Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC Awarded TWC Workforce Training Grant

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College, in partnership with Portage Plastics Corp. and Rich Products Corp. of Brownsville, was recently awarded a $276,789 Development Skills Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

In the past fiscal year, TSTC has been awarded more than $4 million in grants for workforce training to benefit almost 4,000 employees at companies across the state.

“TSTC is proud and honored to partner with the Texas Workforce Commission in this endeavor,” said Rick Herrera, TSTC interim provost, vice chancellor of information technology and chief integration officer.

The most recent award will be used to train 123 Portage Plastics and Rich Products employees in the areas of production, maintenance, and mechanical and support operations.

TSTC instructors will provide 6,329 hours of on-site training. Trainees will receive 59 percent business and technical training, 31 percent general technical training and 10 percent non-technical training.TSTC, TWC Check Signing

TSTC Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer Mike Reeser said the Texas Workforce Commission and Julian Alvarez, TWC commissioner and a former TSTC employee, are tireless advocates for education and training.

“Skills development efforts are so important for us,” said Reeser. “We have a dedicated focus to improving skills and helping people grow.”

Portage Plastics Corp. Plant Manager Tony Capella thanked TSTC for a job well done.

“TSTC has been by our side from the start,” said Capella. “We had a lot of problems with other entities we worked with, but this is a great partnership.”

Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and State Representative Eddie Lucio III also applauded TSTC and Alvarez for keeping up with technical changes and industry needs.

“TSTC has helped hundreds of thousands of people. And it means so much to so many,” said Lucio Jr. “These grants have positively impacted Texas employers and employees, and we hope and pray we have the opportunity to continue these partnerships.”

TSTC has applied for and expects to receive another half-million dollars for more workforce training for companies in Waco, Hutto and Harlingen.

TSTC Student Back in Class after Two Decades

(HARLINGEN) – The last time Patricia Aranda was in a classroom was nearly two decades ago, but she is back at Texas State Technical College to start her new career in the Medical Information Transcription field.

The Harlingen native will be graduating with her certificate during TSTC’s commencement ceremony later this month.

“I’m so excited to put on that cap and gown,” she said. “I’ve truly found my passion.”

The 45-year-old’s love for the health profession has grown through the years beginning in 1996 when she earned her certificate in Emergency Medical Services as an intermediate emergency medical technician.

“I’ve always had a love for the medical field,” said Aranda. “And now that my kids are grown it was time to pursue a new career.”

Aranda was a stay-at-home mom for the first years of her children’s lives until she walked the halls with them at a local elementary school as a paraprofessional, only holding a couple of secretarial jobs before that.Patricia Aranda

Most recently, she was her granddaughter’s primary caretaker.

“Because I had to learn so much about my granddaughter’s health, my passion for the medical field was reborn after several years away,” she said. “And TSTC makes it easy for someone like me to get an education and find a new career.”

The mother of four and grandmother of eight said she has had the greatest experience coming back to school. She added that she loves her classes, instructors, labs and practicum site: Golden Palms Retirement Center and Healthcare in Harlingen.

“Everything we learned in the classroom went hand-in-hand with what we did in the field,” said Aranda. “I was able to use everything taught to me in the classroom to be successful during my practicum.”

She credits TSTC’s Medical Information Transcription Department Chair Debbie Woods and program instructor Jenny Delgado with having a large influence on her success.

“They’re both great instructors and motivators,” she said. “They give us a chance to learn and be somebody by supporting us the entire way.”

It is both their teaching that Aranda said she aspires to someday. She hopes she can be a medical and health information instructor in the future to help others like her. In the meantime, she will be returning to TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Health Information Technology and returning to the medical office setting.

Students like Aranda who enroll in Medical Information Transcription can earn their certificate in three semesters and after successfully completing their practicum course.

Graduates of this program are trained in numerous positions such as assembly clerk, outpatient coder, processing specialist, medical receptionist, billing specialist and medical transcriptionist.

Woods said that the demand for skilled workers in this field is high and the need keeps growing.

“We have a 90 to 100 percent placement rate in our program,” said Woods. “Many of our students are placed in good-paying jobs and have the opportunity to grow within the field.”

There are many career opportunities available for graduates from this program. They can work in hospitals, physician offices, long-term care facilities, behavioral health facilities, schools, insurance companies and even from home.

Woods said they encourage students who are interested in this field to begin in Medical Information Transcription to build a strong foundation before pursuing Health Information Technology, which focuses more on the managerial side of the medical office industry.

