Author Archives: Naissa Lopez

TSTC alumna enjoys career as dental hygienist

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College alumna Maxene Prado completed the Dental Hygiene program in 2017. Now she is enjoying the perks of her career as a dental hygienist and credits the support system she had at TSTC for helping her succeed.

Why did you decide on a career in this field?

A representative from the Dental Hygiene program spoke to our (high school) class one day about career options, and I was intrigued. After more research, I decided dental hygiene was what I wanted to do.

How would you say that the Dental Hygiene program at TSTC prepared you for your career?

Completing the program is one of my greatest academic achievements, and it shaped me into the dental hygienist that I am today. The program was rigorous and prepared me to be a well-rounded clinician. This is largely attributed to my amazing instructors at TSTC who guided me and provided me with the knowledge and support that I needed to succeed along the way.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

It’s nice getting to wear comfy scrubs to work every day. Jokes aside, I enjoy the flexibility and job security that it provides me. I can choose to have a set schedule at one office or float through different offices. I live in Austin, and many areas have a large demand for dental hygienists.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start the program?

I cannot emphasize the importance of teamwork throughout the program enough. Collaboration and teamwork with my classmates were a large part of learning and succeeding. Be prepared to work hard and keep focused.

Dental hygienist careers are expected to continue to grow faster than average until 2029.

To learn more about TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program, visit


TSTC celebrates employees with drive-thru ceremony

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Honks and cheers were heard during a drive-thru ceremony at Texas State Technical College recently in celebration of the Employee Service Awards, which recognize TSTC employees for their years of service.

Employees were given a commemorative plaque and yard sign to thank them for their dedication to TSTC. Celebrated years ranged from five to 35, and 50 employees qualified for recognition.

TSTC Human Resources business partner Julie Gonzalez said that it is essential that employees know they are appreciated for their hard work.

“It is so important to celebrate every milestone we reach in our careers, especially at TSTC,” she said.

During the event, which followed TSTC’s strict coronavirus safety guidelines, employees were required to stay in their vehicles, and all accolades were given without physical contact.

Gonzalez said that those who have dedicated their time to TSTC play an important role in the ultimate purpose of the college: to help students succeed.

“Our employees with many years of service believe in the mission of TSTC,” she said. “It means that they are truly invested.”

Gonzalez, who is a recipient of an award for 15 years of service, thanked her colleagues for making the environment so special.

“Thank you for all you do to make TSTC a great place to work,” she said. “One thing that my co-worker, Melissa Aleman, and I talk about often is how TSTC and the employees we work with on the Harlingen campus are not just co-workers, they are family.”

Provost Cledia Hernandez reiterated that TSTC staff and faculty are pieces of the puzzle that help keep the campus running.

“Our employees are the essence of TSTC,” she said. “They are the driving force of accomplishing why we do what we do. We cannot do what we do without them.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit


TSTC to host virtual job fair for its students and alumni

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is committed to helping its graduates find jobs in their respective fields. Next week, TSTC students will be given the opportunity to find their new careers during the college’s Virtual Job Fair.

The event, which is online due to TSTC’s coronavirus protocols, will take place on Oct. 29 and is open to TSTC students and alumni.

TSTC’s director of Planning and Special Events, Hannah Luce, said that despite not having a physical location, the job fair will work much as it traditionally would have.

“Those attending will still be able to visit with attending employers and network just as if it were an in-person event,” she said. “One of the differences is the format.  The job fair starts at 11 a.m., and each employer will be in their virtual booth every hour for 45 minutes.”

Luce said that because of this, students will have to be selective about which prospective employers they decide to visit. She also suggested that students be prepared with interview-related materials and dress appropriately, just as they would if the event were in person.

“Students should have a resume prepared before the job fair and make sure to dress to impress,” she said. “There will be video capability at the Virtual Job Fair, so students and alumni should make sure they look professional.”

TSTC’s director of Talent Management, Viviana Espinosa, said that students should also make sure they test their login information prior to the job fair.

“Students and alumni should make sure they can log in to hireTSTC,” she said. “They should make sure their profile is up to date, upload their resume, and register for employer sessions they are interested in.”

Ultimately the Virtual Job Fair aims to continue TSTC’s mission of helping students and alumni find well-paying jobs.

“Our purpose is to help our students and alumni find great-paying jobs in their chosen field,” Luce said. “It is very important that we continue to have a way to connect them to companies that are hiring in their fields.”

