Category Archives: Harlingen

IDEA San Benito students announce plans to attend TSTC

(SAN BENITO, Texas) – Family and friends of 26 IDEA San Benito seniors learned that Texas State Technical College would be the students’ school of choice beginning this fall.

The high school students revealed their decision to attend TSTC during the annual college signing day celebration earlier this month.

“Most of the students said they wanted to attend TSTC for Automotive Technology, Nursing and Dental Hygiene,” said Casey Theivagt, the school’s director of college counseling. “They chose TSTC because it was close to home for them.”

The IDEA Public School system, which was founded in 1998, has a goal for students to enter the first year of college without needing remedial courses in any area. Theivagt said that goal is reached on an annual basis.

“We serve the underserved and low-income students of our communities. We are proud to have a 100% college articulation rate with our students,” she said.

The college signing day event is a way for students to celebrate their college choice while also meeting the school’s goal of having every student prepared for college.

Theivagt said students are required to submit six college applications during their senior year.

“They choose the schools in which to apply, and they choose the school they want to attend,” she said.

Past students have chosen TSTC because of the hands-on programs. Theivagt said students have shown interest in several programs, including Aircraft Airframe Technology, Automotive Technology, Dental Hygiene, Nursing and Wind Energy Technology.

“TSTC offers students a wide range of options,” she said.

Cledia Hernandez, TSTC’s Harlingen provost, said working with IDEA San Benito and other school districts to attract students pays off when she sees them enter the workforce.

“For many years, students believed their only option in higher education was a four-year degree,” she said. “It is great to see the awareness of the benefits and value of technical careers. With 70% of Texas jobs requiring a technical degree, we are excited to work with our secondary education partners to help students transition to our technical programs and prepare them to enter the workforce.”

Theivagt said having TSTC close to its campus is also helpful.

“Students who have toured the campus love what they see,” she said. “They have enjoyed attending events like the open house. The students have had a chance to visit some programs, and that helped them make their choice.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Health Information Technology program ready to fill Valley jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Health information technology enables people to work wherever they want to do their part to keep patients’ health care records organized.

Beyda Ramirez, an instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Health Information Technology program in Harlingen, said graduates do more than handle billing and coding. They also maintain the accuracy of electronic medical records and work with medical facilities’ clinical documentation improvement plans.

“The medical field is always updating and evolving and changing — and with us even more so, because we deal with data,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said interest in the medical field will help students succeed in the program.

“A lot of the students want to stay in the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “We have students that have left for another city or state. Sometimes we have those students call us and say they have a job opening.”

Linda Gonzalez is a graduate of TSTC’s Health Information Technology program and is currently the marketing director of health information management at the Valley Baptist Health System. She leads her staff in all stages of electronic medical record keeping, including processing birth certificates. The work involves having staff available for both day and evening work.

Gonzalez said when working to fill vacant jobs, previous experience with medical records is beneficial. Valley Baptist, which has facilities in Brownsville, Harlingen, and Weslaco, has hired several TSTC graduates.

“As things have progressed, you don’t really have time for on-the-job training,” she said.

Gonzalez said people who handle medical coding have worked remotely for the last few years. The pandemic has changed where some staff members work, with some not even being in the Valley.

Gonzalez said pursuing health information technology is a great career option.

“There’s always going to be job security,” she said. “You will always need individuals to review the account and process for billing. That is a market I see that is very promising for any individual.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, medical records specialists and health information technicians make a yearly median salary of more than $39,000 in Texas. Cameron and Hidalgo counties have more than 1,100 workers.

According to onetonline.org, the state will employ more than 20,000 medical records specialists and health technicians by 2028.

TSTC offers a Medical Office Specialist certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology online. Students must complete the certificate first and meet grade requirements to move into the associate degree program, Ramirez said. The Health Information Technology program is backed by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management.

Registration continues for the fall, with scholarships available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC honors spring graduates with virtual celebration

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College honored 337 candidates for graduation during a spring virtual commencement celebration last month.

TSTC Chancellor and CEO Mike Reeser celebrated the graduates’ accomplishments with a video message.