“Most of our students come back to health information,” said Woods. “But because they are graduates from our medical information program they have their foot in the door and a better understanding of what is needed and trending in the field.”

To register or for more information on Medical Information Transcription visit The last day to register is August 21.

TSTC Surgical Tech Students Celebrate Success

(HARLINGEN) – It was already a big night for Itati Fernandez who was celebrating the completion of the Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology program with her 12 other peers. But it became a night to remember when she was unexpectedly named program valedictorian because of her 3.6 GPA.

“I didn’t even know valedictorian was a thing in college,” Fernandez said with a laugh. “I was so surprised. It was a very emotional time for me. I couldn’t be happier.”

With tear-filled eyes Fernandez stood in front of a full auditorium to thank her instructors, classmates and family for the support she got throughout the program.

“There were many occasions where I wanted to give up. It was so hard,” she said. “But everyone kept me motivated and didn’t let me give up. This is the first of many more accomplishments.”

The 22-year-old has a job offer at Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen as a surgical technologist pending a passing score on her certifying exam.

She will also be continuing her education at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology with the goal of being accepted into the university’s physician assistant master’s program.

Nancy Garcia, Fernandez’s mother, said she couldn’t be prouder of her daughter’s accomplishments and drive to succeed.

“I call this her short-term goal and I knew she could reach it,” said Garcia. “I’m so happy right now and so proud of my daughter. I know this is only the beginning.”

TSTC Surgical Technology lead instructor Anna San Pedro called this an impressive achievement considering the intensity and difficulty of the surgical technology curriculum.

“The work ethic and discipline that she displayed while in the program was the winning formula to her success,” said San Pedro. “The faculty and I are confident that she will continue to find success in all future endeavors and will be an asset to the industry of Surgical Technology.”

The pinning ceremony also included the presentation of pins and Surgical Technology graduates taking the Surgical Technologist Pledge, the presentation of the Preceptor of the Year award to Gina Tijerina from McAllen Medical Center and a message from guest speaker, pharmacist and TSTC alumnus Michael Muniz.

Muniz graduated from Surgical Technology in 2004 also top of his class and is a now a pharmacist at family-owned Muniz Rio Grande Pharmacy in Harlingen. He said TSTC will always have a special place in heart.

“TSTC gave me the foundation I needed and it’s great to be back as a speaker and I hope I can become a mentor for these students and future generations of surgical technologists,” said Muniz. “And my hope for these students is that they continue learning and stay goal-oriented.”

Robert Sanchez, TSTC Surgical Technology program director, left his graduates with one final note at the end of the event.

“Your future will be determined by the opportunities that you encounter and how you are able to embrace them,” he said. “You have your career in your hands, how you work with it and pursue your dream is up to you.”

“Congratulations,” he added. “Be the best technologist you can be and always be a patient advocate.”

For more information on Surgical Technology or to register visit The last to day to register is August 21.

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Nicholas “Nick” Trevino is an Aviation Maintenance major at Texas State Technical College. He will receive his associate degree in Aviation Maintenance-Airframe in December 2017 and will return to pursue a second associate degree in Aviation Maintenance-Powerplant.Nicholas Trevino

The Kingsville native currently boasts a 3.7 grade-point average and is employed as a works study with the Talent Management and Career Services office.

The 22-year-old said after nearly four years in the oil and gas industry it feels good to be back in school following a career path and added that it was his uncle, also a TSTC alumnus, whose advice played a huge part in his return.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I hope to start my career at L3 Technologies in Kingsville, a contractor in aerospace systems, security and detection systems and pilot training used by military, homeland security and comer platforms. I also plan on returning to TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Welding Technology.

What’s your dream job?                           

My dream job is to work with L3. In addition to its great benefits, the company offers travel opportunities with its locations spanning across the United States and internationally. There is also room to grow my career and grow as a professional within the company.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment at TSTC has been finding my path, establishing career goals and maintaining my grades. It’s makes me proud knowing I can call my mom at any time and share my test scores and grades with her and know that I make her proud too.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned that while we can make plans, life will always throw a curve ball and nothing will go as planned. So I’ve learned to go with the flow and learn from my mistakes and experiences.

Who at TSTC has had a large influence on your success?

The people who have had the largest influence on my success are my peers, the people I’ve met in class. We all have a group chat going and remind each other about homework, due dates, tests and form study groups. Not only do we get our work done, but we also have fun outside of the classroom as friends.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

I advise students to always go for the goal. If you have a dream, like I did about coming back to school, but it seems impossible, try it anyways. And remember, everything is possible because the people here at TSTC are always willing to help you and they want to see you succeed.

Student Success Profile – Ivette Cruz

(HARLINGEN) – Ivette CruzIvette Cruz is a biology student at Texas State Technical College and expects to complete her courses in Fall 2017.

When the Texas transplant from Brooklyn, New York, is not busy studying and maintaining her 3.7 grade-point average, she is volunteering with the TSTC Veteran Students Alliance Club and spending time with her six-year-old son.

The 24-year-old said it has been seven years since she graduated from high school, but she decided there was no time better than the present to return to college and begin working on a degree to give her son a more stable life and herself a secure career.

What are your plans after graduation?

After completing my biology courses, I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue vocational and registered nursing. I then hope to get a position at a local hospital while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in nursing at a local university.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to work in obstetrics as a nurse practitioner or become a midwife. I’m intrigued with pregnancy and babies, and I feel this is my calling.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

I’m a first-generation college student, so just returning is an accomplishment in itself. Also, getting a 4.0 my first semester and maintaining a good GPA so far is great. My boyfriend and family have a lot to do with this success. They continually push me to keep going and help me with my son.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned that everything is possible as long as you set your mind to it. I also always remember never to settle, always make new goals and pursue them until you reach them. TSTC is helping me achieve that right now.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

I would have to say that the Veteran Center and all of my classmates have had a huge influence on my success. They’re always there when I need help or need a friend to talk to.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

Cliche I know, but never give up, strive for success and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

TSTC Instructor by Day, Nurse by Night for 35 Years

(HARLINGEN) – Over the past 35 years, Surgical Technology Program Director Robert Sanchez has inspired learning and growth among his students and colleagues at Texas State Technical College.

It is for this devotion and dedication that he was recently given a Service Award during TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day.

“My time at TSTC has been excellent,” he said. “I love seeing young adults find success and grow within the medical profession.”

With nearly 50 years of experience in his field, the Rio Grande City native has enjoyed sharing his know-how with his students since 1981.

But before this, Sanchez was a student himself. He graduated in 1969 from one of only two surgical technology classes hosted by Valley Baptist Medical Center and became a certified surgical technologist in 1970.

He went on to receive his associate degree in nursing from Texas Southmost College in 1978 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1989.Robert Sanchez

“The field has definitely changed and seen lots of advancements over the years,” said Sanchez. “I’ve had to adapt to be the best instructor I can be for each generation of students.”

Sanchez, who is also an Army Reserve veteran, has seen these changes firsthand as an operating room attendant, a surgical technologist, a registered nurse and an instructor.

For the last three and a half decades, Sanchez has been an instructor at TSTC by day and a nurse in the operating room by night at Valley Baptist Medical Center, where he is pro re nata or PRN, meaning he works as needed.

“The surgical environment is in my blood,” said Sanchez. “I love knowing that I can help make a difference in someone’s life and get them back on their feet and back to good health.”

So, as one can imagine, Sanchez was nervous making the transition to the classroom as an instructor. But according to one former student and current colleague, it was the best decision he could have made.

Former Surgical Technology student and TSTC Surgical Technology Senior Instructor Anna San Pedro said she calls Sanchez her teacher, boss and big brother. She also said she considers him one of her best friends.

“As an instructor, he was challenging and always demanded the best from me and my peers,” she recalled. “He always made sure that we were prepared and focused or we would be sent home until we were ready to learn.”

She added that it was his discipline and strict ways that influenced her success in a large way.

“He has been the greatest influence in my studies and profession. He sets the bar high for everybody,” said San Pedro. “It’s been great having a teacher and a boss who is engaging, makes work fun and allows me to grow. I tell him he can never retire.”

Sanchez said sooner or later he will retire to do some traveling and spend time with his children and grandkids, but he will take with him the most rewarding part of his job, and that is seeing his students, like San Pedro, succeed.

“TSTC is a great place to work. It has given me the opportunity to help shape lives,” he said. “From supportive administrators to colleagues that become family, it has all been possible and that’s because this was the best career move for me.”

TSTC Vocational Nursing Graduates Celebrated

(HARLINGEN) – Family and friends gathered at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center recently to honor and celebrate their loved ones’ success during the annual TSTC Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

“This is a special night full of tradition,” said Nicki Cone, TSTC vice president of Instructional Support. “I commend these students for choosing the profession of caring for others. And on behalf of the TSTC administration, we want to thank these students for everything they do and will do.”

The Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony is held twice a year during the fall and summer semesters and is described by TSTC Vocational Nursing Program Director Adriana Hinojosa-Vassberg as the rite of passage into the profession.

“Tonight we passed the light of knowledge to our graduate nurses,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “And we capped them and pinned them, which symbolizes the helmet and shield they need as they enter into a battle of fighting illness and caring for patients.”

This semester 16 graduate nurses were presented with their pins and caps. These same students will also graduate from TSTC later this month during the college’s commencement ceremony.

“We have endured and conquered the challenges of this program and of life,” said class valedictorian Sylvia Espinosa during her address. “Nursing is like riding a bike — except the bike and everything around you is on fire.”TSTC Vocational Nursing Graduates

Espinosa ended her speech with a huge thank you to her instructor, classmates, and friends and family.

“There’s a special bond that this class shares,” she said. “Along with the support from instructors and my family, this is what helped me get through nursing school.”

Salutatorian Miranda Rodriguez shared the same sentiment.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rodriguez. “But all of this was only achievable because of the support from my classmates, instructors and especially my family. This is as much your celebration as it is ours.”

For many, however, the light at the end of the tunnel is really a new beginning. When TSTC’s registered nursing program begins in the fall, some of the students will be returning to earn an associate degree in nursing, a path that is all too familiar to guest speaker, registered nurse and TSTC alumna Sarah Rodriguez.

“Welcome to the fellowship of nurses. We are an elite association who have and will dedicate our lives to others,” Rodriguez told the graduates. “But it’s also the time to become lifelong learners. Don’t let the momentum stop. Celebrate your achievement tonight, but expand your knowledge beginning tomorrow.”

Rodriguez is from the TSTC vocational nursing class of 2012. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2014 and currently is working on her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. She is employed with Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco.

The capping and pinning ceremony also included a candle lighting ceremony, the reading of the nursing Nightingale Pledge, a presentation of Vocational Nursing Club officer awards, and special recognitions for the class’ top students.

“I’m so proud of my students, and I’m honored to be celebrating them tonight,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “This is a challenging career, but they have all worked very hard to get to where they are today.”

For more information on TSTC’s Vocational and Registered Nursing programs, visit

TSTC Welcomes New Instructor, Program

(FORT BEND) – With more than 35 years of experience in his field, Dr. David Johnson comes to Texas State Technical College as the new Environmental Technology-Compliance Specialization instructor.

The United States Marine Corps veteran got his start at TSTC in Waco, when it was still Texas State Technical Institute, in 1975 earning his associate degree in Civil Engineering Technology.

“It feels great being back where my professional career began,” said Johnson. “TSTC is where it all started.”

Immediately after graduating he worked with various Texas-based companies doing surveying and drafting, until he was promoted to an environmental technician and inspired to work for the military and to continue his education.

“TSTC prepared me to work in the industry. It gave me the skills I needed,” he said. “My success is because of TSTC, and my goal as a new instructor is to get my students fully prepared for a rewarding career.”Dave Johnson

In 1987, he became an Environmental and Energy Coordinator for the U.S. Army in Germany and moved between the states and overseas over the course of his career from Fort Polk in Louisiana to Japan and Korea and back to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

The Irving native was promoted through the years to Environmental Training Manager and Environmental Compliance Manager positions. He was also the primary author for the Army Environmental Compliance Handbook.

During this time Johnson was also furthering his education. In 1994, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, in 1996 his master’s degree and in 1998 his Ph.D. in Environmental Science, all from Southwest University.

“It was such self-gratification and self-motivation going back to school,” said Johnson. “And it was my first degree, my associate degree, which got me to where I am today.”

In addition to federal jobs, which Johnson retired from in 2013, he has also worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, as an adjunct instructor at Louisiana State University and for the Texas Department of Public Safety keeping within the environmental and hazardous material line of work. .

The now 65-year-old is back at work saying he needed something more to do than just playing golf.

“I had applied for a safety position at TSTC in Waco, but instead I was offered this position in Fort Bend,” said Johnson. “I was excited to accept it and I am ready to share all of my knowledge.”

Students who enroll in TSTC’s Environmental Technology–Compliance Specialization will have the opportunity to learn under Johnson’s instruction about how to apply science and technology to environmental issues and projects.

The program will not only offer classroom lectures, but also in-lab and off-site, hands-on experience working with soil, water and air sampling, performing chemical and safety audits at businesses and learning how to properly handle hazardous materials.

When the associate degree track is successfully completed, students can find jobs as environmental coordinators and consultants, environmental engineers, environmental scientists and specialists, environmental technicians and health and safety engineers.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is one of the largest employers of environmental technicians in the nation.

