(HARLINGEN) – The first week of the Fall 2017 semester is in full swing at Texas State Technical College, and students like Mechatronics Technology major Rogelio Salas Vento are happy to be back.
Vento said he is excited about this semester because he has finally found a career path that is right for him and also a therapeutic escape.
The 30-year-old La Feria native is an Army veteran. During his five-year service as an infantryman he was deployed for 13 months to Afghanistan, where he sustained a traumatic brain injury after an explosion.
In addition to the brain injury, Vento suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and experiences occasional panic attacks, which led him to choose Mechatronics Technology.
“This is a very hands-on program, which helps me relax and stay calm,” said Vento. “The class sizes are also small and bearable for me. Too many people put me in a panic.”
When he first enrolled at TSTC after being medically discharged from the Army, Vento signed up to pursue an associate degree in biology. But the class size was too much for him to handle.
It was TSTC advisors and instructors like Mechatronics Lead Instructor Rolando Leija that helped Vento explore other career options.
The TSTC Veteran Center also has services available for veteran students and their dependents who are dealing with PTSD or other conditions through internal resources such as TSTC Support Services and external resources like the VA Clinic, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health and veteran-led peer-to-peer support groups.
“At the Veteran Center our goal is to have students succeed,” said Veteran Center Director Steve Guevara. “We’re here to work at getting students the resources they need. We’re here to help.”
The Veteran Center serves as a centralized department that assists with advisement and GI Bill, Hazlewood Act and scholarship applications. It also provides computer lab access and tutoring.
“Everyone was so helpful and empathetic to my issue, and for that I am thankful,” said Vento. “I’m now in a program I love, I’m looking forward to my future career and my confidence level in myself has increased.”
Vento is now looking toward a future with job opportunities at places such as Toyota, American Electric Power, Oncor utilities and manufacturer Toyotetsu North America as a field service technician, maintenance technician, electronic technician or engineering technician.
Leija said Vento is a great student and that a degree in mechatronics will open doors of opportunity for him and his classmates.
Students in the program will learn a broad range of skills including electronics, mechanics, robotics, instrumentation and computer control systems.
The program has a 90-percent job placement rate.
“I call the students in our program ‘Jacks of all trades,’” he said. “The demand for a trained workforce is high in this field, and this degree can take them anywhere.”
For more information on Mechatronics Technology or on the Veteran Center, visit tstc.edu.