Rio Hondo High School dual enrollment students Bryan Rodriguez (left) and Julio Casas use a battery-operated drill to apply screws to a sheet of plywood that will be used for the subflooring of a trainer building during a recent lab session at TSTC’s Harlingen campus.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s dual enrollment programs offer high school students an entrance to a college-level education and can prepare them with the skills they need for great-paying jobs.

Rio Hondo High School dual enrollment students Julio Casas, Scott Payne and Bryan Rodriguez recently completed the second semester of TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program.

In the program, students are engaged in hands-on training assignments to learn about blueprints, structural systems, and other areas that reflect different types of construction projects.

Aaron Rios, a TSTC Building Construction Technology instructor in Harlingen, said the dual enrollment students have adapted well to the college-level program.

“Their courses are set out the same (as those of) our current students,” he said. “Casas, Payne and Rodriguez have demonstrated that they are go-getters. I enjoy seeing that effort from them, and they have exceeded my expectations.”

Casas, who is in 10th grade, said there is great communication in the program.

“My instructor, Mr. Rios, makes the learning fun,” he said. “Everyone works together, and that makes me work harder because I enjoy it. That motivated me to work on projects at home as well.”

Payne, who is in 11th grade, said understanding a building’s construction has intrigued him.

“I chose this program because I wanted to have a foot in the door to college,” he said. “The instructors teach you about what’s right and wrong and tell you not to give up. My favorite assignment has been when we measured and put on flooring such as plywood.”

Rodriguez, who is also in 11th grade, likes the college-level assignments.

“I was motivated to get a head start in college,” he said. “I’m learning new things at TSTC while I’m still in high school. One subject I have enjoyed learning is how to read blueprints.”

Nancy Flores, a high school counselor and dual enrollment liaison for Rio Hondo High School, said the students’ dual enrollment experience has been positive.

“Their education has been rewarding — especially the experience with their TSTC instructor and classmates.”

Flores added that the students are motivated about their future after high school.

“They are excited because they will graduate with a certificate of completion and can earn a job in the Texas workforce,” she said.

Lisa Leal, Career and Technical Education executive director for Rio Hondo High School, said the dual enrollment partnership with TSTC helps shape students’ perspective about college.

“This opportunity provides them with a jump-start on the program before their high school graduation,” she said. “Additionally, they can continue to earn certifications after high school at TSTC.”

First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers in Texas can earn an average annual salary of $62,390, according to, which projected these positions to grow by 23% in the state through 2030.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology and a certificate of completion in Building Construction – Craftsman at its Harlingen and Waco campuses, and an occupational skills achievement award in Building Inspection Level 1 at its Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco campuses.

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