Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

Student Success Profile – Oliver Diaz

(HARLINGEN) – Oliver DiazWorking full time to pay for school and being a part-time student has been a challenge for Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts student Oliver Diaz, yet he still holds a 3.0 grade-point average.

The 22-year-old, Mercedes native said as a child and even now he is fascinated by the culinary world and combined with his love for food, he knew TSTC’s Culinary Arts program was the right fit for him.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate with my associate degree I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue Business Management Technology.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to open a restaurant/catering business. It’s a long way from my original dream of becoming an architect, but I’m excited for my future in the culinary industry, it’s where I’m meant to be.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment was simply starting college to pursue a degree. After high school I worked immediately to help my parents and save money for college. I liked working so much that college wasn’t even in the picture, but with encouragement from my girlfriend, here I am.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned are patience and endurance. Patience because I know as a part-time student it’s going to take me longer to finish and endurance to keep going.

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

My girlfriend and TSTC student and Orientation Student Leader Yajaira Gonzalez is my greatest influence. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be here. I admire her for all of her success and it makes me want to become a better person for her. She pushes me to keep going and is my support.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to not fall under pressure, be patient and stay focused.


TSTC Hosts Annual Industry Job Fair

(HARLINGEN) – Jose Luis Barajas got up from his interview chair excited and nervous, yet confident about how well it all went during his on-site interview at Texas State Technical College’s Industry Job Fair.

The Biomedical Equipment Technology student will graduate with his associate degree in December and had the opportunity to interview with Baylor White and Scott Health, the largest not-for-profit health care system in Texas and the largest in the United States, for a Biomedical Technician position he has his eye on.

“The job fair has been a great opportunity for me and many others to visit and interview with recruiters we may never get to speak with otherwise,” said Barajas. “I’m really interested in Baylor White and Scott and I was told I would be recommended for the job, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Barajas was one of more than 400 TSTC students and alumni who attended the job fair hosted by TSTC’s Talent Management and Career Services department.TSTC Industry Job Fair

TSTC Director of Talent Management and Career Services Viviana Espinosa said the main goal of the event is to help students network and learn about potential employers and job opportunities in an informal setting that helps to ease nerves and anxiety.

“We want our students and graduates to build their confidence when speaking with employers,” said Espinosa. “Ultimately, the more confidence they gain the better they’ll do in interviews and the sooner they’ll start their careers.”

Espinosa added that there were several job offers made at the event with many employers staying after to tour the programs and continue speaking with students.

At least 40 employers such as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, Cleaver-Brooks Sales and Service, Koenig and Bauer, Air Force Civilian Service, Texas Instruments, SpawGlass and Valley Baptist Medical Center were on hand to speak with students and alumni about job opportunities, accept resumes and conduct on-site interviews.

Christian Robertson, a human resource partner with Plastipak Packaging Inc., a global producer of plastic containers, said although the goal of the event is to help students, it also helps him tremendously as an employer.

“It’s difficult finding skilled employees and here at TSTC I know I’ll find highly-qualified students or graduates to hire,” said Robertson. “They have the desirable skill set we need for our company and we’re ready to hire.”

Espinosa said overall, the job fair was a success with a lot of positive feedback from students and employers alike.

“Employers were very impressed with our students,” she said. “Many will even be returning for our spring job fair, other recruitment events and program tours. This is exciting for us and for our students.”

TSTC will host its second Industry Job Fair on April 5 next year.

For more information on student, alumni and industry services offered by TSTC’s Talent Management and Career Services, call 956-364-4940.

TSTC’s New Program Offers Student a New Life

(FORT BEND) – Jerry Nieto is one of the first students in Electrical Power and Controls, a program in its first semester at the Texas State Technical College Fort Bend County campus.

Originally from Brownsville, Nieto first enrolled at the TSTC Harlingen campus in 2001 to pursue an associate degree in what was then Drafting and Design Technology.

Although he completed his classes and the job offers flooded in, Nieto never registered for graduation and never received his associate degree. Immediately after this he moved to New York with his sisters and never looked back.

“I sometimes wish I could turn back time and give my young self a pep talk,” said Nieto. “I don’t know what I was thinking back then. I could have had a stable, good-paying career. But I can only move forward now.”

Life altogether has not been bad for Nieto. He held onto a successful car sales job In New York before moving to Houston and going into business with his father-in-law. However, neither gig was something he could see himself doing long-term.

