Category Archives: Harlingen

RGV migrant students attend TSTC MAARS summer program

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – This summer more than 50 high school students from Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties have participated in the Migrant Academic Achievement Residential Summer (MAARS) program at Texas State Technical College.

MAARS is designed to meet the needs of high school migrant and seasonal farmworkers in pursuing higher education and to provide community service opportunities.

The six-week program is for rising juniors and seniors, who are selected by their school counselors. It assists the students in recovering class credit or helps them accelerate their anticipated course load at their high school.

Students reside on campus during the summer and are placed into technical programs offered at TSTC such as Precision Machining Technology, Auto Collision and Management Technology, and Mechatronics, which allows them to explore postsecondary education as well as career possibilities.

Throughout the MAARS program, students also have the opportunity to hear from TSTC representatives from Recruitment, Housing, Student Life and Career Services, along with professionals in law enforcement, marketing and entrepreneurship. They also complete community service hours at the Ronald McDonald House, Harlingen Recycling Center or the RGV Food Bank.

Upon successful completion of MAARS, students receive two high school credits and a $1,200 stipend.


Ambulances lead to TSTC classroom for new EMS instructor

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – From ambulances and sirens to a classroom setting, Crystal Espinoza is Texas State Technical College’s newest Emergency Medical Services instructor.

Completing her sixth week on campus, the 32-year-old said this is a dream come true.

“Since stepping foot into my paramedic class, I knew I wanted to teach,” said the McAllen native. “Watching the way my instructors worked and how they helped us understand even the hardest of concepts was my inspiration.”

Espinoza earned an Emergency Medical Technology Associate of Applied Science degree from a McAllen college and has worked in the field for six years.

Before arriving at TSTC, she worked as an emergency medical technician with Hidalgo County EMS in Edinburg for three years, then as a paramedic with Med-Care EMS in McAllen.

She said many have asked her what motivated her to enter such a demanding health care field, and her answer is simple: compassion.TSTC EMS Instructor Crystal Espinoza

“I was in a major car accident several years back, and it was one of my scariest moments,” she said. “I was panicking, and the paramedic that took care of me was so calm and collected. He was patient, understanding and calmed me down. From then on I knew I wanted to be someone’s calm in their storm.”

Espinoza calls her accident a blessing in disguise because before that day she had no clear path in life, and it gave her purpose.

“At the end of the day, this career is about helping people. And for me, that’s rewarding,” said Espinoza.

Now, at TSTC, her opportunity to help others continues.

Espinoza said her goal is to incorporate everything she has learned and her experiences from the field into the classroom.

“I have been lucky to have worked with some of the most seasoned paramedics in the field,” she said. “These are the ones that have taught me a lot of what I know. And now I’m excited to pass that knowledge along to my students.”

She said her goal is to produce skilled students who are ready to hit the ground running when they enter the field.

“Our goal is to get them trained, certified and employed with compassion and passion for this line of work,” said Espinoza. “Not just anyone can do it. It takes a special person. On top of that, it takes a lifelong learner because every day is a new day of learning.”

The fact that there is always something new to learn and always room for improvement keeps Espinoza moving forward.

“I have found my dream job, but I’m not stopping here,” she said. “There’s room for growth and opportunity of advancement here at TSTC.”

Students who enroll in TSTC’s EMS program can earn either an associate degree or a certificate as an emergency medical services paramedic or a certificate as an advanced emergency medical technician, with the skills needed to treat and assess patients at the scene and en route to a hospital.

Information sessions are hosted every Tuesday at 2 p.m. for those interested in the program.

The deadline to register for fall 2019 is August 23. The first day of classes is August 26.

To attend a session or for more information, call 956-364-4741 or visit

TSTC associate degree in nursing helps create healthy careers

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The state and national shortage of registered nurses is increasing, with 203,000 job openings projected nationally through 2026, according to And the Dallas Observer recently reported that Texas will have the second-largest shortage in the country.

TSTC Registered NursingThe associate degree program in nursing at Texas State Technical College, with its 100 percent job placement rate, is helping to fill that gap for the Rio Grande Valley region and the state.

TSTC’s Director of Nursing Shirley Byrd said most of the program’s grads are hired before they even graduate, with an average starting salary of $35 an hour.

The program, which debuted in 2017, will see its second graduating class this August. Byrd said she is excited to see the program continue to grow, and she explained what a student can expect when they are accepted into the program.

What is the length of the program?

