(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Vanessa Perez is getting some advice during her summer welding program at Texas State Technical College from an unusual source: her grandfather.
“My grandpa was a welder in the Port of Brownsville for many years, so he would always tell me about it,” she said. “I thought it would be something fun to learn and get me closer to my grandpa, as well. He thinks it’s really cool. Every time I see him, he’s like, oh, what are you learning today? It’s brought us a lot closer, definitely.”
Perez is majoring in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University. With no summer plans, she decided to enroll in the TSTC welding courses offered in Harlingen as a part of the Bachelor’s+ Program, a professional education partnership between the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and TSTC.
“It was good to have two things to do — being home with family, (and) also learning something new,” Perez said.
Bachelor’s+ Program students could choose among Architectural/Mechanical Drafting, Cybersecurity, Electromechanical Automation and Welding. The programs, offered both online and in person, span nine weeks and include a certificate of completion at the end.
“Initially, I saw the program and I was like, this should be something fun to do, and I wanted to do something in person,” Perez said on why she picked welding. “I didn’t want to do any more online work.”
In the welding shop June 2, Perez worked on a project while wearing a protective hood made specially for the summer program. One side included a TSTC logo in a sea of navy blue, while the other displayed both the TEES and Texas A&M logos over classic maroon. Just below the window was a simple but powerful message: “United for a job weld done.”
Perez’s grandfather is not the only person in her life excited about the paths of study she is pursuing.
“My other friends and family are like, it’s really cool that you’re going into a male-dominated field,” she said. “Even with petroleum engineering, I’ve already experienced where I’ve been in classes, and I’m the only girl there. But so far, I haven’t felt the difference either at A&M or TSTC.”
Perez advises other female students looking to break into male-dominated programs and careers to focus on the work — not the worry.
“It might be a little daunting going into it — that’s how I felt,” she said. “But it’s the results that matter.”