Category Archives: Harlingen

TSTC, Valley Metro partner to meet industry needs

Texas State Technical College, in partnership with Valley Metro, recently started a Professional Bus Driver Training course through TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education to help fill a regional need.

The first class began the 80-hour, two-week course on March 5 and students in the class will receive preparatory training for both written and driving exams, and will receive hands-on training thanks to a bus donation from Valley Metro.

“This course was created to provide advanced training that can lead to a good paying job,” said Adan Treviño, TSTC Continuing Education special projects coordinator. “With this class we’re filling a demand and providing highly-skilled individuals into the workforce.”

Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Valley Metro Director of Regional Transit Tom Logan said the bus donation not only ensures that students in the bus driving course receive the hands-on training they need to be successful but also helps fill an employment need.

“Public and private bus agencies are in need of certified and trained bus drivers,” said Logan. “TSTC’s training program gives us the source to hire drivers to fill our vacancies.”  

Logan added that through a long-time partnership with TSTC, he has witnessed the college produce high-caliber drivers and employees.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a steady job growth in the bus driving industry, growing six percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Also, data shows that Texas has a demand for drivers, employing more than 12,000.

Hoping to become one of those bus drivers is Gloria Garza, currently the only woman in the course.

The 45-year-old already holds a Class A license to drive tractor trailers, but said it is time for her to slow down and stay closer to home.

“I’ve worked hard all my life, and sometimes not the easiest work,” she said. “So this is a career change for me. It’s something stable, with benefits and close to home.”

Ruiz worked several years in Washington and Minnesota as a migrant driving tractors and harvesting corn, strawberries and blueberries. And because she was a migrant, the Motivation Education and Training (MET) program, a non-profit corporation that provides rural communities in Texas with employment training and family services, is covering her tuition, supplies and exams.

“I’m currently receiving unemployment, and having to make it stretch,” said Garza. “So receiving this kind of help is invaluable. I know there are good things, better things, ahead for me because of this course and assistance.”

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said training students like Garza is what these types of partnerships and courses are all about.

“We’re continuously looking for ways to collaborate with organizations like Valley Metro to develop the workforce in the region,” said Hernandez. “So when they (Valley Metro) approached us about this partnership and helping them fill a bus driver shortage, we were on board.”

Hernandez said this is not the first time they host a bus driver training. Several years back TSTC worked in partnership with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and local transportation entities to get drivers trained and employed.

“We’ve seen great success with this type of training and we’re confident we’ll see success again,” she said. “This is what TSTC is created to do: provide our regional and state workforce and industry stakeholders with the trained workforce they need to help fill the skills gap.”

TSTC’s Professional Bus Driving Training will be hosted monthly.

Those that complete the course and pass all exams will earn a Class B license through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and can work as drivers for transit systems such as Valley Metro, Metro McAllen, Brownsville Metro and Greyhound Lines.

For more information on, or to apply for the Professional Bus Driver Training, and to learn more about the other services offered by TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education call 956-364-4503 or visit

TSTC nursing alum finds career success with two-year degree

For Amber Vega, every day brings new challenges as a registered nurse at the emergency room in Harlingen Medical Center.

But as an alumnus from three TSTC nursing programs, the 25-year-old said she is more than ready to handle what comes her way.

“I’ve seen everything: birth to death, and everything in between,” said Vega. “But I’ve never had a doubt that nursing is where I’m supposed to be.”

The Harlingen native followed in the footsteps of her mother, brother and many other family members who have pursued a career in the medical field.

“My mom and brother are nurse practitioners and many others are nurses,” she said. “Nursing is definitely in my blood.”

Vega graduated from the Nursing Assistant program in 2012 when it was still offered at TSTC, and also from the college’s Vocational Nursing and Registered Nursing programs in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

She had a number of nursing schools she could have chosen, but Vega decided on TSTC because of its proximity to home, affordability, length of program and class size.

“TSTC was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I had plenty of one-on-one with instructors, a focus on hands-on training and patient care. I was well prepared and confident entering the workforce.”

When asked why a two-year degree over a four-year degree she said, “For me there was no difference. The degree wasn’t going to change the fact that I was going to be a registered nurse.  I had to take the same courses, same exams and do the same clinical rotations. Plus, I got to start working a lot faster.”

She added that pursuing a two-year degree also saved her and her family money, leaving them debt free.