So, after nine years, Nieto and his father-in-law sold their fiber-optic cable business and Nieto started making calls to TSTC’s Harlingen campus wondering if it was too late to get his associate degree.TSTC EPC Student Jerry Nieto

“Time moves on and things change, but I figured it was worth the try,” he said.

Well, with nearly a decade gone by, some of Nieto’s credits didn’t count anymore and he would have to take new classes. Basically, starting all over.

“TSTC was great to me once, so I knew if I was going to start anywhere, it was going to be at TSTC,” said Nieto. “Lucky for me the Fort Bend County campus opened, because I am back.”

Barely reaching the halfway point in his first semester, Nieto said the Electrical Power and Control program is already exceeding his expectations.

“I’m a husband and father now with a different mindset,” he said. “I’m ready to learn. I understand the importance of an education and I’m ready for a new career.”

Nieto added he now understands the importance an education can have on his life and the opportunities TSTC provides for its students.

“Not only are classes hands-on, but our instructors are leaders in industry with extensive experience,” said Nieto. “That has to be appreciated, because that’s what gets students far.”

TSTC Electrical Power and Control Instructor Jonathan Bonkoske spent more than 30 years in the industry working in power distribution, electrical power and motor research and design.

In August, he made the jump to teaching to share his knowledge with students like Nieto and to help give them insight into the industry.

“Nieto is one of my students who I know has life experience and is eager to learn,” said Bonkoske. “I know it’s early into the semester, but seeing him work hard and jumping into his projects like he is, lets me know that he has a bright future. He has all of the qualities an employer looks for.”

Bonkoske said his goal is to share his experience with all of his students and teach them the hands-on skills they need to be placed in a good-paying job that will help build their career.

And as for Nieto, he said his goal is to learn as much as he can from Bonkoske and his peers, graduate with his associate degree and find a career that will help him support his family.

“This time around I’m taking advantage of everything TSTC has to offer me and I’m going to make the most of it,” he said. “I know they’ll give me the confidence I need to be one of the best in the industry.”

Electrical Power and Controls is also offered at TSTC’s North Texas and Waco campuses. For more information visit,

TSTC STEM Day Inspires Non-traditional Career Paths

(HARLINGEN) – Bertha Rivera, a senior at Santa Rosa High School, put on safety glasses to hammer, staple and build a toolbox and birdhouse during her Building Construction Technology tour at Texas State Technical College’s Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Day.

The 17-year-old joined at least 90 other high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley at the day-long event hosted by TSTC Advisement and Recruitment to expose girls to careers in non-traditional fields.

“The event was a lot of fun. My favorite part was getting to build things,” said Rivera. “And the best part was I got to take my creations home as a keepsake.”

Rivera said STEM Day was inspirational and it has motivated her to apply at TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Engineering after she graduates in May.TSTC Diversity in STEM Day

In addition to Building Construction Technology, students toured Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, Automotive Technology, Biomedical Equipment Technology, Chemical Technology and Precision Manufacturing Technology.

Anna Cortez, TSTC success coach, said STEM Day focuses on encouraging girls and women to pursue male-dominated professions by giving them the opportunity to experience programs hands-on and hear from women already paving the way.

“I hope students take away a sense of empowerment,” said Cortez. “I hope they feel and know that they can pursue and achieve anything they want and set their minds to.”

That was the same message keynote speakers, TSTC Building Construction Technology student Susanna Sierra and TSTC alumna and Applications Engineer Tommie Erica Ponce, wanted students to take away.

“Continue your education don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” said Sierra. “Because as long as you have the mindset you can do anything. Don’t give up on your dream. Show people what you’ve got.”

Cortez said one of the biggest obstacles for girls and women is following a non-traditional career path where there is no one to turn to for guidance or advice and that is why STEM Day is so important.

“STEM Day gives students, both male and female, an outlet to explore, discover and ask questions,” she said. “Many of our instructors and speakers are leaders in their industry and can serve as role models for these students.”

At the end of the day students were also treated to a Non-traditional Program Expo with TSTC instructors and students showcasing their technologies and answering questions.

For more information on the technologies offered at TSTC, visit

TSTC Host Third Annual Counselor Update

(FORT BEND) – More than 70 high school counselors from across the Gulf Coast region, as far away as Goliad, attended Texas State Technical College’s Third Annual Counselor Update at its Fort Bend County campus on Friday.

The half-day program offered counselors a first-hand look into the technologies and services TSTC has to offer with a tour of the campus, including its newest building, the Brazos Center.

