Author Archives: Kristina Campos-Davis

TSTC graduate clears hurdles in pursuit of degree

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The road to commencement was no easy journey for recent Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology graduate Hugo Gamboa, but he overcame the hurdles and received his associate degree on Friday night.

The 20-year-old was one of nearly 300 students who received a certificate or associate degree during TSTC’s Commencement at the Harlingen Convention Center.

“I really never thought this day would come,” said the Los Fresnos native. “There were so many times I felt like quitting, but I kept moving forward, and now I can’t believe that I can call myself a college graduate at only 20.”TSTC Mechatronics Technology grad Hugo Gamboa

Gamboa was actually supposed to graduate a couple of semesters ago, but he fell behind and had to decrease his class load, which he said taught him a valuable lesson.

“I was working two jobs, partially because I needed to save money for college and wanted to challenge (myself) if I could do it,” said Gamboa. “But it didn’t work out as planned, and it made me reprioritize and work even harder. It was hard watching everyone else graduate.”

Pursuing an education and a career in a field like Mechatronics Technology was something Gamboa was interested in at an early age.

“I’ve always liked to look at how things work,” he said. “And it continued to fascinate me through middle and high school. I was fortunate enough to have a high school teacher who took note of my skills and encouraged me to look into TSTC.”

Gamboa said it was during a TSTC recruitment fair that he discovered Mechatronics Technology and knew that it was the perfect match.

“There was never any doubt that this was the program for me,” said Gamboa. “It has been a definite eye-opener into the world of automation, engineering and robotics. Mechatronics is a little bit of everything, and now I have a solid foundation.”

Gamboa went on to excel in the program after overcoming a couple of rough semesters.

He even designed and created a working vending machine that dispenses small bags of chips and candy.

“It took me three months to design, build and program my vending machine, but it was well worth it,” he said.

The machine is now displayed at TSTC recruiting events, making it a staple at the Mechatronics Technology table and an area of fascination for younger students.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and all of the lessons I have learned,” said Gamboa. “I’m leaving with experience and skills that I know will help me begin my career because the training I’ve received has prepared me for the next chapter.”

Gamboa has already had numerous interviews with local companies and is waiting to hear back. There is one company in particular that is near and dear to his heart because his father works there and Gamboa previously worked there too.

“I’m excited to see where these interviews may lead,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed the mechanical and electrical areas of mechatronics. But I have an open mind, and I’m ready to try anything.”

Gamboa hopes to grow within the industry, become a leader in his field and live life to the fullest.

“Graduating at such a young age is a huge accomplishment for me,” he said. “And it’s exciting to think I have my whole future ahead of me and a chance to make my dreams come true. I hope that others that feel discouraged the way I did see that it’s possible and nothing can stop us.”

Statewide this month, more than 1,000 TSTC students will join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.

TSTC helps first-generation college student realize her dream

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – For Esthela Hernandez, becoming a college graduate seemed like a dream that would never come true. But on Friday night, the Texas State Technical College Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student earned her associate degree.

“This point in time seemed like it would never be possible,” said the 23-year-old. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to be. But I did know I felt like I was doing nothing with my life and that college would be my answer.”

Yet she wondered how she could do it as a single mother of two and a first-generation college student.

“I’m the first from my family to venture down this path, so I really didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice or the know-how,” said the Harlingen native. “But I had the support of my family, especially my parents, and that was more than enough to get me through.”TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics grad Esthela Hernandez

Although it was difficult juggling a full-time class schedule with a full-time job and being a full-time mother, Hernandez still managed to excel with a 3.9 grade-point average.

She graduated as a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

“I told myself when I first enrolled in college that I would graduate as an honor student,” said Hernandez. “So this is a real accomplishment for me. I did it.”

Hernandez had to make a few changes along the way, even leaving her job, to make sure she continued passing her classes.

She landed a paid internship as a drafter in her chosen field of study with CASA Engineering in Harlingen.