TSTC’s registered nursing program takes approximately 20 months, or two years to complete and costs around $12,300.

According to the Nurse Journal, a worldwide social community for nurses, on average a bachelor of science in nursing takes nearly four years to complete and can cost on average anywhere between $40,000 to $65,000.

“It’s great not owing any money and saving what I’m earning to make a better life for myself,” she said.

Vega said nursing has changed her perspective on life, decision making and leadership; and it all started when she began her clinical rotations at Harlingen Medical Center.

It was also here where her skills were recognized and she immediately hired after passing her National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

“My goal as a nurse is to always give my best to my patients,” she said. “Patient care is number one, especially during this difficult time in their lives. I’m here to provide the best quality care whether it’s mental, physical, emotional or spiritually. With me my patients are never alone.”

She also said she is happy and relieved that TSTC has helped her find success in such a short period of time.

“I’m only 25, and most people my age are still looking for their place in this world,” said Vega. “But I found mine and TSTC helped me get there.”

Vega said she does hope to follow in her brother’s and mother’s footsteps and eventually become a nurse practitioner.

Nursing is also offered at TSTC’s Breckenridge and Sweetwater campuses.

For more information on the vocational nurse to registered nursing transition program at TSTC, visit or call 956-364-4983.

Information sessions are now being held twice a month through August 2019.  

Student Success Profile – David Pena

David Peña is an Engineering major at Texas State Technical College. He expects to graduate this semester with an associate degree.

The 22-year-old, who also works as a work-study employee as a mentor with the TSTC Office of Student Success, said he is excited about his future and happy that he’s been able to grow and maintain a 3.8 grade-point average.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on pursuing a career in engineering and eventually getting a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

What’s your dream job?

My uncle is a senior foreman for an engineering team in Hawaii, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment at TSTC has been maintaining my GPA. I was never an A student in high school, so I never expected to do this good in college, but TSTC has shown me that it’s possible.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is about resiliency. Before enrolling at TSTC my plan was to enlist in the Air Force, but due to a past surgery I was disqualified. It was a big disappointment for me to say the least, but because of resiliency I didn’t let the discouragement or struggles keep me down.

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

My mathematics instructor Scott Contois and engineering instructor Hermes Chirino have been my greatest influences. They are inspirational to their students, push us to pursue our passions and encourage our education.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to find a field and a career they are passionate about. Do more than just your basics at TSTC, complete an associate degree because there are programs that are going to bring so many opportunities to your lives.

Student Success Profile – Esperanza Velazquez

Esperanza Velazquez is an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student at Texas State Technical College.

The San Benito native boasts a 3.75 grade-point average and expects to graduate with an associate degree in Spring 2020.

The 21-year-old is also active on campus as a work-study employee for Student Life and Engagement and the Student Government Association representative for her program.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue a second associate degree in Engineering, and then transferring to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in both engineering and communications.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become an engineer and help cities and towns with underdeveloped housing improve this issue so families have a nice place to call home.  

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been receiving my work-study position with Student Life. This job has taught me so much about leadership and communication, and has given me other opportunities as a student I may not have otherwise received.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned is to listen to all sides of a discussion or debate and always think before speaking.

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

The person at TSTC who has influenced my success the most is Student Life and Engagement Coordinator and my supervisor Belinda Palomino. She has shown me how to never give up and to always believe in myself and my dreams. She is proof that as long as you work hard, success is possible.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to really invest in improving time management skills, this is crucial to surviving college courses and juggling the workload.

TSTC grad finds career in booming medical industry

Vilze Gamboa didn’t think college was in the books for him, but nearly eight years later he graduated from the Biomedical Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen making him the first in his family to graduate from college.

After graduating from Harlingen High School in 2011, the Harlingen native immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I was not the best in high school. I never shined,” said Gamboa. “I didn’t have motivation to go to college, I was undecided.”

The 26-year-old enlisted in the Army and served nearly four years with a deployment to Afghanistan for nine months before returning home.

“The army was the best decision for me at the time,” he said. “I got to see the world and have experiences I never would have had otherwise.”

But upon returning home, Gamboa felt like something was missing and that something was a college degree.

“I had educational benefits from the army available to me,” he said. “So I enrolled at TSTC, never planning on earning a degree, but that instantly changed.”