TSTC Director of Recruitment Dora Colvin said the goal of the update is to educate counselors on the importance of a technical education and what TSTC has to offer Fort Bend County and surrounding areas with its new campus.

“We are a fully accredited technical institution with passionate staff and faculty ready to provide an education that leads to a successful career,” said Colvin. “And we need the counselors to help us by taking information back to their students and parents about our campus and programs, so they can make an informed decision.”

3rd Annual TSTC Counselor Update

Throughout the day counselors were introduced to TSTC’s recruitment team, programs, certification and degree plans, admission processes and student eligibility requirements.

And TSTC Admissions, Dual Enrollment and Financial Aid set up resource tables for the counselors to visit with representatives from each department.

Madalina Noth, a counselor at Hastings High School from outside Houston said this is her second year participating in TSTC’s Counselor Update because she loved it so much the first time she decided to return.

“This is an excellent event that many of us look forward to,” she said. “A lot of my students have enrolled at TSTC and what they are doing for our area is great. I believe in the power of a technical education and what TSTC has to offer.”

Counselors were also treated to a lunch catered by TSTC Culinary Arts graduate Ben Pustejovsky, owner of the popular Ben’s Chuckwagon in Wallis, Texas.

Other activities included a student and departmental faculty lead panel representing the 10 programs offered at the campus with a question and answer session for the counselors.

“I’ve been working closely with TSTC for some time now and what I love is the passion that everyone on campus exudes. You can tell they love what they do and that’s how I know it’s an excellent place to send my students,” said Noth.

TSTC Student Recruitment Coordinator Marigold Sagrado said she hopes this update will give counselors a better understanding of what TSTC offers and will establish a long-term collaboration between TSTC and the surrounding school districts.

“We want to continue growing our partnerships in the area so that we can serve our community the best way we can, and that is to provide the technical training needed to helps students succeed and place more Texans, she said.

Colvin added that the she is thankful for what counselors do every day for their students and the college.

“Many times these counselors encourage students to enroll at TSTC, but most of all to go to college in general,” she said. “They do a lot and we appreciate them.”

For more information on the programs offered at TSTC, visit

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Claudia TorresTexas State Technical College Computer Maintenance Technology student Claudia Torres is the Secretary and active member of her program’s club where the 21-year-old helps organize fundraisers and participates in community service activities.

The Rio Hondo native earned her Nursing Assistant certification in high school and is three classes shy of receiving an associate degree in Biology from TSTC, but said although it took her awhile, she finally found her calling to be in the computer/cyber world.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate with my associate degree next fall, I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue degrees in Computer Networking and Security Technology and Cyber Security.

What is your dream job?

In high school I took some law enforcement classes that have stuck with me, so someday I would love to work for the FBI or CIA doing computer networking and system work or analytics.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been finding my passion working with computers and realizing how far I have gotten and how much I have been able to achieve.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that if I set my mind to something I can persevere and achieve anything I want.

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

The person at TSTC who has influenced my success the most is my sister Tracy Vallejo, enrollment specialist at the registrars and records department. She always pushes me to follow my dreams and accomplish my goals and supports me in everything I do.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to keep reaching for your goal. D not give up. Remember that hard work and determination will pay off in the end.

Employee Spotlight: Robert Hernandez

(HARLINGEN) – For 17 years Robert Hernandez has dedicated himself to educating students and guiding them to a successful career in the chemical environmental field. It is this commitment and his enthusiasm that has earned him the Texas State Technical College October Employee Spotlight honor.

The Houston native is the lead instructor for the Chemical Technology program at TSTC and comes to the college with extensive experience in the field.

The 48-year-old’s passion for chemistry began in high school at a Houston-area magnet school he attended.

“I grew up in a part of Houston where I saw chemical plants flourish,” said Hernandez. “I was always curious and when I received the opportunity to intern at Shell as a senior, I knew in an instant this is what I was meant to do.”

Hernandez went on to graduate from the University of Texas at Austin in 1992, earning a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry.

He quickly rose through the ranks in the field accepting job offers with Shell’s research center in Houston and later with the Department of Health in Austin as a chemist testing environmental, fish and drinking water samples.Robert Hernandez

While Hernandez had a successful career in industry, the father of four said it was time to be closer to family, making the move to Harlingen nearly two decades ago.

“I truly feel like this move was meant to be,” he said. “The career change came at the right time and TSTC and the program was a great fit for me.”

