Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC Brings Home Multiple National SkillsUSA Medals

(HARLINGEN) – It was a big win for Texas State Technical College at the National SkillsUSA Leadership Conference in Kentucky.

Just last week five Rio Grande Valley TSTC students earned gold medals in Robotics Urban Search and Rescue and bronze medals in Community Service, a first-time event for TSTC.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful technical careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.

TSTC SkillsUSA national winnersStudents in SkillsUSA participate in hands-on competitions in various fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, carpentry and culinary arts.

The students who earned the gold medal in Robotics Urban Search and Rescue are Michael Arreola, a TSTC Mechatronics Technology student, and Rick Santos, a recent Mechatronics Technology and Tool and Die Technology graduate.

Santos, who earned his place at the national competition while still a student, said he and Arreola began preparing for this competition since the end of last year’s SkillsUSA national competition.

“It takes nearly a full year to build our robot and prepare it just right for competition,” said Santos.

Winning the gold medal means that this team of two excelled in their written test, presentation, engineering notebook submission and execution of their robot.

Both men agree they were expecting to win second or third place, and when they were not called for either, they were positive they had not placed at all.

“It was definitely a good feeling hearing we had received the gold medal,” said Arreola. “It was an awesome experience being there, winning and hearing the crowd cheer for us.”

The TSTC Community Service team and bronze medal winners are Alexandra Lugo, a Mathematics and Business Management Technology major; Jacqueline Cruz, Agricultural Technology graduate and academic core student; and Yajaira Gonzalez, Biology major.

These women represented the TSTC’s Building Construction Technology community service project with Habitat for Humanity. Throughout the year the building construction students volunteer with habitat and use their skills to build homes for low-income families.

“It was great to show how our students use their technical skills to benefit our community,” said Lugo.

The women worked long hours after their classes and jobs to complete the community service binder they were going to submit and prepare for the presentation in front of a panel of judges.

TSTC SkillsUSA national winners

“It was definitely a challenge, but we were in it to win it,” Lugo added. “When we found out we won, we were about ready to cry. I’m very proud of all us.”

Eldwin Leija, TSTC Automated Manufacturing Technology instructor and Larissa Moreno, TSTC recruitment coordinator, said they are very proud of their students’ recent achievements at SkillsUSA.

“TSTC Mechatronics is proud of what Rick and Michael have accomplished. We’re not only proud of their first place win, but of all they have achieved,” said Leija. “We expect nothing but the best from our students because we know they have it in them to be the best in all they do.”

“I’m so proud of my girls. They worked really hard and truly deserve this recognition,” said Moreno. “Our goal was to go out there and represent TSTC, Habitat for Humanity and the RGV well, and we ended up bringing home the first medal for TSTC in our category.”

In all, TSTC campuses statewide won seven medals at nationals, three gold, one silver and three bronze.

TSTC Hosts Summer College and Career Institute

(FORT BEND) – Sparks were flying at Texas State Technical College as the 11 high school students enrolled in a nine-day College and Career Institute got some hands-on experience welding.

The institute is the first of its kind for TSTC and is a partnership between the college, Project Grad Houston, Café College Houston and the Texas Workforce Solution (TWC).TSTC CCI Student 1

“It has been a pleasure hosting these students on campus,” said TSTC Recruitment Coordinator Marigold Sagrado. “They are attentive, well-mannered and I know they will be successful.”

The students participating in this institute were from Houston-based Southwest Charter School, Sharpstown High School and the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees and have shown an interest in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields.

“It’s always great when we can bring quality program options and a college experience opportunity to high school students who may not get this chance anywhere else,” said Anne Sung, Project Grad Houston vice president and chief strategy officer.

The institute focused on five career areas offered by TSTC: Cyber Security Technology, Welding Technology, Precision Machining Technology, HVAC Technology and Diesel Equipment Technology.

Instructors from each program engaged the students with hands-on career exploration activities and spoke with them regarding education pathways, the college application and financial aid process and careers they can pursue if they obtain a certificate or associate degree from TSTC.

During the institute students also received lessons on job interviewing and resume writing. Students learned how to represent themselves professionally by practicing greetings, handshakes, eye contact and self-introductions.  A portion of their time was also dedicated to interviews skills and resume development.

“We want these students to leave this institute open to the idea that college is a possibility and that they can be successful,” said Adriana Estrada, College Institute coordinator. “It’s about college and career readiness.”TSTC CCI Students 2 5x7

To experience a real-work environment, the students also visited TSTC Board of Regent Joe Gurecky at his local business Gurecky Manufacturing, Inc. They had the opportunity to tour the facility and speak to professionals in the industry.

