for.

“Material items come and go. I just thank God that my family is safe, I have them by side and God has blessed us with more than we probably deserve.”

More than 1,000 TSTC students across the state earned certificates or associate degrees during TSTC’s Summer 2017 commencement ceremonies.

For more information on vocational nursing or TSTC, visit

TSTC Graduate Finds Second Lease on Life at College

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College has given Auto Collision Technology student Refugio Cazares a second chance after losing his freedom and nearly his life several years ago.

Cazares, a Harlingen native, will receive a certificate II in Auto Collision, making him one of nearly 400 students who will receive a certificate or associate degree tonight at TSTC’s Summer 2017 commencement ceremonies.

“I never thought I’d be where I am today,” he said. “It feels good knowing that I’m working my way to being a better person for myself, for my family and for my 4-year-old daughter.”

It was 2004 when Cazares left TSTC and moved to Missouri to work in a cotton farm, then in a steel mill where he was quickly being promoted, but alcohol ruined his chances of a future there.Refugio Cazares

“I was, in a way, having my own pity party,” he said. “My life was spiraling down fast and drinking was my escape. I was out of control.”

Slowly his family created a distance, he broke his back in a car accident and was bedridden for three months and after numerous DWI’s and losing his driver’s license he ended up in prison for two years.

“Being in prison opened up my eyes and made me realize I needed to change to my life,” said Cazares.

He credits God and his mother for the lifestyle change he has undergone. And although each day has its own struggle he is proud of the person he is becoming.

“I take one day at a time,” he said. “There are still people that look down on me for my past, but I don’t let that negativity get to me. I have a goal and I won’t throw away my future.”

Cazares hopes to someday work in the auto collision industry, an interest he picked up from the men in his family. He wants to either work at an auto collision center, be an auto collision instructor or even build his own business.

“God willing I will find what I’m looking for out in industry,” he said. “Ultimately, my goal is to find a place where I can use my skills and also be a leader and role model for others.”

For now, Cazares is searching for a part-time job where he can practice what he has learned, but still have time for school because he will be returning to TSTC in the fall to pursue an associate degree in his field.

TSTC Auto Collision Instructor Jose Vasquez said he commends Cazares for taking the initiative of returning to college and pursuing a certification and degree despite the challenges he has faced.

“Refugio is an outstanding student. He has A’s and B’s and always willing to lend a helping hand,” said Vasquez. “Everyone deserves a second chance and he is working hard to better himself. I know he has all the potential he needs to be successful in the industry.”

Overall, Cazares said his experience at TSTC has been amazing and has opened new doors of opportunities for him.

“I’m leaving my past in the past and looking toward the future, and TSTC will get me to where I want to be,” he said.

TSTC’s Commencement Ceremonies are tonight at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

For more information on Auto Collision Technology or to apply at TSTC visit