The associate degree in nursing at TSTC is a three-semester or one-year program. To apply for acceptance into the program, a person must already be a licensed vocational nurse (LVN).

What can a student expect when they graduate?

When a student successfully completes the program, they will receive an associate degree and be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam to receive their license in nursing and be able to work.

What skills do you learn in the registered nursing program?

Students entering the program will already have learned the foundation of nursing as a vocational nursing student, so as a registered nursing student they will learn advanced critical care skills, such as critical care nursing, emergency room nursing, and IV therapy. These skills and more will allow them to become skilled and professional nurses who will find success in the field.

What types of technology are used to teach these skills?

We use advanced technologies such as resource books and assessment software, Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) test reviews and progression software, and simulated labs equipped with mannequins that can be programmed to mimic a real-world scenario that nursing students must respond to.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

By learning these skills in the classroom, nursing students can then apply them and be better equipped for their clinical and hospital rotations that progress from bedside care to advanced critical care. Student rotations are in areas such as medical, surgical, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, and emergency rooms.

What kinds of positions can a graduate from this program obtain, and where can they work?

The program’s two largest placement partners are Valley Baptist Medical Center and Harlingen Medical Center, but students have also been placed in local doctor clinics, home health companies, nursing homes, day surgery clinics, and schools.

TSTC Atomnaut Academy

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – This summer more than 60 Rio Grande Valley students from kindergarten to third grade participated in Texas State Technical College’s Challenger Learning Center’s exciting new Atomnaut Academy. This summer program was developed show children that they are never too young to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

The Atomnaut Academy is an interactive, hands-on, STEM-based program that offers different activities to students based on their grade level. Through project-based learning, students are able to perform tasks that help to reinforce concepts they are learning about during the school year.

This summer children were able to participate in projects that included the creation of robotic hands and edible rovers, a look into the evolution of launchers, a crime scene investigation activity that required students to solve an attempted crime in the Challenger’s international space station simulator, and Challenger Rendezvous comet mission.
















TSTC Cyber Security Center of Excellence training the future of industry

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Cyber Security professionals protect the most important TSTC Cyber Securityand most private information. From financial institutions and the federal government to fortune 500 companies, their need for cyber security professionals is increasing.

According to website, there is a dangerous shortage of cybersecurity workers with more than 100,000 job openings, with about 24,000 of those jobs available in Texas.

TSTC Cyber Security lead instructor Cesar Ibarra said the supply of skilled cybersecurity workers is low in Texas and as a Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency Center of Excellence, one of the few in the state, they are working to fill the demand and meet industry need.

Ibarra added that TSTC Cyber Security has a 97 percent job placement and explains what instructors do within the program to provide this success for its students.

What is the length of the program?

Cyber Security is a two-year program.

What certificates and/or associate degrees are offered?

When a student successfully completes the program’s courses they will earn an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security.

What skills do you learn in Cyber Security?

In Cyber Security students will learn technical skills such as network design, security assessment, network operation and maintenance, network analysis and security provisions. In addition, students will also learn soft skills important to recruiters and companies such as teamwork, communication skills and customer service. Cyber Security instructor’s ultimate goal is to help students gain confidence in their skills.

What type of technology is used to teach these skills?

Students in Cyber Security will have access to five labs equipped with industry standard equipment that resembles security operation centers with servers and artificial intelligence. Student will also be able to use technologies that follow current trends in cybersecurity.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

In Cyber Security students will learn the skills needed to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce. The program brings industry training and experience into the classroom through hands-on training and learning outcomes that correspond to industry standards.

What kind of positions can a graduate from this program obtain and where can they work?

Graduates from this program have an array of options from small to medium businesses, financial and education institutions to federal, state and local government and Fortune 100 to 500 companies and in Texas, depending on the city, a starting salary can range from $25,000 to $45,000 a year.

TSTC alum, employee celebrates 30 years of service

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – It was 1991 when Ester Bodnar began her career at Texas State Technical State College as a work study employee, never imagining it would be a place she still calls home 30 years later.

Bodnar was recently recognized for her three decades of service to the college during TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day event recently hosted at Victor Park in Harlingen.

“It’s like they say; time really does fly when you’re having fun,” said the 46-year-old. “I had no clue what I wanted to do or be when I enrolled at TSTC. All I knew was the importance of education and I was fortunate enough to learn and find my career at the same place.”

In 1991, Bodnar earned an associate degree in Automated Office Technology, when TSTC was Texas State Technical Institute.