“It was risky leaving my job, especially with children, but I feel that everything I have done is worth it,” she said. “I’m doing this to give my children and my family a better life — to break a cycle.”

She said she has already been able to apply what she has learned in the classroom in the real world and that the best is yet to come.

“All of my instructors are part of my success and the reason I want to continue my education and strive for more,” said Hernandez.

She plans to return to TSTC in January to pursue a second associate degree in Engineering.

“I have the foundation I need to enter the industry already and work toward a successful career. But I want to learn more so I can aim for even better-paying jobs,” she said. “And I have found my way at TSTC.”

Now, as a college graduate, Hernandez hopes she has set a good example for her younger siblings and children.

“I’m happy that they now have footsteps to follow and that I can help them with the college process. They are not alone,” she said. “It’ll be a different journey for them, and although I didn’t have this type of guidance, I did have parents who showed me what hard work was and how not to give up.”

More than 300 students earned their certificates or degrees Friday night during TSTC’s Commencement at the Harlingen Convention Center.

Registration for Spring 2020 is underway.

For more information, visit

First-generation college student set to become TSTC grad

For Jasmine Munoz, there has been a lot of pressure to succeed as a first-generation college student, but Friday night all of her hard work will pay off when she graduates with an Associate of Science degree in Biology from Texas State Technical College.

Not only has she earned her degree, but she is also the only student for Fall 2019 to graduate as a Board of Regents honor graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

“It’s all still so surreal. I can’t believe I’m a college graduate and that I’m the only one,” said the 20-year-old. “And it feels really good knowing I have made my parents proud.”

The Los Fresnos native grew up in a humble home, with hard working parents and her three younger siblings, and although times were not always easy, college was never not an option.

“There were times I didn’t know how my family could afford to send me to college,” said Munoz. “But I knew this was what I wanted so I wasn’t going to give up easily. Money has never been a reason to stop my family.”TSTC Biology BOR Grad Jasmine Munoz

Fortunately, Munoz received financial aid and scholarships, including the TSTC Texan Success Scholarship, which helped her pay for tuition, books and supplies.

“I am so thankful for the financial assistance I received. It made all of the difference,” she said. “Without it, it would have been a lot harder to get through school. This encouraged me to keep going and keep up my grades.”

Munoz added that her Biology instructors and staff also played a big part in her success.

“I remember I was so nervous on my first day that my hands were shaking and I spilled coffee all over myself,” she said. “I was a mess, but everyone was so welcoming and comforting. And they continued to be that for me throughout my time in the program. They genuinely cared about my success; everyone’s success.”

So what’s next for Munoz?

“I’ve finished most, if not all, of my pre requisite classes for nursing,” said Munoz. “Nursing is my next journey and I’m going to push myself to reach that goal.”

As a frequent volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club and local nursing homes, Munoz said she’s developed a passion for helping others that inspires her to be a nurse.

“Everything I have learned at TSTC has prepared me for this next step in life,” she said. “And although it’s going to be filled with new challenges, I know I thrive with a challenge and I’m ready to create a different life for me and my family.”

Munoz hopes everything she is doing is setting a positive example for her younger siblings.

“There are have been times I have doubted myself and have been ready to quit, but I remember I have an example to set,” she said. “And I want them to see that everything is possible if you believe in yourself.”

Munoz is one of nearly 300 students graduating with a certificate or associate degree during TSTC’s commencement ceremonies on Friday at the Harlingen Convention Center.

Statewide, this month, more than 1,000 TSTC students have joined an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.

For more information, visit

TSTC teaching program prepares students for an A-plus career

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Thinking about a career in education? Texas is third in the nation in employment for hiring paraprofessionals, and Texas State Technical College is working to meet the demand with its Education and Training program.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than 55,000 jobs nationally through 2028, with growth being affected by rising student enrollment.TSTC Education and Training

“The number of schools, especially charter schools that are opening up, is large,” said Myriam Aguila, TSTC Education and Training department chair. “This growth increases the number of job opportunities and options for our graduates.”

