BY Amanda Sotelo,

It was an emotional ceremony for the 20 Texas State Technical College Vocational Nursing graduates who were recently pinned and officially welcomed into the profession during the program’s annual pinning ceremony.

“We were put on Earth for something greater than any of us could ever imagine,” said TSTC Vocational Nursing alumnus Jason Rodriguez. “You belong here, you’ve earned it. Don’t quit now, continue growing your knowledge.”

Rodriguez graduated with his certificate in vocational nursing in 2015 and works with Windsor Atrium, a nursing home in Harlingen. He said it was an honor to have been invited as a guest speaker and he is hoping that some remember the wisdom he shared.

“Anything in this world worth having is worth working for,” he said. “And remember, the title does not make the nurse, the nurse makes the title.”

For Maria Cisneros, the class’ valedictorian with a 3.8 grade-point average, the wisdom was taken to heart.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “The road has not always been easy, but today makes all of the hard work and tears worth it.”

Cisneros, a mother of two, reminisced during her valedictorian speech about her grandmother, who inspired her to be a nurse.

“She took care of me while my parents were at work. We were close,” she said. “But her health began to decline and I was helpless. This is when I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”

She first graduated from TSTC in 2015 when the certified nursing assistant program was offered. And now the TSTC vocational nursing graduate plans on returning to campus next year for the vocational nurse to registered nurse transition program.

“There have been so many days where I have to put a smile on for my kids, but I did not feel like smiling,” she said. “I wanted to show my kids there is no obstacle to big and that quitting is never an option, and it was my second family made up of instructors and peers that made the struggle easier. I’m going to miss them.”

This is a sentiment that many could relate to, making the moment bittersweet.

Through tears of relief and joy the ceremony continued with remarks from TSTC administration and faculty, the anointing and blessing of hands by Pastor Dan Anderson from The Bridge-Rio Hondo Baptist Church, a first for the program, and a candle lighting ceremony, which marks the passing of the light of knowledge.

The Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony is held twice a year during the fall and summer semesters and is described as a rite of passage by TSTC Vocational Nursing Director Heather Sauceda.

“Our students work so hard to get to this day,” said Sauceda. “Today begins another chapter in their lives and we are very proud of them.”

For more information on the Vocational Nursing program at TSTC, visit