Gamboa used his Hazlewood Act and G.I. Bill to pay for his education when he initially enrolled to take a few classes.

But with time spent at TSTC, the more he learned about the college, its programs and most importantly Biomedical Equipment Technology.

“I like the medical field, but being behind the scenes and repairing the technology used in the industry was more my fit,” he said. “So when I was introduced to the program there was no hesitation, I enrolled immediately.”

Today, Gamboa holds an associate degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology and works as a Biomedical Technician I at Baylor Scott and White Health in Temple, Texas.

He received his job offer before even graduating from his program. Today he is responsible for the repair and maintenance of operating room equipment such as surgical tables, lights, scopes, blood pressure monitors and IV pumps.

“As a student in Biomedical Technology you are immediately introduced to industry-standard equipment,” said Gamboa. “We train with this equipment every day, hands-on, so by the time we start applying for internships and jobs we are more than prepared to handle the everyday challenges of a biomedical technician.”

Gamboa, who is also a father of two, said he can now support his family and give them everything they need because of the great pay and benefits package he receives at Baylor Scott and White Health.

“Knowing I had this job prior to graduating, made the success of it all that much sweeter. Not too bad for a two-year degree if I say so myself,” he said. “I was relieved knowing that I could now start supporting my family. And even more important, TSTC opened me up to the possibilities of continuing education. It showed me how to like school.”

Gamboa hopes to continue setting a good example for his children by continuing his education.

In the near future, Gamboa hopes to attend a four-year university, while working fulltime, to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business so he can pursue management opportunities.

“TSTC truly changed my life and I recommend it to everyone I encounter looking for a new opportunity or career change,” he said.

In fact, even Gamboa’s brother is now pursuing an associate degree in Biomedical Technology from TSTC.

“I want my kids to realize that anything is possible,” said Gamboa. “They are only four and five, but I’m already having conversations with them about college, because I don’t want them to wait like I did and because of TSTC I’ve been able to set that example.”

Biomedical Equipment Technology is also offered at TSTC’s campus in Waco.

For more information on the program, visit     

TSTC mechatronics students mentor HCISD STEM academy students

With Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education a focus in K-12 and institutions of higher education, Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology students are stepping up and doing their part to encourage middle schooler’s interest in STEM-related fields.

Recently, Mechatronics Technology Club officers and students volunteered with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District STEM2 Preparatory Academy as judges and mentors for the school’s “First Tech Challenge” competition.

“It’s great that these students have already taken an active approach in STEM education,” said TSTC Mechatronics Technology student and club president Flavio Tello. “And it’s our duty as college students pursuing a STEM career to encourage and motivate them.”

A number of middle school students from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered at STEM2 Preparatory Academy for the competition. The contest consisted of robotic matches with robots the students built and programmed themselves.

“We know all too well the pressure a competition like this can bring,” said Tello. “So we are glad that we were able to give these students advice and share our own experiences.”

The Mechatronics Technology students, who have competed in competitions such as SkillsUSA in the past, made recommendations and suggestions to the students on how to improve their robots’ programming and competition times.

“It’s great being a part of this. I wish this is something I had when I was in school,” said Tello. “Times are changing and training is improving, which is why I hope these students take advantage of everything offered to them, and I hope that what we share with them encourages successful careers.”

STEM2 Preparatory Academy Counselor Brenda Duarte said she was pleased with the learning experience TSTC’s mechatronics students provided for her students.

“This visit went very well. We’re so appreciative that these TSTC students took the time to come out and help,” said Duarte. “The exchange of ideas and knowledge between everyone was great.”

Duarte added that there was a lot of discussion about higher education, robotic design, advances in technology, programming and coding.

She said she hopes the partnership between her campus and TSTC’s mechatronics program continues to grow because these students have had a large impact on her student’s interest in STEM education.

Tello and many of his peers will be graduating this semester, but said they are working diligently at getting other club members up to speed about the partnership so STEM2 Preparatory Academy students can continue to get mentored.

“STEM is here and is the future,” said Tello. “We need to work to keep these young students interested in STEM and it starts by letting them know they’re not alone.”

Since the competition, Tello and his classmates have returned to speak to classes at the STEM academy and to share their SkillsUSA robotic prototype.

For more information on Mechatronics Technology, visit  

Student Success Profile – Abraham Vasquez

Abraham Vasquez is a Computer Networking and Security Technology student at Texas State Technical College.