“Throughout your time at TSTC, you strengthened yourself with the skills needed to make your life better and for those that matter most to you,” Reeser said.

Cledia Hernandez, TSTC’s provost in Harlingen, said graduates are ready for the next stage of their careers.

“You are fully trained and ready to go into our workforce. We know a lot of hard work and dedication went into that,” she said of the college experience. “Now, go out and impact the world.”

Many of the graduates thanked families, friends and instructors with messages posted on social media following the virtual celebration.

I just want to take the time to thank God, my mom, my brothers and my friend Cynthia for believing in me to get to where I am right now. The path will be long, but you will eventually get to where you want,” said Evelyn Davila, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Education and Training.

Abigail Cortez, who received an Associate of Science degree in Biology, said several people supported her during college.

“Thank you to my family and parents for supporting me, day in and day out, during this chapter of my life. I am beyond grateful for having such a strong support system throughout my journey,” she said. “This is just the beginning of what is yet to come, and I cannot wait to achieve it all.

Arick Ortiz also said he had a strong support system while attending TSTC.

“I’d like to thank my wife for her endless support, and our kids who keep us motivated to become better people every day,” said Ortiz, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology.

Before the virtual celebration, graduates could pick up a graduation “swag bag” that included a TSTC diploma cover, travel mug and face mask.

Catherine Guardodo, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management Technology, said her degree is just the beginning for her and other graduates.

“This is only just the beginning of my career, and I am ready for the next stage,” she said.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC prepares students for Rio Grande Valley lineworker jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Angel Toledo, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program, spent the week cleaning up TSTC’s 12-acre pole yard at the corner of Rio Hondo Road and 29th Street in Harlingen.

The work involved moving overhead transformers to the yard and also making sure trucks are filled with diesel fuel. It is all in anticipation of the start of Monday’s summer semester.

The semester will be capped off with the graduation of the Harlingen program’s first Electrical Lineworker cohort, whose students are working toward certificates of completion.

“I am impressed because these students are doing an awesome job,” Toledo said. “Everyone is able to apply and understand the safety of the profession, which is number one.”

The summer graduates have the opportunity to sign up for a three-week commercial driver’s license course already covered in their tuition. The lessons are being taught on campus by Ancora Corporate Training, which is also teaching new Electrical Lineworker Technology graduates at the Fort Bend County, Marshall and Waco campuses.

Eric Carithers, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Distribution and Industrial Electrical Systems department, said three of the summer semester’s graduates will be selected to do a six-week paid internship at AEP. The graduates who prove that they have the know-how and passion for linework will be selected for the job, which will be based in the Rio Grande Valley.

Other Valley options for graduates are Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board.

Cleiri Quezada, senior communications and public relations coordinator at BPUB, said it is challenging to fill lineworker positions because a lot of applicants do not meet all of the job qualifications. She said BPUB looks for people who have high school diplomas or General Educational Development (GED) certificates, two years of experience in utility construction and a Texas commercial driver’s license. She said job candidates’ reliability and dedication are also measured.

Entry-level lineworkers start as apprentices at BPUB, she said.

“This is a great place to work, especially for people who are just graduating,” Quezada said. “This is a great place to gain experience and to grow in the company, especially in the position of lineworker.”

Harlingen’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program began last fall. The program has worked to build industry partnerships, some of which have yielded equipment for students to use.

“It has definitely met the expectations of what we were expecting in the area,” Carithers said.

TSTC also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Lineworker Technology. TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology is the only program of its kind south of Corpus Christi.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, electrical power line installers and repairers in Texas make a yearly median salary of more than $58,000. Texas will need more than 13,800 workers by 2028.

Fall registration continues for all of TSTC’s programs. Scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC works to fill paramedic need in Texas

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is working to fill a need in Texas and the nation.

Ronnie Pitts, the statewide director of TSTC’s Emergency Medical Services program, said the need for paramedics is vital. TSTC will begin the next paramedic courses in Brownwood this fall.

“It has been difficult to fill the need for paramedics in Texas and nationwide,” Pitts said. “We just cannot turn them out fast enough.”

