Category Archives: Harlingen

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.

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

Chancellor’s Excellence Award – Edda Urrea

(HARLINGEN) – For nearly 15 years at Texas State Technical College, Edda Urrea has dedicated herself to promoting gender equality and providing the best services and support for faculty, staff and students alike. It is her work and commitment that has earned her the honor of being selected a 2018 Chancellor’s Excellence Award recipient.

“I was on the phone with my boss when the email from the chancellor (Mike Reeser) popped up in my inbox,” said Urrea. “We were prepping for a meeting and I told her ‘Hold on, I have to read this email. It could be a concern.’”

Fortunately, and much to her surprise it was a congratulations email.

“I was in total shock,” Urrea recalled. “I still have no words to describe my feelings about this honor, except that I am grateful and humbled.”

Hannah Love, TSTC associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, recalls the phone call that day.Chancellor's Excellence Award - Edda Urrea

“I am honored and thrilled to have shared this moment with her,” said Love. “She was immediately tearful and deeply honored. Of course, to Edda’s form, she quickly tried to refocus on the project instead of spending much time on herself.”

Love describes Urrea as a servant leader who is always looking to improve the Human Resources team and TSTC.

“We are extremely proud of Edda. She is loyal, dedicated and engaged in all that she does. Always seeking new knowledge, Edda is always willing to do what needs to be done for the team. She is extremely deserving of this honor and we are pleased to see that someone who gives so much is being recognized.”

Urrea currently serves as a Human Resources executive handling employee recruitment and onboarding, employee engagement and Title IX investigations. She first came to TSTC in 2004 as a gender equity advocate for TSTC Support Services after working several years as a victim advocate for a women’s shelter in Corpus Christi and as an investigator with Child Protective Services in Brownsville.

“I’ve always known that my place in life is to be a voice and support for others,” said Urrea. “So when I saw the TSTC job posting for Support Services, I knew I had to try.”

Throughout the years Urrea, who holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Sociology from Texas A&M-Kingsville, has grown with the college. She has held various director, associate vice president and chief of staff positions.

“I love my job and the best part of it is the people,” she said. “The employees of TSTC are the reason I wake up excited to come to work every morning. Everyone drives me forward and are my energy, focus and strength.”

Urrea said she also realizes it is these same people, whom she also considers family, who have bestowed such an honorable recognition on her.

“I want to send a heartfelt thank you to whoever nominated me for this award,” she said. “I thank you for believing in me and trusting me. I hope I can continue to give you the best of me and make you proud.”

The mom of two said she shares this award with her team in Harlingen, colleagues statewide and with her parents.

“Without my mom and dad I could not give 100 percent of myself at work,” she said. “They are my backbone and support system. There is no way I’d be able to do this without them.”

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award is given by TSTC’s Chancellor Mike Reeser to select faculty and staff for their distinguished service and dedication to the college, communities and their state.

This year’s 16 recipients from across TSTC’s 10 campuses will be honored in May at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Awards dinner and celebration in Austin.

TSTC veteran student club host annual Car Show

(HARLINGEN) – The Veteran Students Alliance Club at Texas State Technical College will be hosting its Fourth Annual Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show tomorrow to raise funds for veteran student scholarships.

This is the largest fundraiser for the student-run organization that assists veterans and their families with the transition to civilian life and awards scholarships, a tradition started in 2013.

“Sometimes our veteran students come in with no benefits or not enough benefits and these scholarships help supplement what they need to attend TSTC,” said Veteran Center Director Steve Guevara. “These scholarships have made the difference in many lives and have allowed veterans the chance at a new career.”

Every semester, three students receive a $300 scholarship that can be used to cover tuition, books and supplies, tools or room and board.TSTC veteran student car show

Student veterans who apply for the scholarship must have prior military service, 90 plus days, or 30 days medical discharge; be a part-time student; have a 2.0 grade-point average and complete a 300-word essay.

“The scholarships we award our veteran students act as a reminder that they are not forgotten and we are here to help them in any way we can,” said TSTC Veterans Program Officer Jose Villegas.

