(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Twenty-four hours after he was born, Eloy Hernandez suffered a stroke.
It was December 1, 2000, and his parents had a new reality to deal with. The right side of their son’s body was partially paralyzed, the rest of his life shrouded in uncertainty.
Twenty years later, there can be no doubt about his future or abilities.
“I’ve always had curiosity about how things worked, and I was always taking things apart, inspecting every detail,” Hernandez said. “My physical disadvantage has made me learn to find multiple ways to work out situations, so learning about mechanical systems really attracted my interest in mechanical engineering.”
Now a student in the Texas State Technical College Engineering program in Harlingen, Hernandez has worked through significant mobility limitations caused by the stroke to become an acknowledged star student. It is no small accomplishment, given the rigorous and intensive curriculum that he and his classmates engage with on a daily basis.
“Students struggle the most with learning to translate commonsense engineering and physics concepts into mathematical constructs,” TSTC Engineering Department Chair Hermes Chirino said. “Professors get to know the students that participate and engage the most. Eloy is among the few that are always carefully paying attention, always asking questions.”
Graduates of the program, which offers an Associates of Science degree, can look forward to careers as engineers and mechanical engineering technicians or continue their studies for a bachelor’s degree. They master mechanical-electrical drafting technology and apply physics principles to developing test products or technical documents. Courses are difficult, but Hernandez feels that TSTC has prepared him to enter the workforce fully equipped.
“Being a student at TSTC is one of the greatest things I’ve done. I’ve gained so much from the instructors and classes I have had,” Hernandez said. “I especially enjoyed taking Engineering Mechanics, Electrical Circuits, and Engineering Graphics.”
The TSTC Access and Learning Accommodations office helps students like Hernandez navigate their studies with a minimum of difficulty and maximum support. Resources extend to course modifications and school website accessibility features. Equipping students with the support systems and accommodation services they need is just as integral to their success as academic programs.
“I have very little motor control, which makes it difficult to accomplish most everyday tasks,” Hernandez said. “But the most important thing I’ve learned is to always be resourceful and never give up on the obstacles in life because of my physical disadvantage.”
Hernandez is not the only student with a disability to pursue a highly difficult degree and excel. Arizona native and Baylor University Business Fellow William Badger can relate.
“I found out sophomore year I was autistic, and before then I didn’t know I was struggling adjusting to school because of a developmental disability,” Badger said. “But I’ve pushed through with patience and an open mind to the world’s possibilities. College is a place where you grow not only your mind, but your character.”
Hernandez is blazing a trail once thought impossible.
“I’ve always had a mindset to never stop trying, no matter what obstacles or hardships come your way,” he said.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.