Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC Alum Breaks Cycle, Finds Rewarding Career

(HARLINGEN) – Olga Garcia is director of data systems at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District — a career she never dreamed of while growing up because of her family’s circumstances.

The Harlingen native was raised in a migrant family, traveling annually to Washington state and Oregon to pick strawberries, pears and apples and not returning until September or October.

“I usually had to play catch-up in school,” said Garcia. “But it was important to my parents that I get an education. They wanted my siblings and me to have more than a life as a migrant.”

And although taking the big step of enrolling in college was exciting and scary for Garcia, she knew that as a first-generation college student this was her chance to help her family and break a cycle.TSTC Alum Olga Garcia

“College was the goal for me from the beginning,” she said. “Migrant work is hard work, and I knew an education would change the lives of many.”

Garcia’s decision to enroll in college came in the 1980s when computers were just starting to come into play. Her sister purchased one for her house and Garcia helped her set it up, sparking an interest in Garcia that has led to a successful career.

“I wanted to go to a college where I could graduate within a couple of years and immediately start working,” said Garcia. “TSTI, now TSTC, had a reputation for this so I decided to give it a try.”

In 1985 Garcia graduated with her associate degree in Data Processing from TSTC and immediately found a job with Weslaco Independent School District as a programmer. She was there for 14 years.

“The training and coursework at TSTC helped me be competitive and find a job quickly,” she said. “TSTC helped me fulfill my goal.”

Garcia credits her instructors and peers for her success.

“I had the opportunity at TSTC to work with the most experienced instructors, and the hands-on training was invaluable,” said Garcia. “And to this day I am still friends with people I met while in college.”

After her time at TSTC, Garcia went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1998 and a master’s degree in Education Technology from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2011. Both colleges have since merged to become the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

After Garcia’s 14 years in Weslaco, she worked for nearly a year at TSTC’s Information Technology Help Desk before joining the Harlingen school district, where she has been for nearly 15 years and has served as assistant computer programmer, coordinator of student applications and, most recently, director.

“Never did I expect I would ever have such a successful career,” she said. “From the beginning to now, I am so blessed and grateful to be where I am today. It’s more than I could ever imagine.”

Garcia said she does not know what the future holds for her, but she is very happy and looking forward to more years with HCISD and spending time with her husband of 31 years, who she met as a student at TSTC, as well as with her children and three-year-old grandson.

“I’ve come a long way, and I hope my story can be an inspiration for others,” she said.

Garcia shared some advice. “Never give up. There are a lot of opportunities, so seek them, ask questions and ask for help,” she said. “And remember that when one door closes, another door always opens.”

For more information on programs offered at TSTC, visit

TSTC Agriculture and Culinary Students Plant Seeds of Success

(HARLINGEN) – More than 1,700 pounds of potatoes were planted on a chilly and wet Wednesday afternoon by nearly 30 Texas State Technical College Agricultural Technology and Culinary Arts students.

The farm-to-table partnership between the departments brings both programs together so that students can get different perspectives of the food business.

“This project is an effort to continue working closely with Culinary Arts on our farm-to-table initiative,” said Agricultural Technology Instructor Norberto Mendoza. “It’s great to open our students’ eyes to new experiences and opportunities.”

Both programs have been working together on this concept for nearly a year, and although culinary students have already helped to harvest vegetables and fruits, this is the first time they have helped to plant them.

The farm-to-table project gives the agriculture students the chance to give what they have grown to the culinary students to use in their kitchen.

“One of our goals as our partnership grew was to include Culinary in the planting process,” said TSTC Culinary Arts Instructor Emma Creps. “I’m excited to give my students this opportunity, and they’re excited for the experience.”

The students who participated in Wednesday’s potato planting are from the Agricultural Technology Crop Science and Culinary Arts Food Prep I classes.TSTC Potato Planting

Everything from potato cutting and treatment to planting on a one-acre lot used by Agricultural Technology was handled by the students under their instructors’ guidance.

Agricultural Technology student Irene Loya said this by far has been one of her favorite projects.

Loya, who will graduate with an associate degree from the program in Spring 2019, is already farming vegetables, fruits and various peppers, as well as growing flowering plants such as lilies, lavenders and roses.

“It’s exciting to be given this type of hands-on, real-world training. I know for a fact I could not get this anywhere else,” said Loya. “Everything I’m doing I can relate to what I am doing and want to do in the future.”