Hernandez said he has been at TSTC for so long that he considers the Chemical Technology program his baby.

“It’s so important for me to see this program and my students succeed,” he added. “The chemical field is expanding and so are the opportunities, and my team and I are ready to meet that demand.”

It is this enthusiasm that his colleagues say make him the outstanding instructor and person they love.

“He cares for the chemistry department with all he has. He will do anything in his power to solve all issues and he does it gracefully,” read one comment on Hernandez’s certificate.

Another read, “He goes above and beyond for his students and staff by bringing cupcakes, pizza and doughnuts to celebrate someone’s special day all out of his own pocket.”

Lastly, “Robert is the most kindhearted individual you’ll ever meet. He is a great instructor and goes to great lengths to ensure that his students learn and understand the material they are given and is always receptive to questions. He never turns away a student or team member seeking help.”

Hernandez said he is grateful to hear all of the kind words his colleagues have for him. He calls this award a true honor.

“There are so many wonderful, dedicated people on this campus and to be recognized as one of them is so meaningful. It makes this reward that much more rewarding,” said Hernandez. “Thank you to those that nominated me, it is truly an honor.”

TSTC Opens the World of Humanities and Art to Students with Symposium

(HARLINGEN) – The Third Annual Humanities and Arts Symposium at Texas State Technical College will be a week-long event celebrating cross-cultural writers and artists.

The symposium begins October 23 and runs through October 26 with all events being coordinated by college faculty and staff.

Dr. Richard Kirk, TSTC Social and Behavioral Science and Humanities professor said the symposium serves as a way of generating awareness on the impact the Arts and Humanities and the artists and writers who contribute to the field have on our lives.

“The purpose of the symposium is to provide awareness and appreciation for the contributions that the Arts and Humanities have made to learning, especially in the areas of creative thinking and action,” said Kirk.

Events throughout the week consist of hands-on workshops such as Frida Fest, Retablo Workshop, Papel Picado Workshop and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar setup, where students will have the opportunity of creating a Frida art image, painting devotional Mexican folk art, crafting paper into elaborate designs or designing an altar in honor of someone who has passed, respectively.TSTC Humanities Symposium

The workshops will be conducted by Jennifer Rodriguez and Rene Garza, instructors in the TSTC Humanities Department.  Workshops are open to the public, but may be limited due to space and availability of supplies.

“I encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the activities we’ll be hosting,” said Kirk. “It’s a great way of gaining a better understanding of cultures and traditions. And I’m glad we have the opportunity to do that here at TSTC.”

And for the first time at TSTC and in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Writers Exhibition will be on display during the symposium, until November 17, at the TSTC Learning Resource Center.

The exhibit, made possible by a $1,000 Humanities of Texas grant awarded to TSTC, will survey the vitality and breadth of creative writing in Texas from the mid-twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first century.

The exhibit will kick off October 23 with an opening reception and panel presentations made up of local writers and poets and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Arts and Humanities faculty, which are open to the public.

“We are so excited to share this experience with our students and community,” said Kirk. “This type of event allows us to expand our resources and promote Texas writers in our community and sustain the work our city already does in promoting the humanities and arts.”

For more information on the Humanities and Arts Symposium, the Texas Writers Exhibit or for a schedule of events call 956-364-4758.

Student Success Profile – Pedro Flores

(HARLINGEN) – Pedro Flores is a Dental Assistant student at Texas State Technical College. The Hidalgo native expects to receive his certificate in Spring 2018.

The 24-year-old is also active on campus and his community as a member of the TSTC Leadership Academy and as the Secretary and Treasurer for the Dental Explorers Club.Pedro Flores

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate from the Dental Assistant program, I hope to return to TSTC for Dental Hygiene and start working as a dental assistant to gain experience in the field.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become a dental hygienist and promote good oral health care.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been keeping up with the demands of my program while staying active with my clubs and doing community service.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I used to work as a correction officer in a prison and that helped me see life from a different perspective. I have learned to live and enjoy life day-by-day because it’s too short, to be grateful for what I have and to be vigilant in everything I do.

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

My Dental Assistant Instructor Jill Brunson has had the greatest influence on my success. Her class  is challenging and she has high expectations for all of her students. This helps me, personally, work even harder and do better so I can make her proud.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to take advantage of all of the training TSTC has to offer. TSTC truly makes you feel like you are a part of something big and they want you to succeed.