Aguila went on to explain how Education and Training prepares students for a career in the education field.

“We receive a lot of positive feedback from teachers who our students work with about their commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and preparedness,” she said. “This says a lot about what they learn during their time in our program.”

What is the length of the program?

Education and Training offers two pathways. A student can earn a certificate in four semesters or an associate degree in five semesters.

What can students expect when they graduate?

Students in the program will graduate with, on average, 500 hours of experience in the field. With this type of immersion, graduates are well trained and prepared to manage the everyday duties of a classroom. Many of these graduates are hired before they even graduate at Head Start campuses or elementary schools where they are completing their apprenticeships.  

What skills do students learn in Education and Training?

In this program, students will receive specialized training in early childhood development, bilingual education, general education and special education, and will learn about instructional practices and effective learning environments, child growth and development.

They will also receive hands-on training by creating and developing instructional materials and by completing a practicum, which gives students field experience at local school district classrooms.  

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

Education and Training students have access to classrooms and labs equipped with the necessary classroom tools such as paper rolls, cutters, laminating and binding machines, poster printers, and supplies such as crayons, markers and craft scissors.

They also focus on technology in the classroom that helps push science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, so they also have tablets that they use as learning and teaching tools, a green screen and a three-dimensional printer.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

With more than 50% of a student’s training focused on technical, hands-on learning, they are prepared and confident to lead a classroom. They enter the workforce familiar with what to expect, great knowledge, a well-rounded skill set and are ready to work.  

What types of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Students who successfully complete the program can immediately begin their careers as paraprofessionals.

Graduates from this program have been hired by local school districts such as Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, NINOS Head Start and local day care centers.

TSTC Vocational Nursing graduates welcomed into profession

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Alyssa Parker spoke about overcoming her struggles and getting a second chance in her speech as salutatorian of the Texas State Technical College Vocational Nursing class of Fall 2019.

She spread her message during the program’s Vocational Pinning Ceremony hosted Thursday night at the TSTC Cultural Arts Center.

“Trust yourself, have confidence in yourself, and push yourself through the bumps in the road. Because you can come back stronger,” she said. “I am proof.”

This is the Harlingen native’s second time around in the Vocational Nursing program, having missed the mark the first time by only a tenth of a point.Vocational Nursing Salutatorian Alyssa Parker

“We were struggling to make ends meet, and I was working a lot,” said the 24-year-old. “It was hard to juggle everything and keep up with studying. But we’re in a different place now, and my significant other was able to take the responsibility of being the sole provider so I could keep my dream of becoming a nurse.”

Her dream is now a reality.

She will graduate from the Vocational Nursing program next Friday, but she has already accepted a position with the Neuro Med-Surg unit at Valley Baptist Medical Center, where she has previously worked as a certified nursing assistant.

“It is all so surreal. I never expected any of this to happen,” said Parker. “And I’m so thankful to my family, friends and instructors who made it all possible. It was a challenge, but they helped me overcome it.”

Sharing her sentiment was class valedictorian Sabrina Garza.

“It’s an honor being able to represent my class as valedictorian,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s been a lot of missed family time, studying and discipline. But it’s finally time to turn the page to a new chapter.”

Like Parker, Garza has dreamed of becoming a nurse since childhood, having grown up around aunts and cousins who are in the profession.

TSTC Vocational Nursing Valedictorian Sabrina Parker“This pin is a symbol of our hard work. It shows that everything we’ve done has paid off,” said Garza. “It’s a great feeling, and I thank my family, instructors and God for making all of this possible.”

The pin that Parker, Garza and their 18 classmates received, along with the capping and candlelighting ceremony, symbolizes the passing of knowledge. It a rite of passage into nursing and stems from a tradition set by Florence Nightingale, a trailblazing figure in the profession and the founder of modern-day nursing.

The ceremony also included a blessing of the hands and benediction led by Pastor Danny Anderson of the Bridge-Rio Hondo Baptist Church.