Loya said opportunities like this one give her a chance to build relationships and network with people who she might work with someday. She added that she hopes to grow her farming business once she completes her degree.

“At the end of the day, we’re all here to learn from each other and help in any way we can,” she said. “It just opens doors to many more opportunities that will be beneficial to all of us in the long run.”

Mendoza and Creps agree that this partnership is helping them create well-rounded students who will appreciate the processes that make the food business successful.

“I want my students to know where the food they cook comes from and appreciate the process that happens before they get it in the kitchen,” said Creps.

She added that many of her students go on to work at or open restaurants or build catering businesses, and having an understanding of farm-to-table and its processes makes a huge difference in their success.

Culinary Arts second-semester student Griselda Medina said she is already preparing a space in her backyard for a small vegetable and fruit garden and that this opportunity has opened her eyes to a whole new world.

“I already love nature and what it provides for us,” she said. “I’m not afraid of a little dirt. I’d rather know where my food is coming from and what I’m putting into my body and that of my family and, someday, customers.”

She said being able to plant the potato and seeing it grow over time is something beautiful because it is food that is straight from the earth and natural.

“This is so exciting for me, and I’m glad our instructors have given us this type of opportunity,” said Medina. “This project lets me know that I am definitely on the right path in my life.”

In late May the students will have another opportunity to come together over potatoes when harvesting begins. In the meantime, Culinary Arts will keep cooking and serving the vegetables and fruits that Agricultural Technology provides.

For more information about TSTC Agricultural Technology and Culinary Arts, visit

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Gabby PerrettGabby Perrett is a student at Texas State Technical College pursuing an associate degrees in Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, and in Mathematics.

The 20-year-old Edinburg native expects to graduate Spring 2019 and is a member of the Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Club.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I want to continue my education at Texas A&M University in College Station to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Geographic Information Systems.

What’s your dream job?

My dream jobs are to work for a city in the geographic information systems department and manage the land surveying and I would also like to work for a non-profit designing and building houses for those less fortunate so they have a place to call home.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been being able to show my parents, who do not have a college background, that I’m working hard to achieve my goal of a college degree and showing my younger brother that an education is possible.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that although my family and I stress economically, I have the strength and knowledge I need to go to college. TSTC has shown me this.

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

My Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics instructors Samuel Pizano, David Campos, Miguel Loya and Marc Rosas are my greatest influences. They are always willing to share their experiences and give their students advice. Hearing about their journeys helps me feel that if they can do it, so can I.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is be determined and don’t let anything stop you from pushing forward and getting your college degree.


Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Veracruz Red Snapper)

(HARLINGEN) – It has been a cold January so far, and cabin fever may be kicking in. So to keep Veracruz Red Snapperadventure in these cold days, the Culinary Arts students at Texas State Technical College want to share a recipe they recently created and cooked for their International Cuisine course.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings


  • 1 3.3-pound whole red snapper, cleaned and scaled

For the marinade

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Pinch clove
  • Pinch pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for sauteing
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 pinches dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup freshly made tomato puree (water, tomatoes and a dash of olive oil)
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 6 pickled chilies
  • 8 green olives, pitted and crushed, plus 12 green olives, whole
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1.  Clean the fish without cutting off the head or the tail. With a sharp knife, score the fleshy       part of the snapper.
  2.  In a bowl, combine the garlic, lime juice, water, clove and pepper to make the marinade.     Pour the marinade over the fish and allow the marinade to penetrate the snapper for 30        minutes.
  3.   Pour a tablespoon of oil into a hot pan and sear the fish for a few minutes on each side.   Add the chicken broth and begin to add the remaining ingredients.
  4.  First, add the sliced onion, bay leaves and oregano. Next, pour in the fresh tomato puree,   followed by the whole plum tomatoes. Add the pickled chilies, crushed olives and capers.
  5. Season with salt and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle the whole olives and chopped parsley over the snapper and serve on a large dish.

TSTC Alum Receives Technician of the Year Award

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College alumnus Sam Garcia was recently named the first Technician of the Year for 2017 at Mercedes-Benz of San Juan.

The Los Fresnos native, who now calls Harlingen home, has worked with Mercedes-Benz for 34 years. It was his first job after graduating from Texas State Technical Institute, now TSTC, in 1984 with a certificate in Automotive Technology, and he is still going strong as a team leader and master technician.

“I am so grateful to TSTC. It is because of it that I have had a long and successful career,” said Garcia. “I pride myself in my work, and it’s great being recognized.”