While in school she worked as a work study for the Business Office, but upon graduating earned a full-time position as a cashier.Ester Bodnar

“Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with various departments within the college,” she said. “TSTC has always given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. They have helped me take leaps of faith within my career.”

Through the years Bodnar has served as the secretary for the Public Information Office, which is now Communication and Creative Services; senior secretary for the President’s Office, now Provost Office; TSTC system analyst; assistant director for what used to be Institutional Effectiveness and Research and finally, her current role as an application administrator for the Office of Technology (OIT).

“Technology is constantly changing and I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to witness this from different perspectives,” said Bodnar. “I never thought I would be here 30 years later, but here I am, eating, breathing and sleeping TSTC.”

And in 2012, Bodnar took another leap of faith and returned to college; this time earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.

“It was a tough two years. What a challenge,” she said. “I was working full-time, had a family at home and going to school, but I was determined and focused on finishing and that opened more doors for me here at TSTC.”

Bodnar said that among all of the things she loves about working for TSTC, her two favorite things are the opportunities TSTC gives its employees to personally and professionally advance, and the family she has created with the many colleagues she has had the chance to work with over the years

“TSTC prides itself on being a great place to work and it really has been,” said Bodnar. “I’ve been fortunate to work with people who have become mentors and have touched my life. I love that we all work toward one common goal and that is student success. No matter what department I’ve been with I’ve always been able to see the impact we make in someone’s life.”

As a person who was always encouraged as a child to go to college, she remains an advocate of higher education, and as an employee at TSTC she gets to have a part in promoting this importance 24/7.

“I’m a walking billboard for TSTC,” she said with a laugh. “TSTC has been a huge part of my success and that of my family’s, and I enjoy spreading that message around the community.”

In fact, Bodnar’s husband, Dan, whom she met when she began working at TSTC, was recently recognized for his 35 years of service to TSTC and their oldest daughter is a student in the Chemical Technology program.

Their youngest, who is a junior in high school, also plans to enroll  at TSTC as an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student.

Bodnar, who has also received numerous awards throughout her time at TSTC including a Staff Excellence Award, a Presidential Award and President’s Coin, said she hopes to grow within the OIT department in the future, but no matter what, she will always be a large advocate for TSTC.

“I want to continue making an impact at this college for many more years to come, the way it has made an impact on my life,” she said. “TSTC is a big part of who I am and I’m proud of my years of service and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

To learn about job opportunities at TSTC, visit

TSTC introduces new program to meet state need

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Computer Programming Technology is being introduced at Texas State Technical College Fall 2019 and is already accepting new students.

Computer programming is the process of creating instructions that a computer can carry out.TSTC Computer Programming Technology

Programmers use coding languages to write and test code that allow a computer to function properly, and they write software such as business and mobile applications and video games that are easy to read and understand.

Computer Programming Instructor Shelby Coffman said computer programmers are in high demand across Texas and the United States and on average make a starting salary of more than $37,000 a year, and in larger cities more than $45,000 a year.

Coffman also said this new computer program is also offered at TSTC’s Waco campus.

Coffman gives an inside look into the program.

What is the length of the program?

The program is five semesters long, or 60 credit hours.

What certificates and/or associate degrees are offered?

The program offers an Associate of Applied Science once the five semesters are completed successfully.

What skills do you learn in Computer Programming Technology?

Students will learn four different programming languages: Visual Basic, C#, C++ and Java. Students will also learn the technical skills they need such as software writing and coding; software design and planning; data storage and retrieval; and database programming, in addition to soft skills such as teamwork and leadership and communication skills. Students will have the opportunity to choose a cooperative education class toward the last semester of the program to gain real-world experience with an internship, while receiving class credit.

What type of technology is used to teach these skills?

The program has two labs that are fitted with work stations that include computers and monitors that will allow a student to write, run, debug and test code, and experience an integrated development environment. Students in the program will also use database systems and Microsoft SQL Servers for training purposes.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

Students from Computer Programming Technology will be able to assess a company’s needs and custom tailor software solutions.

What kind of positions can a graduate from this program obtain and where can they work?

Graduates from Computer Programming Technology can work as software developers, software engineers, game programmers, IT programmers, application administrators, software technicians and mobile application developers.

They can find jobs in hospitals, school districts or higher education institutions, airline companies and local, county and city governments.

It’s 35 years and counting for a TSTC instructor, leader

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – A gallon of gas was $1.10, a movie ticket was $2.50 and Dan Bodnar was beginning his career at Texas State Technical College. The year was 1984.