Espinosa added that despite the job fair being online, the dedication to making sure that students get hired is still the same.

“It is of utmost importance that we host the Virtual Job Fair and give our students the opportunity to connect with employers,” she said. “This is our first one, and we have over 100 employers from all over the state registered to participate. We are excited that our students will have the opportunity to access a wider network of employers.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit



TSTC observes Drug and Alcohol Awareness week with online presentations

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is getting creative with events this semester. Social distancing has brought about a new way for students and staff to get together, and utilizing technology to get students involved in events that would normally happen on campus shows no signs of slowing down.

This month TSTC will recognize Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week virtually. Current students and staff will be invited via a link that will guide them to an online hangout where different topics will be discussed. TSTC counselor Angela Dunn talked about the importance of the events, as well as what she hopes students will gain from attending.

“Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week is an educational week held in institutions of higher education nationwide,” she said. “Alcohol and drug safety should be a priority throughout the year for colleges and universities, but this week is a helpful reminder to follow best practices and to bring attention to issues posed by excessive drinking or drug use among college students.”

The week will consist of various digital activities, including participants taking part in making graffiti art, an overview of making “mocktails,” and a Netflix watch party. As with any event, there were a few logistics that needed to be figured out to make sure that things run smoothly.

“All event planning comes with its own challenges,” she said. “Engaging students to attend the event is the hardest part of hosting virtual events. Other challenges are technical issues or participants not having supplies if it’s an activity.”

The activities planned for the week involve using household items, which Dunn said will allow for more students and staff to participate.

“We utilize generic items around the house that most people will have,” she said. “In order to avoid technical issues, we practice ahead of time to try to minimize any errors that might occur.”

Ultimately, virtual events such as this are to benefit students.

“Our hope is to open a line of communication within the college community,” she said. “We want to educate students on how to recognize the signs and behaviors of someone who might have issues with alcohol or drug abuse and teach students how to deal with stress in a healthier way.”

TSTC’s Collegiate Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week begins on Monday, Oct. 19.

To learn more about TSTC, visit


TSTC Nursing students achieve milestone

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – This week, Texas State Technical College celebrated a cohort of nursing students who passed the National Council Licensure Examination with a success rate of 96 percent at its traditional nursing pinning ceremony. The milestone is particularly special because the passing percentage with the Board of Nursing is 80 percent, which puts TSTC well above average of most other colleges and universities

This particular group of students was at the forefront of adjustments made by TSTC because of the coronavirus, something that Associate Provost Jean Lashbrook said adds even more meaning to their accomplishment.

“They have definitely stepped up to the plate, and quickly,” she said. “This group started in the fall of 2019 and completed their program at the end of summer 2020. They started the program with face-to-face classes and then had to quickly move to online learning with minimal face-to-face conversations with instructors, and the inability to be at the clinical sites due to the coronavirus.”

Program director Shirley Byrd acknowledged that both faculty and students being able to adjust so rapidly to the new methods of learning is something to be proud of.

“These students need to be recognized for the hardships they endured,” she said. “They came into the program with an excellent attitude and a gung-ho spirit to accomplish their goal of becoming registered nurses. They were already familiar with being able to interact with faculty on a daily basis, and all of a sudden, because of the pandemic, that was gone.”

The pinning ceremony, which became a tradition in the U.S. around 1916, was started by Florence Nightingale on her quest to honor nurses for their dedicated and selfless service.

“The pin identifies them as nurses,” Byrd said. “It bears testimony to their education.”

Lashbrook added that the ceremony is a well-deserved send-off into the field of nursing.

“Pinning is a rite of passage, so to speak,” she said. “It is presented to the new graduate as a symbol that welcomes them to the profession of nursing.”

Byrd said that the instructors of the program are incredibly proud of this cohort, and she even had a few parting words.

“Continue the dedication you showed in the program to your patients,” she said. “Show everybody what excellent nurses you have become. The world is yours.”

To learn more about TSTC’s Nursing program, visit

TSTC Dental Hygiene instructor brings experience from Alaska to Texas

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Dental Hygiene program are fortunate that their instructors bring a wealth of experience to the classroom each day. One of these instructors, Victoria Martin, lived in such diverse locales as Alaska and Puerto Rico before calling Texas home.

