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Sixty-seven students from the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at Texas State Technical College Harlingen clad in blue caps and gowns stepped closer to higher education and their dream jobs July 14. 

Julian Garza of Harlingen told the audience in the TSTC Cultural Arts Center that education allows the graduates to go beyond jobs as agriculture workers.  He traveled to Ohio and Oregon as a migrant laborer in his youth and more recently worked on his grandfather’s ranch near Rio Hondo.  He credited his father and grandfather for teaching him how to persevere as family leaders through difficult times. He thanked his family for love, prayers and patience. 

“I have learned humility from the fact that that hard work can be rewarding when I apply myself and give it everything I have got one day at a time,” Garza said.  “This achievement will allow me and my wife Jessica to give our four children a better future.” 

He is studying toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology, and he thanked the HEP faculty and staff for support.  “At TSTC I got personal attention and the faculty gave me hope because they go the extra mile for every single student.  I would tell anyone who’s serious about getting an education and getting a GED that there’s no way they’re going to walk out of TSTC without a diploma.” 

HEP graduate Lucia Almaguer of San Benito said that she began her education in Mexico, but as a youngster she missed education credits as she traveled with her family for field work in Ohio, Florida and Indiana.  She held onto her dream of a career in health care and she plans to enroll in the college’s Medical Assistant Program. 

“With the help of my teachers, members of the HEP, friends I made at TSTC and my parents I succeeded in earning my GED,” she said.  “I had good and bad experiences being a migrant worker, but now that I have received an opportunity to continue studying I can achieve my goal of working in the field of medicine.” 

The HEP at TSTC is ranked number 10 nationally among colleges for productivity and effectiveness. 

“You can go to college,” TSTC President Dr. Cesar Maldonado told graduates.  “It’s within your reach and you can do it.”  His remarks were interrupted by applause.  He continued, “We’re known for moving our students from the classroom into the workforce.” 

District 38 State Rep. Eddie Lucio III of San Benito urged graduates to make education a priority as they seek to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. 

“You don’t always have to follow in other people’s footsteps.  Be willing to take on risks and challenges because you can go out and make things happen.  I encourage you to start working on your next step,” he said. 

The HEP at TSTC is a federal program funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Migrant Education.  More than 800 HEP students have earned GEDs at TSTC during the past 12 years. 

Financial aid, life skills classes and tutorial assistance through the HEP helps students attain General Educational Development certificates which is an academic achievement equal to high school graduation.  The HEP also prepares students for advancement into college-level courses.  For information about requirements and applications, call the HEP at 956.364.4505 or 956.364.4566.  The college Web site address is

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