As a witness to the college’s transition from typewriters to computers, Bodnar was recently recognized for his 35 years of service during TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day event.

“I never planned on being here for this long,” said the 61-year-old. “And it doesn’t even feel like 35 years has passed. But it’s been great to grow alongside TSTC. This is a proud moment.”

Bodnar, who is the director of decision support for the Electrical and Instrumentation division, started his career at TSTC as a student and when it only had four buildings.

“The growth the college has seen, and is still seeing, is amazing. It means we must be doing something right,” said Bodnar.

He graduated with an associate degree in Electronics Technology in 1984 from TSTC and immediately begin working as a lab assistant for the department.Dan Bodnar 35 Years at TSTC

Bodnar has come a long way since his days as a lab assistant. He has earned promotions a handful of times during his career at TSTC beginning with instructor and master instructor to program chair and statewide division director.

“This has been a fulfilling career,” he said. “It’s so rewarding seeing our students succeed and go out into the industry as leaders; and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with so many people who have become family.”

As a dedicated employee of TSTC, Bodnar has also received numerous awards for his work.

He is a 2015 Chancellor’s Excellence Award recipient and also a past TSTC Employee of the Year.

And under his leadership, the electronics department was the first in Texas to have a surface mount lab and Bodnar was its first instructor after successfully completing required training in Maryland.

A surface mount lab is used to solder tiny electronic components that can only be seen under a microscope.

“This was a huge achievement for our department. We even had state leaders visiting our lab,” said Bodnar. “And this is what I enjoy most about TSTC, we’re allowed to expand our knowledge and grow so that we can then implement what we’ve learned into the classroom.”

In the classroom is where Bodnar said he feels he did his most rewarding work and although he was known as the “strict” instructor and many feared his classes, alumni such as Roy Longoria, TSTC Biomedical Equipment Technology instructor, said this is where we were shaped into professionals.

“Dan Bodnar’s classes and training really took us students to the next level,” said Longoria. “He was detailed and thorough and always ensured that we were prepared with all of the materials we needed to learn and if we were not, we wouldn’t live it down.”

Longoria, who now works closely with Bodnar, added that Bodnar’s teachings stick with him even today. Before entering any meeting with Bodnar he has to be sure to have pencils, pens and paper to get work done.

“We’re colleagues and I’m still afraid to arrive to a meeting with him unprepared, but that just goes to show that he creates professionals,” he said. “And his teachings even helped me solve problems and troubleshooting issues out in industry. Issues that no one else could solve. He’s been a great motivator and leader here at TSTC for employees and students alike.”

So what’s in store for Bodnar’s future?

He said retirement.

“I’ve had a great career here at TSTC. I’ve never seen the need to go anywhere else,” he said. “Everything I’ve needed I’ve been given here at TSTC. So I’ve got a few more years here and then it’ll be time to relax and enjoy the family. It’s been a wonderful run and I’m thankful to TSTC for it.”

The love for TSTC in the Bodnar family runs deep. Bodnar’s wife, Ester, also recently celebrated 30 years of service at the college, Bodnar’s oldest daughter is a student in TSTC’s Chemical Technology program, and his youngest who is currently a junior in high school is planning to enroll as an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student.

To learn more about job opportunities at TSTC, visit

TSTC student leaders return home as SkillsUSA national champions

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College made Texas proud by bringing back eight medals statewide from the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

And one of those medals was a silver brought home to Harlingen by TSTC students Isela Rodriguez, Iris Juarez and Alexandra Lugo for their achievement in Community Service.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.

At the national conference more than 6,500 career and technical education students from middle school, high school and college/postsecondary institutions competed hands-on in 103 different trade, technical and leadership fields with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations.TSTC National SkillsUSA Silver Medalists 2019

“There was a lot of screaming and happy tears when we were announced,” said Rodriguez. “We worked hard, had sleepless nights and while we knew we were ready, an unexpected turn of events brought some doubts.”

The women who were scheduled to present their community service project, “Helping Hands,” on Wednesday, June 26, ended up having to present a day early instead.

“This was a huge surprise. We had gone to the competition site unprepared. We thought it was only orientation,” said Juarez. “Our hearts were racing. We had to think fast.”

Lugo, who had been to a previous national competition and was familiar with the event, said they knew they were ready to present, so it was only a matter of gathering their props and proper attire quickly.

“Larissa Moreno, our advisor and TSTC Student Life Coordinator, ran back to our hotel, while we prepped because it was a race against time and possible deductions. She was a lifesaver,” said Lugo. “And because of our teamwork and preparedness, we were the only ones who presented that day. At this point we were already proud of each other.”

