BY Amanda Sotelo
For Texas State Technical College graduate Joaquin Villarreal, TSTC was his second chance at a career.
The 37-year-old walked in his cap and gown across the stage Friday night at Marine Military Academy’s Yeckel Memorial Auditorium and received his associate degree in Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology.
The Harlingen native was also one of 14 students who received the distinction of being named a Board of Regents Honor Roll member for his perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
“It’s all so bittersweet,” he said. “I’m excited to move on to bigger and better things, but I’m going to miss all of the wonderful people I’ve met here. I’ve made some really good friends. We’re like a family.”
Villarreal came to TSTC with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Texas at San Antonio, but he said finding a teaching job was near impossible.
“I started looking for teaching positions even before moving, and I couldn’t seem to find anything,” Villarreal said.
It was his younger brother, who worked in drafting, who encouraged Villarreal’s career change.
“Everything about his career appealed to me,” Villarreal said. “After some research, I found TSTC and was hooked. I knew this was what I needed.”
Villarreal was one of the oldest in his class, making him nervous and a bit apprehensive about continuing, but he found that this same fear motivated him to keep going.
“I had to start all over again, and at my age that feels like an accomplishment,” he said. “I have a great support system in my family and friends, and because of that I have achieved more than I could have imagined.”
In addition to maintaining all As, Villarreal also worked as a history tutor for TSTC’s College Success and served as vice president and president for the Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology club.
During his time in the club, Villarreal oversaw fundraisers and community service projects and helped local businesses, such as the Harlingen Public Library, by creating drafts and blueprints for building renovations, and surveying land with the program’s earth rover to help a local community.
“Joaquin was one of our hardest-working students,” said Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology Lead Instructor Samuel Pizano. “He was always the first one in and the last one out. He exemplifies the traits of a leader, and our students benefited from his leadership.”
After having watched him master his field for the past two years, Pizano knows Villarreal will be successful and an asset wherever he goes.
“He has what it takes to be successful,” Pizano said. “He embodies the character that employers look for.”
As for his success, Villarreal credits TSTC, his instructors and the training he received.
“TSTC has by far been my best college experience,” he said. “From the hands-on training to the experienced instructors, I have enjoyed it all.”
Villarreal is in the process of completing job applications and said he knows he will find a job soon with the help of his instructors and TSTC’s Career Services office.
Ultimately, Villarreal hopes to gain the experience he needs to grow into a management or trainer position.
“I have the foundation I need to begin my career, and TSTC gave me that,” he said. “This college must continue to grow in our area, because it gave me a second chance and for that I am grateful.”
Drafting and Design is also offered at TSTC’s Abilene, Brownwood, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses.