Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC CDL program receives donation from Spirit Truck Lines

TSTC CDL Check Presentation

Pictured left to right: Joziel Briones, Spirit Truck Lines recruiting supervisor and program coordination; Larry Elizondo, Spirit Truck Lines director of safety and recruiting; Cledia Hernandez, TSTC interim provost; and Adan Trevino, TSTC transportation training center coordinator.

(HARLINGEN) – On Wednesday, the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Continuing Education program at Texas State Technical College received a $3,500 donation from Spirit Truck Lines in Pharr to be used for student scholarships. Spirit Truck Lines is one of the local trucking companies that hires TSTC CDL grads. Close to 300 student have already graduated from TSTC’s continuing education program.


Student Success Profile – Amber Briones

(HARLINGEN) – Amber BrionesAmber Briones is pursuing an associate degree in Business Management Technology at Texas State Technical College. The Brownsville native is active around campus as a work study at the Wellness Sports Center, president of the Intramural Sports Club and a volunteer for Student Government Association and New Student Orientation.

The 18-year-old recently received awards at the Student Leadership Banquet for her involvement on campus and volunteer work throughout the community. She received a TSTC Service Squad award for logging more than 40 volunteer hours and winning two awards on behalf of her club: Most Active Club and the President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 500 volunteer hours.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate from TSTC I plan on transferring to Texas A&M-Kingsville, through TSTC’s University Center, to get a bachelor’s degree in accounting and in communication science.

What’s your dream job?

I have two dream jobs and that’s what I’m working toward. I want to become a certified public accountant so I can open up a CrossFit gym and I also hope to become a speech pathologist to help children and adults.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment at TSTC so far has been my involvement on campus and in the community. I am doing things that I never expected before coming to TSTC. I used to be really shy, but my participation in different organizations has helped me grow as a communicator and a person.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that no matter how hard life gets or what challenges we face, we have to get up and keep going.

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

There are so many people here at TSTC that have influenced my success, but the person that stands out the most is my supervisor and Intramural Program Coordinator Joe Garza. He is always encouraging me and pushing me to remain active on campus and do things I never thought I could, like becoming president of our club. He gets me out of my comfort zone because he says that is where success lies.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for all students is to always look on the bright side, encourage others and remain positive.

TSTC, TEEX partnership bring low-cost training to RGV

(HARLINGEN) – Epitacio Ramirez, lead mechanic at the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, and a few members of his team had the opportunity to train at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Mobil Pump and Motor Maintenance trailer parked at Texas State Technical College for a week-long Infrastructure and Safety Summit.

“I’ve been in the field for 33 years and I still find trainings like this one invaluable,” said Ramirez. “Things are always changing so there’s always something new to learn.”

The summit organized by the Infrastructure Training and Safety Institute, a division of TEEX, the second largest Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training center in the nation and one of only 27 centers across the United States, partnered with TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education department for the second consecutive year to offer low-cost training for employers.  TSTC, TEEX Summit

More than 400 people from municipalities and construction companies from Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties took advantage of the low-cost summit and the 21 different trainings offered.

“We’re able to offer these trainings at low-cost to no-cost thanks to general revenue funds from the state of Texas,” said Donna Zatopek, senior administration coordinator for TEEX. “Our job is to bring low-cost training to areas that otherwise may not have access to it.”

For Ramirez and his team, the Pump and Motor Maintenance course that usually costs $325 was offered for $75 at the summit.

Others, such as the Disaster Preparedness for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations within the Community Infrastructure, are offered at no cost.

Also, OSHA safety trainings that generally range from $395 to $900 were offered at a discounted  $65 to $105 at the summit.

Myra Deleon, TSTC continuing education coordinator said the partnership between TEEX and TSTC has helped bring training opportunities to a centralized area of the Rio Grande Valley.

“This partnership has really allowed our local entities to take advantage of low-cost training right in their backyard,” said Deleon. “And not only is this a great opportunity for employers, but it’s also a great way to showcase TSTC and our programs.”

Deleon also added that many TSTC instructors complete their required trainings by earning certifications and co-teaching during the summit.

In the two years of this partnership, TSTC and TEEX have been able to serve close to 1,000 people.

Infrastructure Training and Safety Institute Division Director Ron Peddy, said that the impact their trainings have made in the region is thanks to the partnership with TSTC.

“The impact we have made is phenomenal and we couldn’t have done it without TSTC,” said Peddy. “Our goal is to reach as many people as we can because these trainings can save lives.”

Peddy added, “Safety is our number one priority and our mission is to make a difference through training and build, improve and make communities safer.”