“All of the students have expressed interest in pursuing TSTC after high school,” said Sagrado. “I consider this 100 percent success.”

Sung said their data shows that students who attend at least two institutes are more likely to enroll in college after high school.

“The impact of these institutes helping students get inspired to go to college is very powerful,” said Sung. “And we’re very grateful to our partners at the TWC and TSTC for making this program possible for our students.”

For more information on the programs mentioned or to register for Fall 2017, visit


TSTC Receives $5,000 from ULA

TSTC, ULA check presentation(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College recently received $5,000, the latest installment, from United Launch Alliance for student scholarships. This money will be used to help students pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study with tuition, books, room and board and other expenses. TSTC and ULA have an ongoing partnership with the space agency hiring TSTC grads.

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Lilia Perez, 36, is a Business Management Technology student at Texas State Technical College. The Brownsville native currently boasts a 3.7 grade-point average and is expected to earn her associate degree Spring 2018.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am remaining hopeful that after I graduate from TSTC I will be able to explore opportunities through TSTC’s University Center. The school’s partnership with several universities gives students such as myself the opportunity to keep pursuing higher education. It would be great to continue my studies and obtain a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

What’s your dream job?Lilia Perez

There are so many different things I could do and I believe hobbies are a good way to explore my options. I’ll have to say my dream job is to build miniature sets for movies. I’m a sucker for miniature replica models, arts and crafts and have an eye for great detail.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment was simply enrolling at TSTC. I’m just happy to be here and privileged to be able to stress out about words counts and final exams.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned to persevere. In 2006 a car accident claimed the life of the father of my girls and someone who had been a part of my life for almost a decade. I lost myself due to grief and life was passing me by and we were missing out. I now try to build as many memories as I can with my girls.

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

I have to give a lot of credit to Dr. Steven Szymoniak, my business technology instructor. His classes are challenging and tough, but fair. A student can learn a bit about themselves while navigating his course work. He gives great feedback and continuously pushes us to strive to a higher caliber in class and in life.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

A few pieces of advice come to mind. First, get out of your comfort zone and get involved on campus and in your communities to bring positive change. Also, always remember that life does not follow a script, so go with the flow and make the most of what you have.

TSTC Employee Spotlight – Linda Ramon

(HARLINGEN) – Linda Ramon is described as a person with great energy and determination, has been with Texas State Technical College for 16 years, works as a staff assistant in the department of online learning and is TSTC’s June Employee Spotlight honoree.

“I’m so happy. This award was unexpected,” said the 55-year-old. “I’m very appreciative of my colleagues for nominating me.”

The Carrizo Springs native is not only an employee of TSTC, but also an alumna. She first graduated in 1982, when TSTC was still TSTI, with a certificate in Automated Office Technology. Ramon then returned and earned an associate degree in 2001 in Business Office Technology.

Linda Ramon

Ramon grew up knowing that education was important. She recalls her mother always telling her that she needed to graduate from high school and earn a college degree. It was always a promise she wanted to keep.

“My mom has passed now, but I still want to make her proud and show her that I took her advice to heart,” she said. “I also want this to be a good example for my children. They need to see that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true.”

Ramon hopes to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the near future.

It is this desire for education and willingness to always lend a hand that her colleagues say make her deserving of this award.

One comment on her certificate read, “Linda Ramon works great with students…she is patient and takes her time to answer all of their questions.”

Another reads, “Linda is always a team player and lends her knowledge in any way she can. TSTC is a great place to work because of Linda…she helps build a strong TSTC.”

Ramon explains that she knew TSTC was the place she needed to be since working at the campus as a student worker.

“I can see myself retiring from TSTC,” said Ramon. “I love this place, it’s a family.”

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


TSTC, SATA Receive Skills Development Fund Grant

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College in partnership with SATA USA received a $100,001 Skills Development Fund Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

In a check signing Thursday, June 22, at the Brownsville Museum of Art, TSTC Provost Dr. Stella Garcia and SATA USA Chief Operations Officer and Vice President Marco Margrotto expressed their appreciation and excitement toward the TWC for this donation.

“This grant is significant because this is the first one we receive directed toward a specific company in Brownsville,” said Garcia. “This allows us to expand our market, while providing customized training to continue building their workforce.”

With this contribution TSTC will be able to train 40 new employees from industry production, maintenance and support occupations providing them with approximately 2,560 hours of industrial training programs conducted by TSTC instructors at SATA USA’s facility in Brownsville.

“This moment is so important,” said Margrotto. “Surely this is the just the beginning of a partnership we hope to grow moving forward.”