“Our students work hard to get to this day,” said TSTC Vocational Nursing director Heather Sauceda. “Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for them, and we are very proud of them.”

As for Parker and Garza, they both plan on returning to TSTC to pursue an associate degree in registered nursing.

These 18 students will earn certificates in Vocational Nursing on December 13 during TSTC’s Commencement ceremonies at the Harlingen Convention Center.

The Vocational Nursing pinning ceremony is held twice a year during the Summer and Fall semesters.

For more information on the program, visit

TSTC EMS advances student learning with Extrication Day

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – It was quite an experience for Pedro Casillas and more than 40 of his peers as they helped save lives in a mock two-vehicle accident during Extrication Day hosted by the Texas State Technical College Emergency Medical Services program.

“This was a great opportunity to practice what I’ve learned in the classroom,” said Casillas. “It was exciting to be able to showcase our skills to the local first responders who could hire us someday.”

Casillas, who works in beach patrol with the South Padre Island Fire Department, said he appreciates TSTC giving students like him this type of opportunity.

Extrication Day serves as training for EMS students to allow them to put their skills and knowledge to the test in a mass casualty incident drill while working with other first responders at the scene.TSTC Extrication Day

TSTC EMS instructor Adriana Contreras said Thursday’s drill marked one year since the program began hosting Extrication Day, and she has discovered that both new and returning students look forward to participating in it.

“This is a big step toward them starting their careers in this field,” said Contreras. “And from the beginning of the program to this point, it is so rewarding to see how much our students have learned and how much confidence they have gained in their skills.”

Contreras added that each Extrication Day opens up dialogue between emergency medical technicians and paramedic students who might otherwise never cross paths.

“A big focus on Extrication Day goes to making sure our students understand that EMS is a team effort,” she said. “Whether you’re fire, police or EMS, you must work with everyone to get the job done. So this helps them build a network.”

With teamwork being a top priority, TSTC receives help from local first responders across the Rio Grande Valley to bring a drill of this magnitude to life.

Participants included the TSTC Police Department, the city of Brownsville Fire Department, South Texas Emergency Care, and South Texas AirMed, which landed its helicopter for the event.

“We are so thankful for the amount of help and support we receive each Extrication Day,” said Contreras. “Our health care partners always help make this successful for our program and students.”

Contreras said drills like this give her students real-world experience so they are better prepared to enter the field.

“This event brings everything full circle for our classes,” she said. “It’s a culmination of everything our students have learned, from theory to technical, hands-on training.”

TSTC’s EMT and paramedic programs are currently accepting applications for Spring and Summer 2020 semesters. Information sessions are held every Tuesday on campus.

EMS is also offered at TSTC’s Abilene and Brownwood campuses.

For more information, visit

Veteran finds new career at TSTC

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – On Friday, Jackie Cook joined nearly 100 other Texas State Technical College graduates who received a certificate or an associate degree during the college’s commencement ceremony at the Stafford Centre.

The 31-year-old walked across the stage to receive his associate degree in Cybersecurity Technology as his family and friends witnessed the graduate’s proud moment.

“This is a huge achievement for me,” he said. “It’s a brand-new chapter. I’ve been working toward this for a while now.”

After his first stint in college didn’t go as planned, Cook served in the Army for nine years, with a deployment in Afghanistan.TSTC Cybersecurity graduate Jackie Cook

“College wasn’t going so well, so I enlisted,” he said. “I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps.”

Cook was no stranger to military life. His father served in the military, and the family moved to destinations around the world, including Japan, where Cook was born.

“It was challenging as a child, moving from place to place,” said Cook. “But as I got older, I found the adventure in it, and meeting new people was always the silver lining.”

Although meeting new people and experiencing new places was exciting for Cook, he realized he wanted more stability for his family. In 2018 he decided to leave the military.

That was when TSTC came into the picture.

“I needed to return to school and get an education,” he said. “I needed a new career, and education was the key.”