The Raymondville native expects to earn his associate degree this semester.

When the 24-year-old isn’t busy studying, he can be found working at TSTC’s Talent Management and Career Services office as a work-study program employee.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on working in my field immediately. I’ve already begun the job search and application process. I hope to find something as a network specialist.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work at an information technology department as a network specialist for either a hospital or school district, where I know there’s never a dull moment and there’s always something to repair and fix.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment has been making it this far. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; commencement is near. I’ve always had a knack for computers and seeing how they work, and now I’ll be able to call myself a college graduate in my field.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that there’s always room to learn more, and it’s important to keep learning so I can make room for growth in my career.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

The people who have influenced my success the most are, of course, my instructors, but also my classmates. My classmates and I have been together since the beginning of the program, and we have grown as family and friends. We help each other out, collaborate, and push each other to continue and do better.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to not procrastinate. I was a terrible procrastinator. I can admit that, but it was always stressful. So I hope someone takes my advice to heart and starts projects and assignments sooner than later.

To serve and protect: TSTC swears in new police officer

Walberto Villarreal was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement when as a little boy he would watch his father put on his security guard uniform.

And this week his dream of becoming a police officer was realized when he was sworn in to the Texas State Technical College Police Department.

“I’m happy to be here at TSTC,” said Villarreal. “From the moment I stepped on campus, I could feel this was the place for me. So when the offer to be on their force was extended, I accepted it. It’s an honor.”

The Brownsville native was sworn in during a ceremony by Judge Eloy Cano Jr., with his family, colleagues and friends as witnesses to the prestigious event.

“I’m so excited to have Villarreal on our team,” said TSTC Police Chief Eduardo Patino. “He possesses all of the qualities we look for in an officer.”

Patino said that in addition to skills and experience, TSTC police officers must observe and practice TSTC’s core values of excellence, integrity, accountability and service.

“We support our policing principles and TSTC’s mission,” said Patino. “It’s important that we introduce these values and our new officers to the community we serve. And it was Villarreal’s character, eagerness to learn and self-discipline that stood out above the rest. We have no doubt that he will succeed in our department.”

Prior to arriving at TSTC, Villarreal worked as a detention officer in Bayview, where he said he received his first look into law enforcement.

“This really was a stepping stone for me,” said the 31-year-old. “This is when I knew for sure that law enforcement was the field for me.”

Villarreal went on to graduate from a local police academy, and he was determined to set a good example for his 3-week-old son.

“It was my father who inspired me to pursue law enforcement. Because of him, I am who I am,” he said. “I would watch him every day, which is what all kids have to do to learn. And I hope that I’m able to be a great inspiration to my son also.”

Villarreal’s goal as part of the TSTC Police Department is to serve and protect his campus and community, continue learning and growing, and gain experience that will help him better serve.

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said of the police department and its officers, “We are appreciative of the service each and every officer provides to our campus and community. It is an honor to have them with us. They are the ones that make our campus feel safe.”

TSTC prides itself on being a great place to work and offers competitive pay and a full benefits package. To search or apply for available jobs, visit

TSTC paramedic program offers credit by certification

The Emergency Medical Technician program at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen recently made changes that bring more opportunity to current and future students.

Last year, after being under Workforce Training and Continuing Education for more than a decade, TSTC’s EMS program received the accreditation it needed to offer a certificate and associate degree track.

With this move, the program is now able to accept financial aid and offer students credit by certification.

“This is a huge move for our program and for our students,” said TSTC EMS instructor Ruben Ramirez. “It helps our students save time and money, and doesn’t delay their growth in the field.”

To take advantage of the program’s credit by certification, a student must already be a certified EMT basic or advanced EMT seeking to become a paramedic, or a certified paramedic seeking an associate degree.

The students’ Texas Department of State Health Services certification and experience will be considered when determining credit.

Ramirez said unlike other colleges that require the students to retake the EMT Basic courses to be accepted into a paramedic program, TSTC will accept the department of state health certification as college credit after a student credit evaluation is complete.

“These students are working in the field already and getting plenty of experience,” said Ramirez. “We trust that they are skilled and ready for the challenges of becoming a paramedic.”

Ramirez added the student credit evaluation does come with a $75 fee, which is $25 per course that is transferred, whereas repeating the EMT Basic program can costs students between $1,000 and $3,000.

