Category Archives: Harlingen

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

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.

TSTC Hosts Annual Counselor Update

(HARLINGEN) – Rosa Vasquez, a counselor at San Benito High School walked the halls of Texas State Technical College for a tour of the campus and its programs on Thursday morning during the college’s annual Counselor Update.

She joined more than 100 other counselors from across the Rio Grande Valley at TSTC’s Cultural Arts Center for a half-day program that focuses on the technologies and services TSTC offers.

“The tours were great, so interesting,” said Vasquez. “I like that TSTC is so student-oriented and interested in their success.”

Director of Recruitment Dora Colvin said the Counselor Update is hosted as a thank you to the counselors for everything they do for their students and the college.

“These counselors collaborate with us yearly in helping students with everything that comes with applying for college,” said Colvin. “They do a lot and we appreciate them.”

Thursday morning’s tour consisted of visits with instructors and students from programs such as Precision Manufacturing Technology, Agricultural Technology, Building Construction Technology, Biomedical Equipment Technology, Health Information Technology and Aircraft Airframe Technology.TSTC Counselor Update Campus Tour

In addition to the tour, TSTC’s Enrollment, Admission and Financial Aid representatives were on hand to give counselors updates on application and deadline changes.

Other activities included a student learning overview, a lunch catered by TSTC’s Culinary Arts students and alumni success stories.

Counselors also heard from three TSTC alumni including Kimberly Deleon, TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics graduate and teaching lab assistant.

First-generation college graduate Deleon shared that she graduated with her associate degree in 2012 and got a job in her field in Waco, before returning home and accepting a job offer at TSTC.

Deleon also let the counselors know that figuring out her passion and deciding what she wanted to do for the rest of her life did not come easy, but because of TSTC she found her future. And because of her positive experience, the college has become a family affair with all four of her sisters attending/graduating from TSTC.

“I’m so grateful to TSTC for all that they have contributed in my life,” Deleon explained. “The teachers, the staff and the various departments made it possible for me to not only discover my dream, but to execute it and succeed.”

San Benito High School Counselor Lora Jallomo-Garza said she found the alumni to be inspiring and will share their stories with her students.

“I really enjoyed the student success stories,” said Garza. “TSTC not only helps educate students, but it also helps them find success.”

Overall, Vasquez and Garza said the day was productive and informational. They would like to thank TSTC for the warm welcome and they look forward to continue their work with TSTC.

For more information on TSTC, or to apply and register, visit

TSTC Will Host First RGV Texas Writers Exhibit

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College will host, for the first time in South Texas, the Texas Writers Exhibit thanks to a $1,000 grant they recently received from Humanities Texas.

The exhibition produced by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be set up as part of the college’s third annual Humanities Symposium at TSTC’s J. Gilbert Leal Learning Resource Center from October 23 – November 17 and is open to the public.

This is the first time TSTC’s campus in Harlingen has received this grant.

Visitors will get to see, in a series of panels, portraits of authors, books, workplaces, narrative settings and quotes that all evoke a strong image, memory or feeling.

Kirk added that the goal of the exhibition is to generate in visitors a new awareness and appreciation for Texas literature and the American and Mexican authors that have contributed to the humanities and arts.TSTC Writers Exhibit

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to partner with Humanities Texas and bring this exhibit to our TSTC students and the Rio Grande Valley,” said Kirk. “The exhibit helps us support and sustain the humanities and art efforts already in place.”

To coincide with the exhibit, local writers will be on campus to present their literary work and engage with students and the community.

University of Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Professor of Communications Dr. William Strong will kick off the opening reception on October 23 for the Texas Writers Exhibit with a presentation on the contributions of Texas writers and how these stories inspired his Stories from Texas series.

Throughout the week TSTC will also welcome UTRGV Professor Emeritus in History Dr. Manuel Medrano with the Life and Writings of Americo Paredes on October 24, and Professor in Creative Writing Dr. Elvia Aldalani, with Christianity and Islam in Poetry: An Intersection of Cultures on October 26.

There will also be two local writer panel presentations on October 23 and 24 where writers will read samples of their works and discuss influences on the development of their stories.