The 54-year-old comes from a family of six. The fact that his father was the only working parent gave Garcia pressure to find a job and make money quickly.

“I had to grow up fast,” he said. “I had to work to help my parents and help support my younger brothers.”TSTC Alum Sam Garcia

Garcia started his college career at Texas Southmost College, but it was not a good fit for him.

That’s when Garcia found TSTI.

“It was exactly what I needed,” he said. “I was in and out in about a year, and with the support and training I received I was ready to start working and earning an income.”

Garcia added that he will never forget the support he received from his instructors. To Garcia, the help he got in the classroom for finding a job was invaluable.

Immediately after graduating, Garcia received a job offer from a Mercedes-Benz dealer in San Benito, where he started as a technician’s helper. He later continued his career with Cardenas Metroplex in Harlingen.

TSTC changed his life in more ways than one. It was at the college that Garcia also met his wife. They have been married for 31 years.

“TSTC gave me a career, a wife, three kids and a grandchild,” Garcia said with a laugh.

Garcia hopes to return to TSTC, not as a student, but as a mentor for others. He said he is interested in giving other students the same kind of help his TSTC instructors gave him.

“I’ve returned to judge a couple of automotive competitions,” he said. “But I hope I can get the opportunity to become a mentor, take students under my wing and guide them in the right direction.”

Garcia added that he is impressed with all of the success stories TSTC creates and hopes his mentoring can help create more.

In the meantime, Garcia waits for warmer weather so he can enjoy the outdoors in his Technician of the Year prize: an all-terrain vehicle.

For more information on TSTC, visit

TSTC Student on Path to New Career

(FORT BEND) – Gerardo Garcia was the only graduate in December to get a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and earn Board of Regent graduate honors, and he managed this accomplishment against great odds.

Garcia earned his certificate in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technology during TSTC’s Commencement Ceremony at the Rosenberg Civic Center.

This semester, the Zapata native is back in the classroom pursuing an associate degree in his field and another perfect GPA.

“I have big goals for myself and before TSTC they weren’t happening,” said Garcia. “My future was uncertain and now I feel like things are falling into place.”

The 27-year-old’s journey at TSTC started when he got laid off from his job in the oil and gas industry and was invited by his twin sisters to join them in Houston.Gerardo Garcia HVAC Board of Regent Graduate

“For six months I had no job and no money,” said Garcia. “I was tired of being considered not hirable.”

So in January 2017, Garcia enrolled at TSTC and got a part-time job at Home Depot to pay for school. However, it was not an easy ride.

“Everything about my classes was great,” he said. “The instructors were attentive and always there for me and the hands-on training I was receiving was excellent, but I was struggling personally.”

While at Home Depot, Garcia worked well into the night. At least twice a week, Garcia would get out at 3 .m. and would sleep in his car to ensure that he made it to class by 8 a.m.

On the days he would get out earlier he would make the half-hour drive home to finish homework and get some sleep.

“It wasn’t easy working overnight and I didn’t want my education to suffer,” he said. “But I also needed the money.”

So, instead of leaving school, he left Home Depot and found a job at HEB.

“It was the best decision I could have made,” said Garcia. “HEB’s schedule allows me to focus more on school. I’m well on my way to a new career.”

Garcia has dreams of someday getting his contractor’s license and starting an HVAC residential and commercial business after getting some experience in the field.

“With an associate degree, my resume will no longer be tossed to the side and ignored,” said Garcia. “I have a degree and skills that people are looking for and it’s now going to be easier finding a job.”

Garcia, who expects to earn his associate degree Summer 2018 said he wants others to know that if they are looking for a new career or a career change TSTC is the place to go.

“TSTC is changing my life and will lead me to job security and stability,” said Garcia. “I highly recommend TSTC.”

For more information on HVAC Technology or to apply and register anytime, visit

Student Success Profile – Jackeline Perez

(HARLINGEN) – Jackeline PerezJackeline Perez is an Education and Training student at Texas State Technical College. The 18-year-old holds a 3.7 grade-point average and expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2020.

When the San Benito native is not busy studying she can be found volunteering around campus and the community with TSTC’s Service Squad.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on continuing my education at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Bilingual Education. I will also look for employment at a local school district so I can work and gain experience while still in school.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become an elementary bilingual teacher. Although, a girl can dream, and it would be nice to someday pursue a music career as a singer.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far is my high GPA. I know that maintaining my good grades will help me cross the finish line and receive my degree.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned was taught to me by my mother and aunt. They have always told me to never give up. If I fail I know to get back up, keep going and strive for my goals. This advice keeps me going when I’m struggling.