TEEX is an internationally recognized leader in the delivery of emergency response, homeland security and workforce training, exercises, technical assistance, and economic development. A member of the Texas A&M University System, TEEX served more than 173,000 people from across the United States and 75 countries last year through hands-on training and technical services.

For more information on TEEX or the services offered by TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education, call 956-364-4567.

TSTC employee writes her way to excellence

(HARLINGEN) – At Texas State Technical College, she’s gone from student to alum to valued employee, and now Amanda Sotelo has been rewarded with the coveted Chancellor’s Excellence Award – the highest award given to TSTC employees who model excellence and serve with distinction.

Sotelo is a communication specialist for the college, reporting and writing stories on TSTC student successes, programs and events for local newspapers and social media.

“I was surprised. I initially thought it was an assignment, as I usually cover stories about our honorees. I had to read it twice to fully understand that this time I was getting the award,” said Sotelo. “I am so grateful.”

Sotelo was nominated by her supervisors and colleagues who recognize all she does to promote the college both in the Harlingen and in the Fort Bend County media markets.  Her stories, highlighting students, employees and alumni, are published across the state and help with recruiting.Chancellor's Excellence Award Amanda Sotelo

“She’s a bit of an overachiever. She has an extraordinary work ethic and a real passion for the art of writing,” said Executive Director of Communication Lynda Lopez. “But more than that, Amanda always exudes joy and happiness. She’s a pleasure to have in the office, and she’s beloved by TSTC colleagues in Harlingen and across the state.”

Sotelo graduated from TSTC in 2008 with an associate degree in Digital Media Design and went on to UTPA to get her bachelor’s in Mass Communications in 2011.

As a student at TSTC, she was very active and served as vice president for the Student Government Association. She also got a work-study program job in the business office, and later at UTPA she worked as a marketing assistant for the Student Union and as a writer for the Public Affairs office. It was there she realized she wanted to work in higher education.

“I love telling stories about people. Everyone has a story, and it’s humbling to be trusted to tell that story,” explained Sotelo. “Students and employees open up to me and tell me about their most difficult and most beautiful times. I cry with them and laugh with them. They bare their souls to me, and I am honored.”

Sotelo is quick to credit others for her success, including her third-grade teacher, Mrs.  Montelongo, who first recognized her writing talent; her husband and high school sweetheart, Andy Sotelo; and her parents, Juan and Olga Perez of Harlingen.

“My parents take care of my son, AJ, so I can devote myself to my work. I can commit to staying late, working weekends and traveling for my job knowing my son is in good hands,” explained Sotelo. “My husband also helps so much, taking over when I’m away and never complaining. I share my award with them.”

And Sotelo says she’s thankful for TSTC.  As she points out, it’s easy to be a great employee when you love your job.

“I love TSTC. I grew up here. I’m so lucky to have such a rewarding job and work with people who have become family. I love our students. They come here to learn from us, but I have done so much learning from them,” said Sotelo.

Sotelo is one of five TSTC employees from Harlingen and 16 statewide who received the 2018 Chancellor’s Excellence Award. All will be honored at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development banquet to be held in Austin next month.


Student Success Profile – Jose Luis Ramirez

(HARLINGEN) – Jose Luis RamirezJose Luis Ramirez is a Welding Technology student at Texas State Technical College. The 19-year-old holds a 3.67 grade-point average and expects to earn his associate degree Fall 2018.

The Rio Hondo native is also a TSTC Student Ambassador with Student Recruitment and a volunteer with Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, helping to fabricate the program’s second land rover.

What are your plans after graduation?

My love for welding has only grown since first being introduced to it in high school. So after I graduate I want to continue learning welding techniques and earn certifications in different areas at the Kentucky Welding Institute.

What’s your dream job?

I’m looking forward to entering the workforce soon to gain experience in welding and build my resume. Ultimately, I hope hard work leads to a career as an aerospace welder at Lockheed Martin, SpaceX or NASA.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

I’m a first-generation college student, so just being in college is a huge accomplishment for my family and me. I hope to be a good example for my little brother and show him that anything is possible with hard work and determination.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

My father died of cancer when I was 12 years old and that made me realize that I should never take anything in life for granted. Watching his health slowly decline was a lot for me to bear and I learned to live life to the fullest for him.

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

I can’t just recognize one person, because so many people at TSTC have played a role in my success. But I would like to thank my instructors for always sharing their experience and showing us, students, their support and encouragement.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future students is to always do what you enjoy. Finding a field or career path you love will always be your motivation to do well and succeed. Follow your dreams.

Networking led to friendship and TSTC degree

(HARLINGEN) – Last night 438 students graduated with certificates or associate degrees from Texas State Technical College during two commencement ceremonies held at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium.

