(HARLINGEN) – As an Agriculture Technology student at Texas State Technical College Danny Ramos has been given the opportunity to volunteer with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and actively participate in the Fifth Annual Agriculture Expo hosted by TSTC, USDA and United States Custom and Border Protection.
TSTC students from Agriculture Technology and Biology and local high school students were in attendance to receive information from Ramos and 10 other agencies that were on hand to talk about volunteer, internship and job opportunities.
“It’s great being able to inform my classmates about opportunities available to them,” Ramos said. “It was my instructors who advised and encouraged me to apply for this volunteer position and here I am. I’m learning a lot and gaining experience.”
In addition to volunteering with the NRCS, he also spends a lot of his time mentoring high school students from the local 4-H and Future Farmers of America chapters.
Ruby De La Garza, regional director for Texas USDA, Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program said she encourages all students like Ramos to take advantage of volunteer and internship opportunities when they present themselves.
“Our goal is to create an awareness among agriculture students about the possible opportunities within the USDA and other federal agencies,” De La Garza said. “It’s important they get involved early and begin building their resumes and gaining experience.”
De La Garza said there may not always be internship or other paid opportunities available, but volunteers are always welcomed and it helps to have a foot in the door when positions become available.
In fact, five TSTC Agriculture Technology students will have the opportunity to intern with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Center in Harlingen this summer thanks to the USDA-Step2 Grant, which students also learned about at the event.
The USDA-Step2 Grant is a shared four-year grant through TSTC and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and other Texas colleges and universities, which awards agriculture students with a scholarship and summer internship.
TSTC Agriculture Instructor Norberto Mendoza said this year the grant was able to help a total of nine TSTC students.
“Internships like this are invaluable to our students. They get their foot in the door and many times this leads to full-time job opportunities,” said Mendoza. “And this expo is a great way to expose our students to programs that will help them get ahead in their careers.”
As for Ramos, he said he hopes his volunteer efforts will lead to an internship or full-time position with the USDA once he graduates, but considers himself lucky because he already gets to do what he loves.
For more information on Agriculture Technology and the USDA-Step2 Grant call 956-364-4859 or visit tstc.edu.