How long have you been with TSTC?

I began teaching with TSTC in the summer of 2016, but my love for wanting to teach at the Harlingen campus started much earlier, around 2007. I was living and teaching in Anchorage, Alaska, back then. My husband and I would come down to the Rio Grande Valley to vacation — and warm up a little. Going to and from the airport, we would pass by the TSTC campus. The main quad area of the camps is just beautiful, and I would say to myself, I pray I get to teach there someday.

What inspired you to get into teaching?

One of my former instructors, a mentor and friend, approached me to take over one of her classes when she retired. I was deeply honored. Once I started, my love for teaching grew with every class.

What did you do before your time with TSTC?

That is a topic that could make its own book. As I mentioned, I was teaching dental hygiene in Anchorage. During that time, I was also highly active in the American Dental Hygiene Association, along with practicing clinical dental hygiene in a public health setting. Besides providing oral health care in a hospital setting in Anchorage, we would fly to parts of rural Alaska to set up portable dental units and provide oral care to Alaska Natives. It was a fun and exciting time. My husband was a commissioned officer and dentist with the United States Public Health Service. Later, he was transferred to Puerto Rico. While there, I completed my master’s degree in dental hygiene. When my husband retired, we moved to the Rio Grande Valley.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

Wow, there are so many things that I love about teaching. My favorite is watching the students grow, not only with their dental hygiene and critical-thinking skills, but also as confident professionals. By the time they graduate, they believe in themselves and are willing to take any challenge head-on.

Do you have a favorite TSTC memory?

A year after I had been teaching, my dad, who is a dentist, came down from Chicago to visit. I brought him to the TSTC dental hygiene clinic to meet my co-workers and students. This simple thing turned into a lifelong memory for both me and my dad. Both the faculty and students not only welcomed my dad, but they treated him like a rock star. My dad felt incredibly special and still talks about it to this day. That moment will forever be in my heart.

To learn more about TSTC, visit

TSTC Environmental Technology instructor brings experience to the classroom

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Environmental Technology instructor Maria Vaughan brings knowledge and a passion for environmental safety into her classroom every day. Her time at TSTC has brought her not only many wonderful memories, but also a stronger sense of purpose as she continues to educate the future employees of the industry that she loves.

What inspired you to get into teaching?

Actually, I fell into teaching. One of the reasons was because most of the people I encountered within my industry did not understand the “how to”: How to take a water sample; how to take an air sample; how to write a sampling plan, an emergency response plan or other environmental and safety plans. It was amazing to me to see companies not know what environmental and safety regulations they were subject to or how to apply them. Teaching gave me the opportunity to give back the “how to” to students before they went into industry.

What did you do before teaching at TSTC?

Before TSTC, I worked with Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and as a consultant. Each position had its merits and molded me into the environmentalist I am today. I am grateful for each experience and thankful that I am able to share my experiences with others.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

A student once told me, “Ms. Vaughan, you are actually teaching us and training us for the real world.” I definitely enjoy when students realize that the education they are receiving at TSTC exceeds their expectations. There is a change in their demeanor and attitude toward the courses and with each other. Their want for education and the drive to get all they can from their instructors grows exponentially.

Do you have a favorite TSTC memory?

I think my most favorite memory was during an Environmental Toxicology class. The lesson included learning about chronic and acute illness, and the differences or similarities between the two. One of my students, out of the blue, said, “Ms. Vaughan is acute.” That brought the entire class to laughter.

To learn more about TSTC, visit

TSTC Culinary Arts student worker gains career experience before graduation

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Dreams of opening her own restaurant led Leilani Lopez on a path to studying Culinary Arts at Texas State Technical College. While her journey at TSTC has not been a cakewalk, she is grateful for the support and guidance that she has received from her dedicated instructors.

The Philippines native is a student worker in the Culinary Arts department and is expected to graduate at the end of this year.

“I have always enjoyed cooking and baking,” she said. “I wanted to make it a career. My journey at TSTC was difficult at first because I did not know there was more to culinary arts than cooking and baking. However, the instructors have been extremely helpful. They encouraged me to keep learning, and every day has brought me something new.”

Culinary Arts instructor Emma Creps said that Lopez has excelled during her three semesters as a student worker.

“Right now she is in her final class before she graduates,” she said. “She has been a terrific student worker. Very dedicated.”

Lopez said she is not a student who likes to observe from the sidelines.