According to onetonline.org, the need for paramedics in Texas is expected to grow 11 percent by 2028.

To become a paramedic, a person must first be a certified emergency medical technician. The EMT certificate is a two-semester program at TSTC. The first semester covers the core EMT courses that allow students to sit for the National Registry certification exam. The second semester has online courses, including medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology.

For those who choose to continue, the four-semester paramedic program begins.

One of the paramedic program highlights is the final semester capstone, in which students are paired with a seasoned paramedic during an internship. When that is complete, students will be eligible to test for the National Registry paramedic certification.

Pitts said average annual salaries for paramedics vary across the state, from $30,660 in the Harlingen region to $31,750 in the Abilene region, according to onetonline.org. Austin-Round Rock has the highest average salary at $47,750. The statewide average salary is $35,940.

Many TSTC graduates have praised the program and the quality of its instructors, who have worked in the field.

“You know you are going to pass and make it through,” said John Hendrix, a 2020 graduate of the paramedic program. “The instructors make sure you are prepared to pass the National Registry. That is one of the best things about the program. The instructors want you to succeed.”

TSTC offers the EMS program in Abilene, Brownwood, and Harlingen. Students can use the latest technology during lab sessions and also work online to complete assignments.

“I did not realize we would have so much one-on-one time and be able to work with each other,” said current paramedic student Erik Duenes. “I knew there would be studying, but to come here on Wednesdays and execute what we have learned is the best part of the week.”

Pitts said the program aims to prepare paramedics with skills, and behavior to succeed.

“Our graduates are successful and are helping people on a daily basis,” he said.

For more information on the program, visit https://tstc.edu/programs/EmergencyMedicalServices.

TSTC Aviation Maintenance program eager to fill Rio Grande Valley jobs

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – As aviation continues to grow in the Rio Grande Valley, so does the need for more mechanics and technicians.

“We have had more students applying and expressing interest in the program than I have ever seen,” said Leo Guajardo, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Aviation Maintenance program, which encompasses Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology.

Guajardo said some credit for increasing program curiosity can be given to the SpaceX Launch Facility at Boca Chica Beach. He said the company provides high-tech opportunities for Rio Grande Valley residents.

“It is an alternative to the status quo,” he said. “It definitely refreshed young people in their interest.”

Raudel Garza, manager and chief executive officer of the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., said as the population grows, there will be a bigger demand for the region’s airports to be used, along with more flight opportunities. This means more work for aviation mechanics and technicians.

“Most of the work that is being done is very technical,” Garza said. “There is a certain level of expectation from the employers for those students. TSTC has been very good at producing local workers for the workforce.”

Rolando Rodriguez is a TSTC Aviation Maintenance graduate and director of maintenance at Sun Valley Aviation in Harlingen, where three TSTC graduates are currently employed as aviation mechanics.

When it comes to filling positions for aircraft- and powerplant-certified mechanics, Rodriguez said it can take up to a couple of months to find the right job candidates. Workers do annual inspections on private planes and provide 24/7 maintenance for some of the airlines flying to and from Valley International Airport. Aviation mechanics rotate weekends to be on call as problems arise.

Rodriguez said the company currently has an opening for an aviation maintenance apprentice.

He said people with a fascination in how airplanes work should consider pursuing aviation maintenance. He said he became interested in airplanes as he watched them take off and land while growing up in Brownsville. His hands-on skills came from his father, who was an automotive technician.

Anthony Prats, director of maintenance at McCreery Aviation in McAllen, has hired TSTC graduates in the past and currently has a TSTC Aviation Maintenance student working part time as an apprentice. The maintenance shop has 10 workers, with the capability of expanding to 13. Several of the technicians have automotive backgrounds.

“For us, and for everybody in the country, it is extremely hard to find people,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, aircraft mechanics and service technicians make a yearly median salary of more than $66,000. The highest concentration of workers is in the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas. Texas is projected to need more than 19,300 workers by 2028, the highest number in the country.

TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance program in Harlingen is the only one south of Corpus Christi. TSTC offers associate degree programs in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology and certificates in Aircraft Airframe Technician and Aircraft Powerplant Technician.

Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. Scholarships are also available. For more information, go to tstc.edu. 

TSTC Health Information Technology program provides assistance at area vaccine clinics

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Kayla Halmon, of Harlingen, was glad to volunteer during a recent morning at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Primera that was hosted by Cameron County Public Health.

Halmon, a spring 2021 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Health Information Technology program, input patients’ vaccine data into ImmTrac2, the Texas Immunization Registry maintained by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“I find it very rewarding to help the community,” Halmon said. “The Cameron County Public Health and the city of Primera have been kind to the volunteers. It is a lot easier for me to work and feel motivated. I feel appreciated for doing something meaningful.”

Bellanira C. Fuentes, a licensed vocational nurse for the county’s public health department, said the firsthand experience of documenting health data is beneficial to the students.

“These TSTC students have been awesome,” she said. “We only have so much manpower to do these clinics, so we’re grateful for the help. They treat the patients wonderfully.”

Beyda Ramirez, an instructor in TSTC’s Health Information Technology program, credits Jean Lashbrook, TSTC’s associate provost in Harlingen, for encouraging the Health Information Technology program to work with area vaccine clinics.

“One thing is for certain, our students always step up to the plate,” Lashbrook said. “It’s all about the patient, whether in the clinic setting or in the community. During this pandemic year, our programs have had a difficult time securing clinical sites. The vaccine clinics have helped the programs with hands-on experience, and the community has profited.”

Ramirez said a key for students’ success is getting real-world experience through practicums or volunteer work. Workers in the health information technology field play critical roles in the care of patients without directly interacting with them. Workers in the field are guided by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“We are the ones that get the data and we take care of it,” Ramirez said. “We make sure it is accurate and is kept confidential. That is our main thing. With the medical information, we verify and make sure it is accurate and make sure it stays confidential. We also do billing and coding.”

Students in TSTC’s Nursing program also volunteered at the Primera event by giving vaccines to visitors. Patients drove up to a designated area, lowered the window to their vehicle, and TSTC students administered the vaccine. 

In recent days, TSTC’s Health Information Technology and Nursing programs have volunteered at COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Harlingen and Raymondville.

TSTC’s Medical Office Specialist certificate and Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology are online programs. After students graduate, they have the opportunity to take the Registered Health Information Technician exam given by the American Health Information Management Association.

Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Computer Programming Technology prepares students for the industry

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Computer Programming Technology at Texas State Technical College equips students with the essential tools they need to continually stay in demand in this rising industry.

The job outlook for computer programmers has not slowed down. In fact, the remote work environment that many people have become familiar with will lead to the need for more technicians who understand the gadgets and gizmos of the devices that connect us to the rest of the world.

“We have not seen a decline in demand for computer programmers and do not expect to see one anytime soon,” said TSTC instructor Shelby Coffman. “In addition, we have been very encouraged to see our recent graduates of the Computer Programming Technology program around the state find employment after graduation despite recent events.”

According to thebalancecareers.com and indeed.com, responsibilities of computer programmers include developing, testing and implementing programs on multiple operating system platforms, creating and publishing technical diagrams to support coding efforts, and integrating new functions into existing applications.

Coffman said that much of the work can be done from a programmer’s own home.

“Computer programming can generally be performed with the resources that most people either already have or are within reach, like a computer and broadband internet connection,” he said. “Aside from the actual act of programming, communication with teammates and clients can be performed remotely utilizing virtual meeting applications.”

Shannon Ferguson, an instructor in the TSTC Computer Programming Technology department, said that TSTC is not only teaching students what it takes to dominate in this field, but also changing the curriculum when needed to keep up with the standards of the industry.

“Technology, as well as industry demand, is continually changing and evolving,” he said. “Like most programs at TSTC, the Computer Programming Technology department regularly reevaluates and adjusts our curriculum to meet the needs of industry partners and demand.”

He said that the ultimate goal is creating graduates who are ready to get to work.

“We work closely with our departmental advisory board to ensure we teach the skills and topics that industry is looking for in prospective employees,” Ferguson said. “Our goal is to make sure that we produce graduates that are ready for the workforce.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

 

Photo caption: Computer Programming Technology at Texas State Technical College equips students with the essential tools they need to continually stay in demand in this rising industry.