TSTC EMS student Jacob Luna is an advanced EMT. He received both his EMT certificates from another institution and, because all of his credits transferred, he is on the path to becoming a paramedic.

“I have seen the light at TSTC. Easier process, less fees and less hassle,” said Luna. “I’m finally finishing what I started and no limits or barriers. I’m grateful for the opportunity TSTC has given me.”

The 36-year-old is a full-time dad, full-time student and full-time firefighter with the City of Pharr, where he has been for nearly two decades. He expects to graduate in Spring 2020.

“Becoming a paramedic will allow me to practice a wider scope of patient care, will give me more job opportunities and will show my son that anything is possible,” said Luna.

Richard “Erick” McLaughlin was only 18-year-old when he started working as a firefighter. He spent 10 years with the San Juan Fire Department, and currently works with the Edinburg Fire Department and as a full-time EMT Basic with MedCare EMS in McAllen.

“My end goal is to become a paramedic,” said McLaughlin. “I could have chosen to go anywhere, but I chose TSTC because they accepted my certificate as credit and now I’m pursuing my associate degree.”

“I recommend this program to anyone looking to grow in this field,” McLaughlin added. “From my experience, many of my own colleagues have been encouraged to enroll at TSTC.”

The paramedic program takes one year to complete and runs January to January. Students must complete clinical and practicum rotations before graduating.

A student enrolled in the paramedic program can either obtain a certificate or associate degree.

Once a student graduates from the program and passes the  National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam, he/she can work anywhere across the country with emergency medical services, schools, hospitals or as safety officers.

“This program was designed and created to mirror our program in West Texas to ensure that our students find success,” said Ramirez. “There is a demand for skilled paramedics in the industry and this will help fill that gap.”

TSTC’s Paramedic program is always accepting applications and hosts an information session every Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Building D, Room 114.

For more information, call 956-364-4741 or 956-364-4740.

Scholarships rev up TSTC automotive students

Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology students in Harlingen and Waco will receive scholarships thanks to a San Antonio-based automotive organization.

The non-profit Community of Automotive Professionals, which runs CarFest in San Antonio, rewarded TSTC’s Automotive Technology students for participating in last year’s event with a $30,000 check for scholarships and equipment.  

The five TSTC students in Harlingen who were awarded $500 scholarships are Christopher Aguilar, Luis Barrientos, Christopher Machado, Jose Munoz, Noel Soto and Joshua Vasquez.

To be eligible for a scholarship, TSTC in Harlingen and Waco Automotive Technology students must maintain a 3.25 grade-point average.

Many of the students who received the scholarship have also helped at CarFest with setup, takedown and vehicle maintenance.  

“Many students struggle to come to school because of economic stresses,” said TSTC Automotive Technology instructor Miguel Zoleta. “The scholarships give students the opportunity to use the automotive scholarships to pay for tuition, books, tools and other expenses such as gas and meals.”

Vasquez, who is pursuing an associate degree in Automotive Technology, said he was overcome with surprise and gratitude when he learned he was a scholarship recipient.

“By getting this scholarship I am able to continue pursuing a childhood dream: becoming a college graduate,” said Vasquez. “I was homeschooled and choosing a career was difficult, but I knew I loved working with my hands. TSTC’s automotive program was a good choice for me.”

Vasquez said there are not enough words to express his gratitude toward the Community of Automotive Professionals and to his TSTC instructors for believing in him and giving him this opportunity.

Machado, also an Automotive Technology student, shared the same sentiment and said he was humbled to have been selected for this scholarship.

“I never expected this to happen,” said Machado. “This is going to help get me get closer to building my career and a successful future.”

Machado already works in Walmart’s automotive department and added that this scholarship will allow him to excel in studies and pursue his dream of one day owning an automotive business.

TSTC in Waco Automotive Technology students who also received a scholarship are Patrick Bruce, David Davis, Ramiro Hernandez, Jaeshon Jackson, Patrick Kaltenbach, Kevin Le, Krystal Marshall, Jens Moen, Joel Ramirez, Samuel Shimek, Shelby Terry, Gabriella Villarreal, Ricardo Villegas and Andrew Whatley.

TSTC in Harlingen and Waco Automotive Technology students will once again participate in this year’s CarFest 2019 from April 5-7 at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.

For more information on TSTC Automotive Technology, visit