With an interest in computers and a father who specialized in information technology and encouraged him to pursue a career in the field, Cook found Cybersecurity at TSTC and thought of it as a perfect match.

“I have found that I really enjoy network security processes,” said Cook. “I want to be the person that blocks threats, and TSTC has prepared me for that career.”

He added that although hands-on training and getting to practice what he learns has given him confidence to enter the real world, it has been his instructors’ eagerness to help that has made all the difference.

“Our instructors have been there to help and go above and beyond,” he said. “They ensure that we understand the material and that we are learning skills that will make us marketable to employers.”

And with his student worker position at the Cybersecurity labs, Cook has had the opportunity to learn even more by using his skills to help others in his class.

“Overall, my entire experience at TSTC has prepared me for the future,” Cook said. “And I’m definitely ready for what’s next.”

With several job offers in hand, the husband and father of one said TSTC has changed his life and his family’s life.

“It’s been an interesting journey to say the least. Being in school with a family had its challenges, but we got through it,” he said. “Everything I am doing is for them, and now I’m going to be able to support them and give them a better life.”

Statewide this fall, more than 1,000 TSTC students will receive certificates or associate degrees and join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.

Cybersecurity Technology is also offered at TSTC’s East Williamson County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses.

For more information, visit

TSTC student soon to be well-rounded graduate

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – On Friday, Texas State Technical College student David Krenek will walk across the stage at the Stafford Centre and receive his associate degree in Industrial Systems.

“It feels great knowing that I’m done and about to graduate,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s time to move forward and get my life started. That’s exciting.”

At a young age, the Rosenberg native discovered his passion for working with his hands and tinkering with machinery.

“It’s this type of work that allows me to think outside of the box,” he said. “Working with machinery and its components to create, repair or troubleshoot is something I love to do, and I’m glad that at TSTC I can create a career out of my passion.”TSTC Industrial Systems graduate David Krenek

College was always in the cards for Krenek, but he wasn’t always sure about attending a four-year university.

“I saw this new school (TSTC) along the highway and decided to check it out,” said Krenek. “And after some research and a tour of the campus and the Industrial Systems program, I was sold. It was the modern, industry-standard equipment I would be trained on and the program’s faculty that sealed the deal.”

Krenek said the program has brought him a long way since the summer days when he worked with his uncle on the farm, repairing farm equipment and small engines.

“I knew a bit about machines, but TSTC has really given me an in-depth understanding of them and what it takes to repair and maintain them,” he said. “I can’t wait to put my training into good use.”

Krenek has already received several job offers from companies around the Houston area.

“I’m ready to start working, and I can’t believe how fast TSTC got me there,” said Krenek. “There is still so much to learn, but TSTC has given me the foundation I need to begin a successful career.”

He added that he enjoyed his experience at TSTC, from training to faculty assistance.

“I received a lot of one-on-one with my instructors, which helped in understanding concepts and processes,” he said. “And even better was the hands-on training and real-world practice I got to do in the classroom.”

Krenek will graduate as a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

“I’ve come a long way, and I’ve entered a new chapter in life,” he said. “I hope to gain experience, learn a lot, advance in my career, start a family someday and enjoy life the best way I can. This is only the beginning.”

Krenek will celebrate with family and friends on Friday, joining nearly 100 other students at the Fort Bend County campus who will graduate with a certificate or associate degree as part of TSTC’s Class of Fall 2019.

This month, statewide, more than 1,000 TSTC students will join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.

Industrial Systems is also offered at TSTC’s Abilene, East Williamson County, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses.

For more information, visit

TSTC automotive student races toward career

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – In one year, Texas State Technical College student Christopher Machado will earn an associate degree in Automotive Technology, making him the first in his family to graduate from college.

But the 19-year-old also has one other thing to be proud of: He already has a full-time job in his chosen career field.

“It’s great to be working already,” said Machado. “I feel like this makes me one step closer to my goal.”

The Brownsville native is a lube technician at Luke Fruia Motors in Brownsville.

