(HARLINGEN) – Michael Foster was a dual-credit high school student the last time he attended Texas State Technical College, but it was at the college where he found the support that got him where he is today.
The Harlingen native finished his general academic core at TSTC in 2009, the same year he graduated from Harlingen Early College High School.
“Honestly, TSTC was the best thing to have happened to me,” said Foster. “During my hardest time, they were there for me and pushing me to go forward.”
The 19-year-old is now a student at St. Edward’s University in Austin, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history and economics, and he also works at the Texas State Capitol as a senate messenger, hand-delivering documents to various departments within the Capitol. With this nonpartisan position, he has the chance to witness the happenings of the legislative session.
However, before finding his way upstate he suffered a great loss.
“My dad passed away from lung cancer during my senior year in high school,” Foster said. “Only one month later, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease.”
Foster has what is called pemphigus vulgaris, an autoimmune disorder of the skin that causes blistering and sores. With treatment, his disease is now under control.
“I felt like my life was chaos,” he said. “I was so discouraged, but my TSTC instructors were so understanding and were there for me every step of the way, helping in any way they could so I could finish and graduate.”
TSTC instructors like Elizabeth Bryant, who teaches state and federal government, and William Taliancich, who teaches English, would constantly call to check on him.
In fact, it was Bryant who helped Foster discover his love for government and helped him find job opportunities when he moved to Austin.
“Without Bryant, I would have never known about this position,” said Foster. “It was her constant reassurance and guidance that got me through the hiring process. And here I am.”
Foster said TSTC acted as his stepping stone and he is so grateful for the experience.
“Everything I learned at TSTC is conducive to my long-term goals in how it prepared me,” he said. “Stepping into these advanced courses as a high school student was challenging, but it definitely prepared me for everything that was to come.”
Bryant, who has worked with the Texas senate, said she could tell from the beginning that Foster had a true interest in government, but just needed a little push.
“Michael was a great student. He was always reaching out, wanting to learn more,” said Bryant. “Like him, all of my students are special, and I work hard to encourage each of them to have confidence and be proud of their education. Michael was a little hesitant to meet senators and assert himself, but with encouragement he did it. I know he has a bright future.”
As of now, Foster’s long-term goals are to attend law school and become active in politics, including running for public office someday.
“A lot of things for me are still up in the air. There’s a lot I want to do,” said Foster. “But I couldn’t have done it without my support system at TSTC and my mom. And that’s what I want to advise future students: always reach out to instructors or family when you need guidance. You can go far with their help.”