Breaking Barriers: TSTC STEM Day inspires non-traditional career paths

BY Amanda Sotelo

Bertha Rivera, a senior at Santa Rosa High School, put on safety glasses to hammer, staple and build a toolbox and birdhouse during her Building Construction Technology tour at Texas State Technical College’s Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Day.

The 17-year-old joined at least 90 other high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley at the day-long event hosted by TSTC Advisement and Recruitment to expose girls to careers in non-traditional fields.

“The event was a lot of fun. My favorite part was getting to build things,” said Rivera. “And the best part was I got to take my creations home as a keepsake.”

Rivera said STEM Day was inspirational and it has motivated her to apply at TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Engineering after she graduates in May.

In addition to Building Construction Technology, students toured Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, Automotive Technology, Biomedical Equipment Technology, Chemical Technology and Precision Manufacturing Technology.

Anna Cortez, TSTC success coach, said STEM Day focuses on encouraging girls and women to pursue male-dominated professions by giving them the opportunity to experience programs hands-on and hear from women already paving the way.

“I hope students take away a sense of empowerment,” said Cortez. “I hope they feel and know that they can pursue and achieve anything they want and set their minds to.”

That was the same message keynote speakers, TSTC Building Construction Technology student Susanna Sierra and TSTC alumna and Applications Engineer Tommie Erica Ponce, wanted students to take away.

“Continue your education don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” said Sierra. “Because as long as you have the mindset you can do anything. Don’t give up on your dream. Show people what you’ve got.”

Cortez said one of the biggest obstacles for girls and women is following a non-traditional career path where there is no one to turn to for guidance or advice and that is why STEM Day is so important.

“STEM Day gives students, both male and female, an outlet to explore, discover and ask questions,” she said. “Many of our instructors and speakers are leaders in their industry and can serve as role models for these students.”

At the end of the day students were also treated to a Non-traditional Program Expo with TSTC instructors and students showcasing their technologies and answering questions.

For more information on the technologies offered at TSTC, visit