The women said Moreno made it back with everything they needed, plus some; and they were able to present their seven to 10-minute presentation and touch a few of the judges’ hearts.

“Our community service project was near and dear to our hearts,” said Rodriguez. “And that’s why we were able to bring back the silver despite our setback.”

The focus of their community service project was to find a sustainable solution for the campus’ student food pantry located at the TSTC Student Center.

Preparation and research for this project began back in August, when they realized that even with donations it was difficult to keep the food pantry stocked.

“There are many obstacles in a student’s life and hunger should not be one of them,” said Juarez.

The problem of food insecurity is highlighted in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which shows that 30 percent of all college/university students in this country are going hungry.

Inspired to make a difference, the women worked closely with Student Life and The TSTC Foundation in setting up a fund, within the foundation’s Helping Hand initiative, that would be used to restock the pantry on a regular basis.

This kicked off an employee charitable campaign, with close to 200 employees participating and using a portion of their monthly paycheck to fund the pantry.

“We’ve already seen an impact and how this campaign has boosted our food volume at the pantry,” said Rodriguez. “Our goal is to continue increasing charitable participation so our students can continue to benefit from this service for years to come, even after we graduate. This is our legacy.”

Rodriguez, Juarez and Lugo said they have so many people to thank for the project’s success.

“A huge thank you goes to Larissa, our TSTC mom, motivator and mentor; TSTC administration and leadership who believed in us and supported our mission, to those employees who help keep our pantry stocked and to everyone else who took the time to help in one shape or form,” said Lugo. “This medal belongs to everyone.”

What stood out to the women the most was the support they received from TSTC’s Provost Cledia Hernandez, who took time the evening of the award ceremony to Facetime with a congratulations.

“We wish this was something we could have shared with our families. I was texting the entire time with my mom. But the feeling of support and love that night was strong from our SkillsUSA Texas delegation and TSTC family,” said Juarez. “And what meant even more was the Facetime call we received from the Provost.”

Rodriguez added, “Although we didn’t bring home the gold, we feel like we did with everyone’s support, and the fact that we were able to make a difference in our students’ lives at the same time makes us even prouder.”

TSTC meets statewide nursing shortage demands

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – With the aging of baby boomers and with a population with an overall longer life span, the need for health care services is growing, increasing the demand for vocational nurses.TSTC Vocational Nursing

According to the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics, vocational nursing is projected to grow faster than any other occupation by 2026.

Texas State Technical College Vocational Nursing Director Heather Sauceda said TSTC recognizes that demand, especially with the current shortage in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas, and is working to fill that skills gap.

And with a job placement rate of 100 percent and a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate of 96 percent, TSTC students are well-prepared vocational nurses who are well-rounded, hold patient care as a priority and practice compassionate nursing.

Sauceda explains the skills and technology behind training for the future of vocational nursing.

What is the length of the program?

After the completion of the four required prerequisite courses: Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Nutrition and Medical Terminology, the program is one full year.

What certificates and/or associate degrees are offered?

When students complete the vocational nursing program, they receive a certificate of completion. At this time they will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX (national testing) and upon passing will receive their vocational nursing license for the state of Texas.

What skills do you learn in the vocational nursing program?

The training for vocational nursing students starts the first semester while students are still taking their pre-requisite courses. The knowledge gained is then translated and applied to nursing procedures, pharmacology and disease processes. They also learn soft skills such as communication, time management and organization. Students’ scope of practice skills training will range from basic patient bed making and patient transfers to blood draws, IVs and wound care.

What types of technology are used to learn these skills?

A collection of computer technology software is used to give students online resources for testing, tutorials, case studies, training modules and clinical simulations. The program also has skills labs that include basic mannequins for first-level students to begin implementing their physical assessments and soft skills and then advance to state-of-the-art simulation labs that have high-fidelity mannequins to simulate a real clinical area.

How does learning these skills help prepare the student for the workforce?

As stated by the Texas Board of Nursing, the duty of a licensed vocational nurse is to always provide safe, compassionate and focused nursing care to patients. And, TSTC ensures that students are providing just that by setting expectations high and implementing theory into clinical hands-on training so that upon completion graduates are prepared to enter the workforce and secure employment.

Who is hiring graduates from this program?

Local hospitals such as Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Harlingen Medical Center and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg hire a number of TSTC’s Vocational Nursing graduates. Nursing homes, home health care centers, schools and medical offices also hire program graduates.