Environmental Technology-Compliance Specialization is already accepting students and will officially begin August 2017. The program will be housed at the Brazos Center, TSTC’s newest building in Fort Bend County.

For more information or to register for the Fall Semester visit

Student Success Profile – Celina Elizondo

(HARLINGEN) – Celina Elizondo is a biology major at Texas State Technical College. The 19-year-old expects to receive her associate degree Fall 2017 and currently boasts a 3.1 grade-point average.

When the Brownsville native is not studying, she is working with New Student Orientation and welcoming new generations of students to TSTC.

What are your plans after you graduate?

After I graduate with an associate degree in Biology, I will return to TSTC to pursue another associate degree in Agricultural Technology. Once I am done with that I will transfer to Texas A&M Kingsville to work toward a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture-Pre-Veterinary Medicine.Celina Elizondo

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to be a veterinarian. I want to be able to afford a large plot of land with a big house so I can open an animal rescue facility and I can help save animals’ lives. My interest in animals stems back from my childhood, growing up on my uncle’s ranch. I recall the days I would bring animals home to nurse back to health. It drove my mom crazy, but she always helped me.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been my work-study job with New Student Orientation. I have always been a shy person, but this job has taught me to have a voice, meet new people and make new friends. It definitely has helped me grow as a person and has given me more confidence.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned are about organization, time management and responsibility. I have found these all to be important assets to my success in school and at my job. They help me do my best in everything and these will be lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

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

The person who has had the most influence on my success is Larissa Moreno, TSTC New Student Orientation coordinator. Thanks to her I have learned my greatest lessons and she really boosts my confidence with her positive spirit. She always makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

I encourage everyone to attend TSTC. You receive a great education, if not better than anywhere else, while saving money because it is so affordable. I also urge future and current students to always ask questions, join clubs and make new friends. These are great experiences that will also help you in future endeavors.


Student Finds her Formula to a Better Life at TSTC

(HARLINGEN) – Recent Rio Hondo High School graduate and former Texas State Technical College dual enrollment student Griselda Gonzalez Olvera is back, this time pursuing an associate degree in Chemical Technology.

It was during Olvera’s senior year in high school, while taking algebra and precalculus at TSTC, when she learned about the Chemical Technology program.

“Had it not been for my TSTC Success Coach Anna Cortez who took the time to talk to me about my interests I would have never known about this program,” said Olvera.

The 19-year-old said chemistry first peaked her interest her sophomore year in high school. She said that year was the moment she knew it was a career she needed to pursue.

However, for Olvera and her family money was tight and she couldn’t afford a four-year university.

“TSTC was a great option for me,” said Olvera. “It’s affordable, there’s more one-on-one with instructors and because classes are smaller it’s easier to interact with your peers.”

Olvera added that her favorite part of the program is the hands-on experience she is receiving.

“I’m the type of person that learns by doing,” she said. “And in this program you get to practice what you study. I don’t think I would have gotten this kind of training anywhere else.”Griselda Olvera

After graduating in Spring 2018, Olvera hopes to return, this time to pursue an associate degree in Physics.

Ultimately, Olvera hopes to become a chemical analyst.

“I eventually hope to transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but for now I know that TSTC will give me the skills I need to start a rewarding career and be successful at a university.”

Chemical Technology Lead Instructor Robert Hernandez said this program is a right fit for students like Olvera who have a love and passion for math and science.

“It is Griselda’s love for chemistry that drew her to the program. It’s her constant curiosity that keeps her engaged,” said Hernandez. “She is a hard worker and I know she has a bright future ahead.”

For students such as Olvera who are completing the five-semester program, they can graduate to become lab, research, chemical and environmental technicians and chemical plant and system operators.

Hernandez said the program’s placement rate averages above 90 percent.

“We don’t have any problems placing our students,” he said. “The majority of students receive job offers before they even graduate.”

Refineries, testing laboratories and companies such as Shell, Chevron and Valero hire graduates from this program.

Hernandez said what sets his students apart from other job candidates are the skills and hands-on experience they receive throughout the program by using identical, if not similar tools that are in industry and participating in real-world work experiences such as sampling water and other chemicals and touring treatment plants and landfills.

Hernandez said TSTC Chemical Technology has been around for 35 years and has a great reputation with employers. So much so, that the Shell Foundation recently awarded the program a $10,000 grant for student scholarships.

The scholarships go to the first 20 new students who enroll and register for Fall 2017 in Chemical Technology. Each scholarship is worth $500.

For more information or to register visit