There are three competitive categories that car, truck and motorcycle enthusiasts can sign up for to help support the cause: Best in Show, Provost Choice and People’s Choice. Registration fee to enter a car is $20.

The show is free and open to the public, but to those wanting to contribute to the club’s mission can purchase tickets for $1 that will count as one vote for their favorite vehicle for the People’s Choice award.

Winners in all three categories will receive a framed United States flag plaque, gift cards and car care gift sets that have been donated by local restaurants and auto shops.

“All money raised from competitors, spectators and vendors goes a long way when you’re helping students pursue an educational dream,” said Guevara.

TSTC alumnus Frank Macias, owner of Frankie Flav’z in Harlingen, will also be joining the cause. He will have his food truck at the event with a portion of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund.

“We want to encourage our community to come out and support our students,” said Villegas. “The more people we have in attendance, the bigger our event grows annually and the more students we are able to help.”

Since the event’s initiation, the Veteran Students Alliance Club has raised more than $3,000.

Those interested in registering a car into the competition have until 10 a.m. the day of the event, Saturday, April 21.

For more information, call the TSTC Veteran Center at 956-364-4385.

Event Information:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

TSTC Student Center Parking Lot (off Oak St.)

1902 N. Loop 499 Harlingen, Texas 78550

TSTC’s largest fundraiser honors Bob Shepard, helps countless students

(HARLINGEN) – Last night, The TSTC Foundation of Texas State Technical College hosted its 13th Annual Noche de Gala, the college’s largest fundraiser of the year, with at least 200 in attendance.

It was a night of celebration honoring one of Harlingen’s leaders in higher education, Bob Shepard. He joins a long line of prestigious higher education supporters who have had this honor in past years.

“As I go around town telling people that Mr. Shepard is this year’s honoree, I always get the same reaction, ‘It’s about time,’” TSTC Interim Provost Cledia Hernandez told the audience. “Bob Shepard has single-handedly done more for higher education in South Texas than any other Valley resident. TSTC students past and present owe much to the dedicated work of this very special man.”

Shepard was born and raised in Harlingen and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Business Administration.

Shepard currently serves as president of Shepard Walton King Insurance Group and has more than 40 years of experience in the insurance industry, but he also has dedicated most of his life to ensuring that Valley students have the same opportunities as students in other parts of the United States.

Shepard’s message is this: “An educational institution like TSTC gives students and members of our community an opportunity for an education that is vitally important in our world today.”

The Harlingen native is active in the area of higher education both locally and statewide. He has served on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), appointed by Gov. George Bush in 1996 and again by Gov. Rick Perry in 2004.Noche de Gala 2018

He served as chairman of the THECB from 2005 to 2008 and was instrumental in helping to establish higher education opportunities such as new degree programs for the RGV. In that capacity, he was able to work closely with policymakers and education stakeholders to develop and implement a higher education framework, including strategic planning for community programs and technical colleges.

“Bob’s role in Austin was one of a guardian angel,” said Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell, who presented Shepard with a proclamation at the gala. “He has always known that the Valley needed to have more opportunity of higher education. Bob played an important role throughout the development of Texas State Technical College and has done a tremendous job in advancing higher education not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but throughout the state of Texas.”

Others who spoke on Shepard’s work and commitment to higher education included Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes, former Harlingen Chamber of Commerce President David Allex, TSTC President Emeritus Gilbert Leal, former TSTC Regent and former Harlingen Mayor Connie de la Garza, and former Harlingen Mayor Randy Whittington.

“Bob, congratulations on being recognized by TSTC for your leadership in higher education,” said Paredes. “Bob always wants to ensure that all children in Texas have the opportunity to receive a full education in whatever field they want to pursue. He’s a man who practices what he preaches and is always committed to working for higher education.”

Shepard’s work has touched countless TSTC students, including three who were in attendance to tell the audience that if not for the work of people such as Shepard and his wife, Ann, and other donors at the event, a higher education would not have been a possibility.

All proceeds from Noche de Gala go to fund the Lozano Long Promise Scholarship which was established in 1999, and the TSTC Texan Success Scholarship.