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

The person who has had the most influence on my success is Amanda Tamez, my Developmental Math instructor. Math is not my strong subject and she helped me get through the semester and understand the material. She did such a good job at teaching me that I ended up with an ‘A’ at the end of the course. Thank you Ms. Tamez.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice is the same advice shared with me: Don’t give up, dust yourself off when you fall and keep going. At the end everything you work hard for is worth it.

TSTC Hosts Fourth Annual Empowerment Conference

(HARLINGEN) – Texas is known as one of the states with the highest number of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients, which is why Texas State Technical College, which serves more than 200 undocumented students, will focus its Fourth Annual Empowerment Conference on the issue.

This year’s conference, hosted by TSTC’s Student Support Services department, will be held on January 25 at the TSTC Cultural Arts Center from noon to 5 p.m. and is titled: DACA: The Dreamer’s Challenge.TSTC Fourth Annual Empowerment Conference

“This issue is one that has had a huge impact in our area and our state,” said Student Support Services Coordinator Patty Flores. “There are so many students who are uncertain about their future in the United States and are lost and confused with how to handle the situation.”

Flores said the goal of the event is to provide the resources DACA recipients, their families, friends and advocates need to make informed and educated decisions about their next steps.

The half-day event will include three speakers: Abraham Diaz, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) education specialist, Gabriel Sanchez, Texas Rural Aid and Ana Villegas, Villegas Law Office immigration attorney.

Presentations on “DACA and Know Your Rights,” Texas Rural Legal Aid Services and “Be Prepared,” will be presented by the speakers, respectively.

“Our goal is to educate and empower with information,” said Flores. “This isn’t an issue that only affects those who are undocumented. It’s affecting their children and families as well.”

To close this year’s event, the Harlingen High School Drama Department will perform their play, “Tracks: Inspired by Real Events.”

The play is dedicated to those who have suffered on the journey and lost their lives while immigrating to the United States seeking a better life and the American Dream.

The conference, which has touched on other issues such as human trafficking, drugs and cultural awareness, is open and free to the public.

“We encourage everyone from TSTC students, staff and faculty to the community to attend,” said Flores. “This is an issue that hits close to home for many.”

To register and reserve your seat visit Eventbrite at The last day to register is January 24.

For more information, call TSTC Student Support Services at 956-364-4525.

TSTC Offers New Online Technical Awards

(STATEWIDE) – Across the state, students at Texas State Technical College now have the option of enrolling in and completing a technical award online with the college’s newest 100 percent online programs.

The most recent online programs that offer either a certificate or associate degree are Cyber Security, Digital Media Design and Medical Office Specialist. Health Information Technology was the first program to go completely online.

“These technical awards are a great addition to what TSTC already offers,” said Associate Vice President of Online Learning Gina Cano-Monreal. “It doesn’t matter anymore where you live because completing a technical award at TSTC is now more possible than ever.”

It was these online classes that gave Missouri native Kathleen Albert the opportunity of receiving an associate degree from Health Information Technology.

The 54-year-old had already spent most of her life working as a certified professional coder, but her dream was to become a registered health information technician and TSTC’s 100 percent online program made it possible.

“I did my research, found TSTC offered the program I needed, spoke with the faculty and I was more than impressed,” said Albert. “Never did I feel alone during the program. All of my instructors were available when I needed them. I highly recommend this program and TSTC.”

Albert is now working as a Reimbursement Analyst for St. Anthony Medical Center in Missouri and credits all of her success to TSTC’s online program.

“I had the opportunity to travel to West Texas and meet my instructors in person to thank them for helping me achieve my goal,” said Albert. “More doors of opportunity opened for me because of their teaching and TSTC.”

There are a total of 186 online courses and at least 20 programs such as Surgical Technology, Computer Science and Chemical Dependency Counseling that offer more than 50 percent of its curriculum online.TSTC Online Courses

“Our hybrid programs are gaining popularity with students because of their flexibility and convenience,” said Monreal, who is also an online instructor for Anatomy and Physiology.

Each hybrid program offers the lecture portion of the class online and all labs on campus.

Last semester, TSTC’s online programs had more than 3,000 students enrolled statewide and Monreal said she expects to see annual increases as more courses are added.