TSTC, SATA USA TWC Check Signing

SATA USA in Brownsville, a subsidiary of Italy-based SATA Group, is the company’s first manufacturing facility in North America and will serve as SATA USA’s North American Headquarters.

SATA Group creates parts for heavy equipment manufacturers such as John Deer and Caterpillar, as well as for automotive industry giants such as General Motors and Fiat.

The machining operation plans to create more than 300 jobs over the next five years and with the help from the TWC, TSTC will be able to help them make this a reality.

“With TSTC’s help I am pretty sure we will be able to generate the skills we need for our plant allowing us to be successful in the operation of manufacturing here,” said Margrotto. “We’re a great team with TSTC in figuring out the kind of training we need and we’re in a good place right now.”

Other speakers at the event spoke about the benefit this grant has on TSTC, SATA and the region as a whole. Speakers included Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., Texas State Representatives Rene Oliveira and Eddie Lucio III, Texas Workforce Solutions Cameron County Chief Executive Officer Patt Hobbs, Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation Board Member John Cowen and Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner for Employers Ruth Hughs.

“The partnership between TSTC and SATA really speaks highly to the community about the dedication of developing the workforce and industry in the area to give people the opportunity for careers in high-demand jobs,” said Hughs. “We’ve been very impressed with the training they have provided through other Skills Development Fund grants and we know the individuals they train are ready to enter the workforce.”

For more information on TSTC workforce training or employee development opportunities, call 956-364-4530.

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Isabella Coronado recently made the move from Pennsylvania to Harlingen and said it was the best decision she could have made because it led her to Texas State Technical College.

The 21-year-old is completing her General Academic Core at TSTC and should be done by Spring 2018.

Isabella Coronado

Coronado began her college career studying biology and nursing in her home state but she said it never felt right.

“Psychology is what I’m meant to be doing,” she said. “And the advisors and instructors at TSTC have done nothing but guide me with the right classes and encourage my career choice.”

She added that the TV show “Criminal Minds” is what peaked her interest in this career.

What are your plans after graduation?

After completing my academic core at TSTC, I plan on transferring to either a local university or one in San Antonio to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to be a behavioral analyst for the FBI predicting trends in people’s behavior.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

Officially figuring out what I want to do with my life is my greatest accomplishment. Talking with my advisors at TSTC really helped me figure out my dislikes and likes, no one had helped me like that before. They have really guided me in finding my path and now I know what I’m working toward.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned that it is important to do what makes you happy and what you have the passion for. I recently discovered that when I was majoring in biology and nursing and I was not excited about what I was learning. I was only majoring in that field because I knew the salary was good, but I’ve learned that it is not all about the money.

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

The majority of the advisors at TSTC have had the greatest influence on my success and in my life. They are always there to talk if I need advice or help. They answer all of my questions and have helped me pick the classes I need to successfully continue my education outside of TSTC. No matter what, they are there and I really appreciate it.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

I want to tell future students to go for their passions and if they still don’t know what they want to do, go to school anyway and complete the basics.


TSTC Upward Bound Plants Educational Seed

(HARLINGEN) – Coming from a single-parent household, Nayeli Espinoza has always been encouraged by her mom to take every opportunity that came her way.

Which is why Espinoza finds herself at Texas State Technical College’s Upward Bound summer program for the third year in a row.

Sitting in her History of Spanish class, the 16-year-old pays close attention to the teacher knowing everything she learns will help her during her junior year at Harlingen High School South.

“This is a fun way to learn. There is no other way to describe this program,” said Espinoza. “It has given me the opportunity to grow and it prepares me for the next school year. I always find I’m ahead because of everything I learn in the summer.”

TSTC Upward Bound summer programEspinoza is one of 50 students enrolled in the Upward Bound summer program.

The Upward Bound Program is a four-year program geared toward high school students from Harlingen High School, Harlingen High School South, Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy and San Benito High School.

The program focuses on supporting first-generation and low-income students in their preparation for college entrance by providing a variety of services to enhance academic and social skills and to develop motivation and determination to fulfill academic and personal goals.

“We want to plant the seed and not only help students finish high school, but also give them an easy transition to college,” said Neri Balli, TSTC state director for precollege programs. “Our job is to make sure these students are college ready.”

Throughout the school year and during the summer program, high school students receive services such as tutoring in English, math and science classes, Saturday classes at TSTC  to develop skills need for college, college admissions and financial aid advising, academic and career counseling, personal enrichment workshops and field trips to colleges and universities and other educational events.

“Our Upward Students are very successful,” said Balli. “They are college ready by their senior year and nearly 50 percent of them stay at TSTC, while the rest go onto other colleges and universities.”

