TSTC Diversity in STEM Day encourages nontraditional careers

(HARLINGEN) – Monica Sanchez hammered, nailed and stained her very own wooden toolbox and planter during Texas State Technical College’s third annual Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Day.

“I definitely like creating things, and I’m excited to take home my creations,” said Sanchez, a sophomore at Mercedes High School. “This by far has been my favorite part of the day.”

Sanchez got a firsthand look into TSTC’s Building Construction Technology and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technology programs.

She was among 63 high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley who participated in the event that is focused on encouraging girls and women to pursue male-dominated careers and vice versa.

“I think this is a great opportunity that opens doors for us,” said Sanchez. “I’ve learned a lot today about the different careers that are available to us here at TSTC and how I could turn my hobby of building things into a career.”

The event, which was hosted by TSTC’s Enrollment Management, Support Services and Student Recruitment departments, included information booths on admissions, financial aid and other student services.

Attendees heard from keynote speaker Stacey Perales, a TSTC Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology lab assistant, and Marty Capetillo, a TSTC Dental Hygiene student.

Program tours were offered in Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, Agricultural Technology, Automotive Technology, Building Construction Technology, Chemical Technology, HVAC Technology and Precision Machining Technology.

TSTC enrollment coach Anna Cortez said Diversity in STEM Day is about exposing both girls and boys to nontraditional careers.

“Introducing them to programs early on is important because there is always a fear factor,” said Cortez. “The firsthand look can help ease nerves and allows them see for themselves what the program is about and hopefully find a mentor.”

Each program tour was approximately one hour and included hands-on activities such as building toolboxes and planters, creating dice using machine shop equipment, and changing a tire and the oil of a car.

TSTC Diversity in STEM Day

Weslaco East High School junior Mia Ramos made a pair of dice while touring Precision Machining Technology. She said she has always been interested in designing and would consider either machining or architectural design as a career.

“Today’s event has opened my eyes to program options I can pursue when I graduate from high school,” said Ramos. “It’s been a great experience getting insight into TSTC and hearing from different speakers. But my favorite part was learning how to use new machines.”

The 16-year-old said that although she has a dream of graduating as a Texas Longhorn, she will begin her college career at TSTC to get a head start and gain experience in either architecture or machining.

Cortez said overall the event was successful and it was great watching students excitedly share their experiences with one another.

She also said she hopes the program continues to grow and the collaboration between departments, programs and school districts remains strong.

“TSTC students have told us that it’s because of events like this that they were encouraged to enroll, so we know that they have a huge impact,” said Cortez. “We hope that students will feel empowered after completing this event and will realize that they are capable of achieving everything they put their minds to.”

Spring registration for new students begins Nov. 12. There will be a Registration Rally, a one-stop registration event, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information on the programs offered at TSTC or to apply, visit tstc.edu.