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Canales Completes Step Up Internship with USDA

Friday, May 24, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

CanalesFor as long as he could remember, Cesar Canales was always around animals. Mostly on his family’s ranch, Canales developed a love for animals at a young age.

“My dad has some cattle, not a lot but some,” said Canales, a 2011 graduate from Raymondville High School. “So I always helped out around the ranch and was around the animals for what seemed was my whole life. I knew once I got to college I would be interested in a career in agriculture.”

And Canales has pursued his dream.

Canales is about to complete his associate’s degree in the Agriculture Technology Program at Texas State Technical College. He recently completed an internship with the United States Department of Agriculture’s APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) office here in Harlingen. Canales plans to transfer to Texas A&M-Kingsville upon completing school at TSTC and pursue a Bachelor’s in Agriculture Science.

The internship and eventual transfer is part of the Step Up Program, a collaborative effort between the USDA, TAMUK and TSTC. The program provides assistance for students in the Agriculture Program in the form of scholarships and/or paid internships with USDA agencies. Step Up allocates funds to cover travel and stipends for internships.

“There’s a lot of competition for jobs right now,” said Armando Duarte, chair of the Agriculture Technology Department. “It’s hard and a lot of professional industries like the USDA prefer a bachelor’s over an associate’s degree. The USDA has a lot of branches in which our students can go out and get hired. It’s a positive all around.”

Students in the program are required to maintain a strong grade point average, graduate with an Associate’s of Applied Science degree in Agriculture Technology and commit to transfer to TAMUK for completion of the Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture.

The students in the program can receive funding for up to two years through this grant with the emphasis on an ultimate transfer to TAMUK. TSTC provides scholarships for a minimum of nine students each year.

Canales’ duties were pretty much limited to lab work. He trapped Mexican fruit flies and screened and dissected the flies. But he said his time working with the USDA was well spent and looks forward to applying all that he’s learned there to his studies at TSTC and TAMUK.

“I got to see how the real world works,” Canales said. “I was able to meet a lot of people and make a lot of good contacts. It was a great opportunity for me.”

The Step Up Program is exclusively for students in the Agricultural Technology program at TSTC Harlingen. This is the second year of the program.  As of the spring semester, there were eight students in the pipeline.  Four of those have already transferred to TAMUK, and the other four are completing requirements for transfer at TSTC.

For more information on TSTC’s Agriculture Technology program, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenagtech.

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