According to Monreal, the program with the highest enrollment is TSTC’s Academic Core, which includes subjects such as composition, college algebra, history and biology.

“These are classes our degree track students need, so being able to take them online is a huge plus for them,” she said. “For example, students can save on gas, childcare and work full-time if needed.”

For Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student and Edinburg native Gabby Perrett that is the case. She has recently become her father’s temporary caregiver due to illness and driving nearly an hour to campus is no longer an option.

The 20-year-old, who is pursuing an associate degree, is currently taking her required English and Mathematic courses.

“Being able to take these courses online allow me to continue my education even though I can’t be on campus,” she said. “I’m grateful to have this type of opportunity that allows me to continue pursuing my dreams even with my current situation.”

All online course semesters are 15-weeks, online technical certificates and degree programs offer the same degree plan as those offered on campus and all online classes are aligned statewide.

To register for an online course a student must apply and satisfy all TSTC admissions requirements, meet with an advisor and successfully complete the Student Online Orientation.

Monreal said the future of TSTC’s online course offerings is bright. Their goal is to expand technical degree offerings while maintaining a quality learning experience.

“We will continue to increase opportunities for students and stay in touch with students’ needs,” said Monreal. “We’re going to take what we have and take it to the next level.”

Starting in Fall 2018, Business Management Technology and Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics will also offer an associate degree 100 percent online.

For more information on TSTC’s online courses or to register, call 956-364-4050 or visit

Brownsville Native Appointed to TSTC Board of Regents

(HARLINGEN) – Alex Meade joins the Texas State Technical College family as a newly appointed Board of Regent with nearly two decades of experience in the economic studies and economic development arena.

The Brownsville native and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mission Economic Development Corporation was recently appointed to serve a six-year term as a TSTC Board of Regent by Texas Governor Greg Abbot.

“I’m really honored to serve as a regent for TSTC,” said Meade. “I look forward toenhancing Texas’ highly skilled workforce and continue to support the Governor in keepingTexas competitive.”

Meade took the lead role of CEO at Mission EDC in 2011 and since then has attracted businesses such as Black and Decker, Rexnord, Southwest Steel and Royal Technologies that have created hundreds of jobs.

He has also implemented programs such as Ruby Red Ventures, a small business fund for the citizens of Mission; Code the Town, which promotes computer science education; and Mission EDC’s Center for Education and Economic Development, a 55,000 square-foot center which aims to create an entrepreneurial, science, technology, engineering, art and math (E-STEAM) ecosystem.

Alex Meade

“Our job at the EDC is to not only recruit companies and support small business, but to develop the talent that will create a ready workforce,” said Meade. “It’s the same task TSTC focuses on daily, which is why I’ve always been a huge fan of the college.”

The newly appointed regent said his goal is to support the chancellor with his initiatives and continue to ensure that TSTC stays on the forefront of today’s global economy.

“What the chancellor is doing is remarkable and unique,” said Meade. “TSTC is unlike any other state institution and can pivot to changing technology trends and growing industry demands.”

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser said it is an honor to have Meade and his talents on board.

“Mr. Meade’s extensive professional experience in business and economic development will be a great resource for the TSTC Board of Regents,” said Reeser. “We’re especially honored to have representation from the South Texas region, which is home to one of our flagship campuses.”

Meade received his bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1999 from St. Edward’s University, a Master of Business Administration in 2006 from the University of Texas in Brownsville and a Master of Public Administration in 2015 from the University of Texas-Pan American.

Meade’s experience dates back to his very first job after college with Southern Union Gas Corporation as a cost analyst. He has also worked at Grant Thornton, LLP as a management consultant in the Global Public Sector in Washington D.C.; Burton McCumber and Cortez, LLP as the manager of litigation support; Long Chilton, LLP as a senior accountant; and the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce as the interim director and manager of economic development.

“I worked closely with TSTC when I was with the Harlingen Chamber and I saw the impact they had in our area and across the state,” said Meade. “TSTC is the only institution in Texas ready and capable of keeping the state competitive.”

Also leading the way in the community, Meade has served on local boards such as RGV LEAD, Teach for America-Rio Grande Valley, Border Trade Alliance and RGV Partnership.

Serving his state, Meade has also been appointed by Abbott to the Texas Economic Development Corporation and by Governor Rick Perry to the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and the Governor’s Advisory Board of Economic Development Stakeholders.

“Texas’ workforce and the skills required are constantly changing,” he said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity of working with this great institution in training for the jobs of tomorrow.”