Category Archives: Harlingen

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

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

TSTC Employee’s Journey to 30 Years

(HARLINGEN) – For Leticia Licea all roads led to Texas State Technical College more than 30 years ago.

The Raymondville native has been at TSTC since December 1986 and was recently recognized for her service to the college at its recent Employee Appreciation Day.

Her journey at TSTC started when she had to return home from St. Edward’s University in Austin, where she was studying Fine Arts, to help her parents through a difficult time.

“I was one class shy of getting my bachelor’s degree,” Licea remembers. “But naturally when your family needs you it’s time to come home.”

Licea recalls applying anywhere and everywhere for a job, including TSTC. She received call backs from the Department of Health Services and almost became a state trooper, but said neither of the two options felt right.

“I had just started working at Dillard’s when TSTC called me,” she said. “So I did what I thought was right and I worked at TSTC, Dillard’s and later HEB all at the same time.”Leticia Licea

Eventually she said the combination no longer worked and she chose TSTC above all other jobs and never looked back.

Licea is currently an enrollment specialist for the Office of Admissions, but she started as a switchboard operator and stayed at that position for 15 years. She then became the department secretary for the Office of Student Recruitment and finally made her way to admissions as an admissions technician and an admission staff assistant.

“I love everything about my job,” said Licea. “I wake up every morning happy to come to work and tackle the day. It’s never the same thing and that’s exciting.”

She went on to say that the students are what make her job worthwhile and being able to help them through the application process and to make a difference in their lives.

“From the students to my colleagues, I have been blessed with my second family here at TSTC,” Licea added.

Those who work closely with Licea say she brings positivity to the office and for some, like TSTC Executive Registrar Paula Arredondo who has worked with her for 23 years, it makes all the difference.

“Leticia is an outstanding employee, very committed,” said Arredondo. “She is student driven, loyal to her work and the college and a great person all around.”

It is these qualities that also earned Licea Staff Excellence Awards in 2006 and 2014.

Though Licea is an avid runner and has her ranch complete with goats, chickens, geese, dogs and cats to take care of she said retirement is not in her horizon yet.

“I could have retired already, but I’m still healthy and as long as I am I’m going to continue working,” said Licea.

When asked what keeps her going she had insightful advice for others: “The key is to always be positive and take life one day at a time.”

TSTC Police Chief Celebrates 30 Years of Service

(HARLINGEN) – Police Chief Aurelio Torres’ career at Texas State Technical College spans over 30 years and was recently recognized at the college’s annual Employee Appreciation Day for his service.

Torres, whose law enforcement career started at TSTC, said this was always a field he wanted to pursue because of its nobility.

“Our highest call is to provide service to others,” he said. “I feel that with my career I’m doing something with a purpose.”

Torres earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice – Police Administration from the University of Texas at Brownsville and graduated from the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas Leadership Command College and moved up the ranks.

He arrived at TSTC in 1987 as a police officer and served in that position until 1995 when he became an investigator and field training officer. And finally in 2008 he was named the TSTC Chief of Police.

“The title of a job doesn’t matter, it makes no difference,” said Torres. “It’s about helping people and making a difference.”

TSTC Chief of Police Aurelio Torres

Helping and changing lives is what Torres says is his favorite part of the job, even if the task is as small as unlocking a car.

“When I was an officer I loved being out in the field and helping our students overcome challenges,” he said. “It was great getting to know them and becoming a mentor.”

Although he does not work with students as often as he would like anymore, he said it has been great taking his officers and sergeants under his wing and helping them become the best officers and employees they can be.

“I love coaching and mentoring my personnel,” said Torres. “It’s important to me that they understand their jobs and what they do and how it ties into the college’s mission. In turn, it helps us provide the best service possible.”

Torres ensures that his team is always well trained and prepared by encouraging developmental training, the way TSTC has always encouraged his professional growth.

Torres and his officers have all completed trainings such as Campus Orientated Police Training, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response, Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events and sexual assault family violence investigator courses.  Most recently the chief and his sergeants completed the FBI’s Command Leadership Institute trilogy.

“Learning never stops and I’m thankful for the training that TSTC provides,” said Torres.

TSTC’s Vice Chancellor and Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Ray Rushing, who is also Torres’ supervisor, has worked with the chief for more than 18 years and said that he is the epitome of a law enforcement professional.

“His knowledge, skill and leadership is best reflected in the awesome department he has assembled and trained,” said Rushing. “TSTC is lucky to have a man of such integrity and commitment on staff. His love for and dedication to TSTC is showcased daily in his actions.”

It is this dedication that has earned Torres other recognitions as well. He has been recognized by the FBI for his assistance in a child pornography case, by the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and by TSTC in 2011 as a Chancellor’s Excellence Award recipient.

Torres added that he never expected to be at TSTC for 30 years, but he is grateful that the college has allowed him to stay that long.

“TSTC has become my second family,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my commitment to the college and its community. TSTC offers so many opportunities to its students and employees and transforms lives. I want to continue being a part of that for as long as I can.”

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Texas State Technical College student Edith Romero is pursuing an associate degree in Business Management Technology and is expected to graduate Fall 2018.

The San Benito native currently boasts a 3.2 grade-point average and is active on campus and within her community.

The 20-year-old is a work study with the Office of Student Life, secretary of the Veteran Students Alliance Club, a member of the TSTC Pool Sharks club and a volunteer with the Harlingen Recycling Center and the Humane Society of Harlingen.

What are your plans after high school?

Edith Romero

After I graduate from TSTC I hope to get hired at either the San Benito Parks and Recreation or the Harlingen Recycling Center as an event coordinator.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work in anything that has to do with recycling and spreading awareness on environmentalism. I’ve always had a love for it and I want to encourage others to help make our communities green. Hopefully one day I’ll also be able to start a recycling center in San Benito and invent environmental-friendly products.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

At TSTC, my greatest accomplishment so far has been being voted secretary for the Veterans Club. I’ve always been a shy person and TSTC has helped me break out of my shell. Another accomplishment I’m really proud of happened when I was in high school when I was selected to be the only national representative for a Health Occupations Students of America competition.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I live by one quote, “Everything happens for a reason.” I was never interested in going to college, until some TSTC representatives came to talk to my high school class and showed me how important a college education is. I believe I was meant to hear their presentation because now TSTC has given me a brighter life and future.

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

Math lab assistant Vicky Lopez has had the greatest influence on my success. I came into college afraid of math. I’m not good at it. But Vicky was available every day to tutor me and help me. She was so welcoming and because of her and her great attitude I got an A in all of my math classes.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

I want students to remember that college is worth it. Keep trying no matter how hard it gets because it will change your life for the better.