HARLINGEN — Since 1989, Noemi Salinas has helped the cadets at Marine Military Academy dress to impress as the school’s tailor.
And while outfitting several hundred cadets a year is no easy task, Salinas, who has been sewing since she was 9 years old, measures up to the challenge.
“I really enjoy my job,” Salinas said. “For me, it’s not just about fixing clothes, it’s about the kids. I enjoy learning about them because they all have different backgrounds.”
Salinas said the busiest time of year for her comes at the beginning of each new school year when the cadets first arrive.
“At this time all of them are given four pairs of pants and a dress coat, and they all need to be measured so that their uniforms can fit perfectly,” she said.
“However, kids continue to come in and out throughout the year, especially when graduation nears, so I stay busy all the time. Even in the summer, there’s always something to do.”
Salinas first learned to sew when she was a student at Las Yescas Elementary School, which is now part of the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District, but was actually part of Rio Hondo ISD when she attended.
“One of our teachers taught us how to sew and I remember that I made an apron as one of my very first projects,” she said. “After that, sewing just stayed with me. It was something that I got good at and I enjoyed doing it.”
After graduating from Los Fresnos High School in 1965, Salinas eventually got a job with Levi’s in Harlingen.
“I remember there were a hundred ladies that applied and I was just one of 25 who got hired,” she said.
Salinas remained with Levi’s until the factory closed in 1986.
“Over the years I did a little bit of everything, but I eventually became an instructor and, toward the end, a supervisor,” she said.
At 69 years young, Salinas said she has no plans of retiring anytime soon.
“As long as I’m able to work and my health is good, I don’t want to leave MMA or stop working,” she said. “I love it here and I love what I do.”