“Once I started school, I realized it was time to find a place where I can grow,” he said. “And that’s were Luke Fruia came into the picture.”TSTC Automotive Technology Christopher Machado

Machado said his interest in cars goes back to his being a child helping his father and uncle repair and refurbish vintage cars.

“I grew up around auto mechanics. That’s all I’ve ever known,” he said. “Yet not going to college wasn’t an option. So TSTC’s automotive program was the perfect choice.”

From hands-on training in the classroom to using what he learns in real life, Machado has become a well-rounded student.

“I take things from the classroom and apply it at work, and I take things from work and apply it in the classroom,” he said. “I already feel like I’ve grown as an automotive professional because of this opportunity.”

Machado also credits his instructors for his newfound success.

“They have so much experience and knowledge to pass along,” he said. “Not to mention they’re understanding. They have been able to work with my schedule so that I can work but still get my education.”

Cris Cisneros, Luke Fruia Motors’ service manager and Machado’s direct supervisor, described Machado as a skilled, dependable, reliable and punctual employee.

“He may still be a student, but he came to us with impressive skills and the willingness to learn,” said Cisneros. “He is a great asset to the company, and there will be growth opportunities for him in the near future.”

Cisneros added that Luke Fruia has a longtime relationship with TSTC and has hired other TSTC automotive students and graduates in the past.

“We’ve always had a great experience with TSTC, its instructors, students and graduates,” he said. 

Although Machado has already learned a lot and improved on his skills since entering the program, he said he still has a lot to learn.

“All of the experiences I have been exposed to have opened my eyes into deeper levels of the industry,” he said. “There are constantly new techniques and processes to learn, and I know this next year will continue to prepare me for my career.”

Machado’s ultimate goal is to work on race cars, and he knows that to get good-paying jobs, education is key.

“Education is so important to me because that’s what’s going to open doors of opportunity for me in this industry,” he said. “Nearly every job requires some sort of certificate or degree.”

Automotive Technology is also offered at TSTC’s Sweetwater and Waco campuses.

For more information on Automotive Technology, visit

TSTC business program creates office professionals

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Graduates from Business Management Technology at Texas State Technical College can work in a variety of industries, some even becoming entrepreneurs or business owners.

TSTC Business Management Technology lead instructor Edna Claus said that in order to prepare the program’s students for successful careers, faculty focus on hands-on training that will allow for quick learning and well-rounded graduates.TSTC Business Management Technology

“Our program is a great place to gain the experience you need to learn the ins and outs of a business environment,” said Claus. “And we do whatever possible to help our students and graduates succeed.”

Claus added that Business Management Technology graduates are always in demand regionally and statewide, and job opportunities are virtually limitless. The program currently boasts a 95% job placement rate and is also offered 100% online.  

Claus went on to give an in-depth look into the program.

What is the length of the program?

Business Management Technology offers two pathways. A student can obtain either a Certificate 2 in one year or an Associate of Applied Science degree in 1 1/2 years.

What can students expect when they graduate?

In addition to earning a certificate or associate degree, students also have the option of getting a Microsoft Office Specialist certification and a QuickBooks certification.

What skills do students learn in Business Management Technology?

Students in the program learn advanced Microsoft Office skills in areas such as Excel, Access, Word and PowerPoint; management skills in marketing, human resources and communication; accounting principles and payroll; and business operations and business-plan writing.

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

Business Management Technology students have access to five fully-equipped labs complete with industry-standard software for training. Students are also required to create a LinkedIn account complete with a professional headshot and resume that will help with the job-placement process.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

By training with industry-standard software, students will be familiar with what they encounter in the workforce and will have the skills necessary to successfully complete work-related tasks, which will open doors of opportunities and growth.

What types of positions can a graduate from this program obtain?

Graduates from this program can work as bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks; billing and posting clerks; payroll and timekeeping clerks; secretaries and administrative assistants; and entrepreneurs.

They can find employment in a number of places, such as schools, restaurants, retail and food stores, and government agencies.