Among them, Computer Networking and Security Technology students and best friends Elizabeth Vargas and Sondra Baldivia – the only women to earn an associate degree in the program this semester.

“This is a big deal for my family, I’m the first to graduate from college and the one they least expected to do it,” Vargas said with a laugh. “This is a proud moment for all of us.”

With a toddler at home and another on the way, the 27-year-old admits finishing the program was a challenge.

“It’s been a lot of sacrifice. I’ve been having health issues with this pregnancy that have landed me on bed rest, but honestly my instructors have been great. So understanding. That’s why I’m here today.”

Vargas, who worked menial odd jobs to support her family and herself through school, has already accepted an offer with the University of Texas System as an assistant administrator for the Information Technology Department.TSTC graduates Elizabeth Vargas and Sondra Baldivia

“I’m so excited for this opportunity I have been given,” said Vargas. “It’s a life changer and it’s all because of TSTC. I now have “the job” I’ve been working for and I’ll be able to better support my family and grow as a professional.”

Baldivia, a United States Air Force veteran, said she had already attempted a four-year degree before attending TSTC, but had changed majors so many times she got discouraged and enlisted instead.

“I was seeing everyone around me graduate and realized that in that point in time I needed to reevaluate my life,” said Baldivia. “And the Air Force offered me the best path.”

Based in Maryland during her four-year contract, the 28-year-old worked as a Signals Analyst with the intelligence team and although she loved her job, Baldivia and her husband found it was best to move their family back home.

“By this time we had a daughter and she didn’t know her grandparents or any other parts of the extended family, so it was the best move for us, but I had to start all over again.”

She said fortunate for her, TSTC had the program that fit with the experience she had received in the Air Force.

“Computer Networking and Security Technology has really laid the foundation for a successful career in the cyber field,” she said.

Baldivia hopes to work once again in intelligence as a contractor for the Air Force or even the FBI and hopes to return to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology.

It is students like Vargas and Baldivia that TSTC Regent and Chief Executive Officer of the Mission Economic Development Corporation Alejandro Meade said makes his job easier.

“You make my job easier. TSTC makes my job easier,” Meade told the graduates. “The more skilled employees a community has, the more prosperous it can be and the more graduates TSTC has, the easier it is for me to sell the Valley to companies.”

He added, “Simply by gaining skills, you are adding value to the Valley and to the state. For that I am thankful.”

Meade also shared life lessons with the graduates: Work hard, don’t be afraid to fail, appreciate where you come from and abide by the Golden Rule, “treat others as you would be treated.”

As for Vargas and Baldivia, they both celebrated the night with their families and had a message for all the young girls and women who want to pursue a career in Computer Networking and Security but are intimidated to enter a male-dominated field.

“Don’t be afraid. Your class will honestly and truly become your family and support system,” said Baldivia. “We may have been the only women in the class, but we were always treated as equals and the men looked to us for help.”

Vargas added, “It may be a man’s world, but we can do it also, sometimes better. So don’t be afraid, let’s take their jobs.”

For more information on Computer Networking and Security Technology at TSTC, visit

Registration for Summer and Fall 2018 is in progress.

The fight of her life: TSTC student, survivor set to graduate

(HARLINGEN) – It was back in 2010 when Ruth Trevino began her journey at Texas State Technical College and proved to herself and others that nothing, not even breast cancer, was going to stop her from getting a college education.

Tonight, the 36-year-old single mom and breast cancer survivor will walk the stage in a cap and gown with her family in the audience and receive her associate degree in Health Information Technology.

“I’ve been working toward this for a very long time,” she said. “Life was passing me by and nothing was going to stop me.”

The journey to commencement has not been easy. Straight out of high school, married and living on a military base in Alaska, Trevino completed a few online classes before becoming a mom.

As a military family they moved often, also calling Oklahoma and Austin home.Health Information Technology graduate Ruth Trevino

“Life was happening, but I always kept school in the back of my mind. Getting an education was important to me.”

When Trevino moved to Harlingen she discovered TSTC after completing a medical assistant program at another college and realizing it was not the career for her.

“I loved the medical field, but poking people with needles was not for me,” she said. “So when I found out about health information at TSTC I knew that was the path I was supposed to take.”

She graduated with a certificate from the TSTC Medical Information Transcription program first, while she was pregnant with her third child, then made the jump to earn her associate degree in Health Information Technology, which is the comprehensive management of health information, data and resources in doctor’s offices or hospitals.

With only three classes left, life threw her an unexpected twist and Trevino was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer on Christmas Eve in 2016.