Both scholarships have helped thousands of students like vocational nursing student Julie Villarreal and building construction students Abel Garza and Susana Sierra realize their dream of a college education.

“My scholarships have motivated me toward finishing my education and paying back with good grades,” said Garza, a first-generation college student. “I am really thankful to have been granted these scholarships. Thank you to all of the donors, because every scholarship impacts students in a positive manner.”

Villarreal, who already holds an associate degree in Health Information Technology, said the scholarship has been a blessing.

“Thank you to every donor who has lifted a weight of financial burden off of our shoulders,” said Villarreal. “It’s people like you who make a difference in many lives, and I’m forever grateful. I hope one day I’ll be able to sit in your chair and make a difference in lives.”

“What makes this gala a success is hearing from the students who we have helped,” said TSTC’s Senior Development Officer Amy Lynch. “To see the impact the donations from today’s event have made and the opportunities they have provided is invaluable. And the reason so many succeed is because of the people who attend our event.”

Noche de Gala has raised more than $1.5 million and has helped more than 400 students achieve their educational dreams.

To learn more about Noche de Gala or for more information on becoming a donor, call The TSTC Foundation at 956-364-4500 or visit

TSTC alum finds success in male-dominated career

(HARLINGEN) – Nancy Villafranca is a single mom who knew she needed to support her son, but finding jobs was hard. Thanks to Texas State Technical College and its Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics degree, she was able to find a career she loves.

The Brownsville native graduated from TSTC with an associate degree in 2015 and is now working as a CAD technician and fabrication shop manager at Central Air and Heating Services (CAHS) in Harlingen.

“I never imagined myself doing this line of work,” said the 29-year-old. “It’s a male-dominated career path. And honestly, I was intimidated, but now I am loving it. It’s something challenging and different every day, and I have been given so many opportunities.”

Villafranca has been with CAHS for a little more than one year now, but she first started her journey as a nursing student at TSTC.Nancy Villafranca

“I loved the medical field, and I was going to be a nurse,” she said. “But things changed. After a semester, I realized it wasn’t for me. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was lost.”

With a newborn in the house, Villafranca said the only thing she did know was that she had to do something.

So after getting advice from a few TSTC instructors and looking at what intrigued her about her father’s career as a toolmaker, she knew that Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics was her best choice.

“I don’t regret the career change at all. I’ve never looked back or wondered ‘what if.’ I made the best choice for me and my son, and it has worked out great,” she said.

Villafranca now designs and drafts piping and ductwork for commercial projects, oversees supplies and materials for project managers and field technicians, manages at least 13 employees at the CAHS fabrication shop, and ships out materials to job sites.

She has even worked on major design projects for TSTC, her alma mater. She drafted and designed all ductwork and piping for TSTC’s new chiller plant and a recent addition to the engineering building.

“Everyone I work with is great,” Villafranca said. “From the top down, everyone is so helpful, encouraging and always available to answer questions. They are great teachers and care about the success of their employees.”

Sean Lavergne, CAHS production manager, said Villafranca is an exceptional employee and excels in whatever she tries.

“Nancy is a self-starter, always goes above and beyond, and is willing to learn new things. And she’s respected by all,” said Lavergne. “This is what really impressed me about Nancy.”

He added that Villafranca is never afraid to challenge herself, whether it is taking on new responsibilities, or learning a new software or skill.

“With Nancy’s determination, I see her going far in her career,” he said. “I told her I won’t be a production manager forever, and I can see her taking it.”

After a layoff and a job in Corpus Christi that Villafranca deemed too far from home, she believes she ended up where she belongs.

“I’m where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “My son and I are back at home with our family. I’m doing what I love and taking life one day at a time.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for drafters who have a two-year associate degree is expected to increase seven percent from 2016 to 2026. An increase in construction is projected to drive the demand.

TSTC’s Abilene, Brownwood, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses also offer drafting and design.

For more information on TSTC’s Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics degree, visit

Registration for Summer and Fall 2018 is in progress.