Helping to save lives motivates EMS instructor at TSTC

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Students enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services program are in good hands as they learn from instructors who not only have knowledge of the industry, but also have experienced working in the field themselves.

TSTC Emergency Medical Services instructor Ruben Ramirez spends his days in the classroom while also coordinating the curriculum’s classes with the Texas Department of State Health Services. His passion for the field has allowed him the opportunity to help prepare the next generation of emergency medical services professionals for an industry that will always need them.

Why is the emergency medical services profession important?

It is important because of the role we play in public safety. We provide an entry point for the public to gain access to emergency medical care and transportation to the emergency room when needed. At the time of a medical emergency, the public dials 911, and first responders are activated to provide emergency care, giving them access to medical care.

What inspired you to become an instructor?

I really love emergency medical services. The experience I gained in the industry has given me so much. I feel that teaching others about my past experiences is the right thing to do, and I want others to learn from my experiences. I want to give back to the profession as my previous instructors did with me. I have the best of both worlds as an instructor. I get to teach about a profession that I love with a passion.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

As an instructor, seeing the look on my students’ faces and hearing the excitement in their voices when they obtain and reach their goal of becoming an emergency medical technician or a paramedic is always worth it. Being able to interact with a wide variety of students, from traditional to nontraditional, and helping them obtain their educational goals is something I love.

What do you enjoy most about this field?

The ability to say “I helped save a life today.” Being able to make a difference in someone’s life by performing CPR or just holding a hand when somebody is scared and giving them comfort. We are there so that they know they are not alone during a scary and stressful moment. This profession makes for a rewarding career that few will answer the call to, and those that do will have a lifelong, fulfilling career.

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

Photo caption: Students in the TSTC Emergency Medical Services program receive hands-on experience as they make their way through the curriculum. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

TSTC candidate for graduation eager to educate people about safety

(WACO, Texas) – For Mary Lopez, attending Texas State Technical College is a family effort.

Not only did Lopez’s education mean a move from Combes in Cameron County to on-campus housing in Waco, but it also involves her family keeping her on schedule with assignments and helping her study.

“My family has really stepped up to the plate in supporting me in this opportunity given to us,” Lopez said. “If it was not for them being team players, I do not think we would all be succeeding as we are right now.”

Lopez is an associate degree candidate for graduation in the Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program at TSTC. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TSTC will honor graduates with a virtual graduation celebration on Thursday, April 22.

“She always strives for excellence in all of her schoolwork and makes certain her kids do the same,” said Mark Wilfert, lead instructor in TSTC’s Occupational Safety Compliance Technology program. “It is a pleasure having her in class, and I know she will be excellent in her future endeavors.”

There were several things Lopez enjoyed about the program, from hosting a study group for classmates to hands-on labs using equipment to determine gases in the air. She also learned about the different kinds of personal protection equipment. During her time in the program, she developed an interest in manufacturing.

“I like order and consistency,” Lopez said. “In a manufacturing facility, it is the same routine over and over. You know what to expect and what will happen, and nothing changes.”

Lopez grew up in Laguna Heights, near Port Isabel in Cameron County. She said her childhood was a time of protectiveness, with much time spent with her siblings.

Lopez graduated from Port Isabel High School and then joined the U.S. Army, where she was a generator mechanic.

“It (the military) taught me discipline and structure,” she said. “It taught me not to leave anyone behind. If I see someone struggling, it kicks in for me to help. The mission is to not stop until you finish.”

When she left the military, Lopez said she had a challenging time finding a job that suited her. She reached out to an education and career counselor at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for guidance. She learned about Occupational Safety Compliance Technology and that it was offered at TSTC’s Waco campus.

“(TSTC is) giving me a second chance at a career in my life to where I can feel I am contributing to my community and be a role model to my children that involves more than being a housewife,” Lopez said.

This summer, Lopez will begin taking classes to earn the Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance at TSTC. In the future, she wants to gain experience in the manufacturing field and teach at TSTC.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.