“As an educational institution it is important that we provide opportunities for local writers to share their work and experiences with our students and community,” said Kirk. “And we’re grateful to have received great support from the TSTC grants office, administration and faculty for this event.”

Kirk said he encourages everyone to come out and enjoy what the Texas Writers Exhibit has to offer and to familiarize themselves with the cross-cultural literature that has shaped the areas of humanities and arts in Texas.

For more information or for a schedule of events call TSTC at 956-364-4758.

Student Profile – Sharon Barlow

(HARLINGEN) – Sharon BarlowSharon Barlow is an Education and Training student at Texas State Technical College and expects to graduate Spring 2018 with her associate degree.

The San Benito native currently boasts a 3.5 grade-point average and is an active member and treasurer of the TSTC Association of Future Educators (TAFE).

The 19-year-old first attended TSTC in high school as a dual enrollment student and said the experience got her one-step ahead in her college career allowing her to earn the majority of her college credits in high school.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate with my associate degree I plan on continuing my education to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to be an elementary teacher. When I was little I would force my little brother to play my student while I played teacher. I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do.

Eventually, I hope to continue my education to work toward becoming a counselor or principal.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been joining the TAFE Club and becoming treasurer. Being a member of this organization has opened door of opportunity for me such as reading to children at the Harlingen library or volunteering at Ben Milam Elementary School. Everything I am learning and doing is preparing me for my future.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is patience. Patience is key when working with children and this is an attribute that will get me far in my career.

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

My Education and Training Instructor Mary Hollmann has been my greatest influence. She is so full of energy that it motivates me to keep going and I love that her door is always open for her students. I can count on her help.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice to future TSTC students is to listen to your instructor, they truly want to see you succeed. And stay on top of your coursework and exams. The last thing you want to do is fall behind.

NASA Opens a Universe of Possibility for TSTC Student

(HARLINGEN) – It has been quite a journey for Texas State Technical College student Saul Pizano who was recently selected to be a part of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars project (NCAS).

The Harlingen native was one of 304 college students from across the United States and the only one from TSTC to be part of the five-week scholars program that culminated with a week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“The whole experience was mind blowing. Wow!” said Pizano. “I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to do something like this. It has changed the outlook on my future.”Saul Pizano NASA Project

The NCAS is a project funded in part by the Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) which is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in authentic learning experiences to sustain a diverse workforce.

“NCAS not only inspires community college students to advance in STEM fields, but it also opens doors for future careers at NASA,” said Joeletta Patrick, MUREP manager. “NCAS has a legacy of alumni moving from NASA internships to ultimately entering the NASA workforce. It is rewarding to see.”

Pizano’s experience with NCAS began with a month-long online NASA class where he had to complete research, modules, quizzes, a 10-page essay and design and print a three-dimensional space rover vehicle.

It was his perfect score of 100 percent in the web class and his impressive application that earned him a spot at NASA’s on-site event.

The 22-year-old is already a graduate from TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics program and is currently pursuing three more associate degrees in mathematics, engineering and physics.

“There is no doubt that everything I have learned and been trained to do at TSTC helped me throughout the NCAS process,” he said.

It was early mornings and late nights for Pizano and the other students participating in this year’s NASA event.

Students formed teams and established fictional companies interested in Mars exploration, developed and tested a prototype rover, managed budgets and created communications and marketing plans.

Saul Pizano and Jerry Woodfill

Pizano was team leader for the Green Engineering and Autonomous Robotics (G.E.A.R.) team, which ended up winning first place for its rover design and development.

“It was great meeting and working with like-minded people,” said Pizano. “The bonds created among us are remarkable. We all arrived as strangers and left as friends.”

NCAS participants also got to speak to NASA experts such as Apollo 11 and 13 NASA Spacecraft Warning System Engineer Jerry Woodfill, and tour the space center’s facilities.

“Before this experience I felt like NASA was out of reach for me,” said Pizano. “But now I’ve been there and I know I’ll be back. I can see my future there.”

Pizano’s NASA mentor has encouraged him to apply for a spring internship with NASA in aerospace mechanics.

“I’m that little boy who got his first telescope at six and now here I am with an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “NASA is changing the world every day and because of TSTC I have the opportunity to be a part of that.”

For more information on TSTC and the programs offered, visit