These are positive statistics for students like Espinoza whose dream is to go to college to become a dentist. She even plans on beginning her college career at TSTC with the help of Upward Bound.

Upward Bound offers recent high school graduates who completed their four-year commitment in the program, the opportunity to take two college courses at TSTC. Tuition and books are covered by the Upward Bound program.

TSTC Upward Bound Director Melinda Ortiz said this is a great benefit for her students and their families.

“Many of these students don’t get financial aid right out of high school,” she said. “So doing this for them gives them a head start, early access to college resources and gives them the tools they need to be successful down the line.”
As for Espinoza she plans on following in her older sister’s footsteps, who also completed the Upward Bound program and taking her two TSTC courses.

“It’s like my mom always tells me,” she added. “’Having little money, is no limitation.”’

TSTC Auto Collision Student Receives Industry Scholarship

(HARLINGEN) – With only one income and a two-year-old son, money is tight for Texas State Technical College Auto Collision Technology student Justin Maldonado.

However, the Harlingen native turned his luck around when he applied for and received a $1,000 Service King scholarship which can be used for tuition, room and board, books and tools.

Service King is one of the largest collision repair centers in the county with 178 locations in 20 states and works closely with the Collision Repair Education Foundation to provide scholarships like the one Maldonado received.

“I was so excited when I found out I had been chosen for this,” he said. “I never win anything. I’m so eager to get the tools that I need.”Justin Maldonado

The 24-year-old said he is so thankful for the opportunity that Service King has provided for him and his family.

“My wife is the only one working right now, so with this money I can buy tools and get small jobs to help her out,” said Maldonado. “And once I graduate I’ll be ready to work.”

TSTC Auto Collision Technology Instructor Jose Vasquez said that he knows this award has already had a huge impact on Maldonado’s life.

“I’m very proud that he has won this award,” said Vasquez. “As an instructor you want the best for your students and in Justin’s case this money allows him to fulfill goals toward his success and future.”

Vasquez added that Maldonado is an all-around, exceptional student who is always willing to lend a helping hand.

“His willingness to help others in class shows the kind of responsible and compassionate person he is,” said Vasquez. “He not only thinks about his success, but also about the success of others. He’s a true leader.”

As for Maldonado’s future, he said he will hopefully find a good-paying job that will support his family and will allow him to save money to start his own business.

“I have always loved repairing and painting cars so I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “I have so many ideas and this program and scholarship have given me a foot in the door to a career I love. A career that will let me support my son and better myself.”

To learn more about Auto Collision Technology at TSTC’s Harlingen or Waco campuses or to apply or register for Fall 2017, visit

TSTC TexPrep Continues to Promote STEM Fields

(HARLINGEN) – The tables have turned for Jose Trevino. The once Texas state Technical College Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program (TexPrep) student returns as a program assistant.


This is the La Sara native’s first summer returning to the program since his TexPrep graduation in 2013.


“The program inspired me to come back,” said Trevino. “This program is the reason why I went to college and chose my major. I owe a lot to TexPrep.”


The engineering major just completed his first year of college, a requirement to become a program assistant, at the University of North Texas.


“This kind of work helps students,” he said. “It helped me a lot and I want to be there for these students.”Jose Trevino helps students with science lesson.


TexPrep is a long-running program for TSTC. It’s a six-week intensive summer program that runs for four years for high-achieving middle and high school students with the potential and interest in pursuing the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields.


The 170 students enrolled in the program study subjects such as logic, computer science, engineering, physics, algebraic structures, statistics and technical writing, and Trevino tutors them by reinforcing what the instructors have taught and ensuring that students have a basic understanding in the subject.


TSTC’s State Director for Pre-college Programs Neri Balli said TexPrep helps students get ahead in their studies. Through a partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Texas Education Agency students receive high school elective credit for every year successfully completed.


“After a summer of intensive coursework, students are prepared to tackle these classes in high school,” she said. “Many students are so ahead they end up enrolling at TSTC as dual enrollment students.”


To enroll in the program students must be sponsored by their school districts, have A’s and B’s in their coursework and have a desire to pursue a STEM program of study and complete an application and essay.


“This program is very competitive. The best of the best are selected to participate,” said Yvette Mendoza, program director for the Center for Science and Math Education. “It is so rewarding to watch them learn, grow and build friendships.”


As for Trevino, he was one of those students Balli and Mendoza saw grow up and he said he is very glad to be back.


“My goal is to give them the confidence they need to learn and trust in what they’re learning and doing,” said Mendoza. “I hope I’m able to come back each summer and continue helping students learn and grow their interest in STEM fields.”