“This was the hardest fight,” she said. “My worst fear was that I would die and leave my children behind. I was all they had, they were all I had. And we fought together.”

With family in California and San Antonio, Trevino went through chemotherapy and radiation alone most of the time and she found herself falling behind in school.

“I couldn’t focus or absorb anything I was learning,” said Trevino. “My instructors noticed it too and because they wanted me to be successful and concentrate on my health they advised me to withdraw and return when I was able to focus.”

And return she did.

In between cancer treatments and a radical mastectomy, the full removal of the breast and lymph nodes, she took an online course to keep up.

“I honestly just needed to keep my mind busy and I was determined to finish,” she said. “I had to prove my resilience. Breast cancer was not going to stop me.”

Trevino said a huge part of the reason she is where she is today is because of the support she received from family, friends and her instructors.

Dina Martinez, counselor at Vela Middle School in Harlingen, is one of those friends who helped Trevino and her children during this difficult time. She first met Trevino when her oldest son was an eighth grader at the school and shared with her his mother’s cancer diagnosis.

“I felt compelled to help Ms. Trevino because not only do we assist our students and their families with social, emotional and family needs, but I, too, am a cancer survivor,” she said. “I knew firsthand what Ms. Trevino was going through so I shared resources and my team and I were able to help by raising money for the family and helping with household maintenance.”

Martinez also added, “I admire Ms. Trevino for being a single mother, a cancer survivor and now a graduate of TSTC. Her journey has been difficult, but she never gave up. She is an amazing person and has set a great example for her children, all women and mothers and anyone facing this journey. She is definitely a success story and I know her future holds great things.”

After tonight, Trevino hopes to find a job that will help her get back on her feet and allow her to support her children. After gaining some experience and momentum, she hopes to return to school for a bachelor’s degree in Health Information Governance and Data.

“I know I still have challenges ahead, but my faith continues to give me strength,” she said. “I will continue to pray daily because only God knows how I’ve been able to get through everything.”

Trevino is one of more than 400 students receiving a certificate or associate degree tonight during TSTC’s commencement ceremonies at 4 and 7 p.m. at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium.

TSTC grad secures job before graduating

(FORT BEND) – Texas State Technical College Cyber Security Technology student Esteban Martinez from the Fort Bend County campus has waited a long time for graduation day, and tonight, he receives his associate degree with a job offer in hand.

The Needville native will join more than 30 of his peers at TSTC’s Commencement ceremonies being held at the Rosenberg Civic Center and will become a member of an alumni network more than 100,000 strong.

“I’m excited to be graduating. I don’t have to worry about studying and tests anymore, said Martinez while laughing. “In all seriousness though I feel so happy and fulfilled now.”

The 32-year-old began his college journey at the University of Texas-Pan American in the Rio Grande Valley, now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He was a pre-med student, but as Martinez puts it, life happened.

“I met my wife there,” he reminisces. “We got married, had a baby and moved to the Houston area to move closer to her family. So I dropped out.”Cyber Security Technology student Esteban Martinez

With a passion for the medical field and computers, Martinez tried for months to find an information technology job in a hospital, but every position required a college education and degree.

After seeing a few TSTC advertisements about the campus’ new Cyber Security Technology program, he said he knew what he had to do.

“This was my chance to get the education I needed to get ahead and the career I wanted,” said Martinez.

Throughout his two years as a full-time student at TSTC, he also worked full-time as a cook at a local restaurant and built and repaired computers as a side job.

“It has been a huge challenge and sacrifice. There have been so many hours spent away from my wife and children,” he said. “But I did what I had to do as a husband, father and provider.”

The sacrifice and the work paid off for Martinez. He is now a field service technician with Puffer-Sweiven in Stafford, a leading provider of automation valves, measurement and process control solutions in Southeastern Texas.

“I feel like I can actually enjoy commencement now because I don’t have to worry about job hunting,” he said. “It’s such a load off to know I’m set with a secure job and excellent pay.”

Martinez credits his success and preparedness for the “real-world” to his instructors, their experience, the hands-on training and the additional certifications he received in various software.

He also said he could not have done it without the financial aid and Texas Success Scholarship he received from the college, which minimized financial stress.

“I got training and certifications that I couldn’t have found anywhere else,” he said. “Everything we did in class prepared us to be critical thinkers and self-starters. We (students) definitely leave this program more marketable and competitive out in the field.”

His wife and children will be sitting in the audience as Martinez walks in to “Pomp and Circumstance” and walks across the stage in his cap and gown.

“I hope this sets an example for my sons, that if you want something, hard work and believing in yourself will help you accomplish your goals,” he said.