“I enjoy prepping, baking, and conducting inventory,” she said. “I like being helpful. I am not the type of person who likes to stand and watch. I am always willing to learn more.”

Her dedication to go above and beyond extends well into her education.

“My original plan was to just get my certificate,” she said. “It was my husband who encouraged me to go for my associate degree instead. I was nervous at first. I did not think I was going to make it.”

Through her time at TSTC, Lopez has relished competing with her peers.

“My favorite memories are the competitions the department has,” she said. “They helped me realize that I was able to work well under pressure. They helped me become a competitive person and define my strengths and weaknesses.

Lopez said TSTC has helped her prepare for her career beyond her education.

“I have learned how to be more organized and use time management wisely,” she said. “It has made me more confident and comfortable with myself. I was very shy when I started this program, but now I am headstrong, and I look forward to succeeding in the future.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit

MVEC establishes Electrical Lineworker scholarship at TSTC

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Magic Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) recently gave $20,000 to The TSTC Foundation for scholarships in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program. The funds will benefit deserving students who one day hope to become part of the booming lineworker industry.

TSTC senior field development officer Richard Mesquias said that The TSTC Foundation is grateful for this gift.

“The funding will enable us to help TSTC in its work to prepare students for the workforce now and in the future,” he said. “This scholarship fund will be used to provide financial assistance for tuition, books and tools to eligible students.”

Partnerships with businesses like MVEC allow TSTC’s mission of training students for well-paying careers to continue. Mesquias reiterated that the number of jobs in this market is expected to climb, making these funds even more vital.

“Market demand for lineworker positions in Texas is expected to grow,” he said. “This means that TSTC graduates are quite attractive to Texas employers.”

MVEC general manager John Herrera said that one of the company’s most important goals is to empower the communities it serves.

“When TSTC reached out to us about investing in their Electrical Lineworker Technology program in the form of a scholarship fund, we did not hesitate,” he said. “We are honored to be part of the preparation and training of TSTC students toward a very rewarding career in the electric industry.”

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said that the scholarship fund helps to accomplish two of TSTC’s biggest goals: student success and employer success.

“We focus on getting our students trained to go straight into the workforce and be prepared with the skills employers look for,” she said. “We also work very closely with industry partners to ensure that we get their input on the skills needed to make certain that our programs are aligned with their needs.”

Hernandez said that scholarships such as this allow TSTC students to fulfill their dreams.

“Our industry partners see the caliber of graduates TSTC produces, and they want to invest in our region’s future workforce,” she said. “They also see the financial need that many of our students face, and these scholarships will help them reach their career goals.”

Herrera spoke about how the occupation itself is unique.

“The program at TSTC can be life-changing for students,” he said. “Although it is hard work, the career of an electrical lineworker can be very rewarding, both professionally and financially. It is an opportunity to play a vital role in your local community and allows you to become part of the family of lineworkers across the nation.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is at the top of the list of states with the highest level of employment for electrical lineworkers, and the demand is expected to continue to grow.

To learn more about Electrical Lineworker Technology at TSTC, visit

Culinary Arts at TSTC ready to fill jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College provides a hands-on approach to the rapidly growing field of culinary arts.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts, as well as three certificates, all of which can help equip students for success in the future.

Culinary Arts instructor Emma Creps discussed the approach that TSTC takes to the program.

“Our program has well-trained instructors with a lot of experience,” she said. “Our students receive excellent training, whether it is in baking or cooking techniques, food and meat preparation, dining room and customer service, or international and American cuisine.”

She said that Culinary Arts is always looking for additional ways that the program can bring even more to the table for students.

“We are always seeking ways to enhance those experiences for students,” she said. “Throughout the program, our students are given projects that will help them learn the importance of organizing events, kitchen management, menu creation and community relations.”

TSTC Career Services director Viviana Espinosa said that the guidance given from her department extends beyond a job search. While the coronavirus has shifted their services to being done virtually, students can still expect the same level of support that TSTC is known for.

“Our department offers professional development workshops, employer spotlights, job fairs to connect our students with industry professionals, and access to our online job portal,” she said.

The support does not stop there.

“We also offer one-on-one consultations, where we assist the student individually with their resume and conduct mock interviews.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, culinary arts is expected to grow at a faster-than-average pace until 2029.

To learn more about TSTC, visit