TSTC’s commencement ceremony will be held at the Rosenberg Civic Center tonight at 6 p.m. with TSTC Regent Pat McDonald and President of Si Environmental Jeff Haley, who also serves as Treasure for the Fort Bend Economic Development Council Executive Committee, addressing the graduates and their families as this year’s commencement speaker.

Student Success Profile – Natalie Santana

(HARLINGEN) – Natalie SantanaNatalie Santana recently graduated and earned her pin from the Texas State Technical College Student Leadership Academy. The 27-year-old is studying Biology and expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2019.

When the Georgia native and mother of five is not in the classroom, she can be found volunteering and doing community service with TSTC’s Student Government Association, Student Leadership Academy and her church.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on transferring to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work with local law enforcement in forensics to help solve cases. I’ve always had an interest beyond just TV crime shows in investigating and testing.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far at TSTC has been graduating from the TSTC Student Leadership Academy. I suffer from bipolar disorder and being active on campus has really helped me control it and better focus. It has helped me grow as a person.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned about life is to not pay attention to the negativity around you. Replace negative energy with positivity and know that there is always hope.

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

There are two people at TSTC who have had a great influence on my success. The first is my Psychology Instructor Frank Coronado. He has taught me a lot about keeping my mind active, different coping skills and the importance of remaining positive. Next is Student Life Coordinator and my Student Leadership Academy advisor Belinda Palomino. She has motivated me to get active on campus and stay involved. She has showed me how this helps me grow personally and professionally.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to take it easy on themselves. Don’t let things overpower you or consume you. Take one day at a time and avoid the negative. Remain positive.

TSTC welding instructor receives teaching award

(HARLINGEN) – Kenny Moore has been welding since he was 16 years old and as a Welding Instructor at Texas State Technical College his experience and teaching is being recognized with the Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor Section Award from the American Welding Society (AWS).

The 55-year-old has been with TSTC since 1999. Entering into his twentieth year of teaching, Moore already holds three educator awards from the AWS, earning those in 2003, 2010 and 2011.

“I don’t do what I do with an award in mind, I do what I do because I love sharing my experience and helping young men and women find successful careers in welding,” he said. “But it’s always an honor when what you do is recognized by your peers.”

Moore was nominated for the Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor Section Award by other educators and professionals in the AWS. The award recognizes high school, trade school, technical institute and community college instructors whose teaching is considered to have advanced the knowledge of welding to students in their schools.Kenny Moore with his Welding class

Adan Gutierrez, Moore’s former supervisor and TSTC automotive programs instructor, said he believes Moore has received this award on multiple occasions because of his reputation, commitment and dedication to the trade and education of welding.

“Mr. Moore has many of years of work experience as a certified welder and custom fabricator of high-end projects,” said Gutierrez. “He brings a wealth of valuable knowledge to TSTC students seeking a certificate or degree in welding and is widely known and connected to industry giants who hire our students.”

Gutierrez added, “Kenny is an instructor of high caliber and has a passion for the trade and teaches to a high standard of quality, precision and practice. Students are fortunate to learn from him.”

The Harlingen native has come a long way since his days of welding as a teenager at his father’s family-owned construction company and working on heavy-equipment repairs.

Moore, who is also a TSTC alumnus, graduated with an associate degree in Welding Technology in 2008 and returned to TSTC with extensive experience in the aviation, aerospace, petrochemical and motor sport industries as a welder.

“It is this experience that I bring back into the classroom to provide real-world training for my students,” said Moore. “I take everything I have learned and share it with my guys and gals to provide them a good head start toward a successful career.”

Although Moore said teaching was never something he thought about doing, he now finds it to be the most rewarding job he could have asked for. He was an adjunct instructor with TSTC before becoming a full-time instructor.

“As an instructor we have the power to make an impact on someone’s career and life,” said Moore. “And I’m grateful to have this opportunity and to be able to share my experience and knowledge with those who are the future of welding.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers is projected to grow nearly six percent from 2016 to 2026. One reason for this projected growth – the nation’s growing infrastructure which will require a skilled workforce in these areas to build and rebuild bridges, highways and buildings.

“Welding is a skill that will always be in demand,” said Moore. “It’s been around for many years and will continue to be around. If you think about it, almost everything has some kind of weld. And with the aging workforce, our students will be replacing those who are retiring.”

Moore’s goal and challenge for TSTC’s welding program is to keep ever-changing technology in the labs up to date.

“I’m grateful for my award, it’s very humbling and I just want to be sure to continue doing a great job for our students, growing our program and making a difference.”

Welding Technology is offered at all 10 TSTC campuses throughout the state.

For more information, visit