(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The road to commencement was no easy journey for recent Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology graduate Hugo Gamboa, but he overcame the hurdles and received his associate degree on Friday night.
The 20-year-old was one of nearly 300 students who received a certificate or associate degree during TSTC’s Commencement at the Harlingen Convention Center.
“I really never thought this day would come,” said the Los Fresnos native. “There were so many times I felt like quitting, but I kept moving forward, and now I can’t believe that I can call myself a college graduate at only 20.”
Gamboa was actually supposed to graduate a couple of semesters ago, but he fell behind and had to decrease his class load, which he said taught him a valuable lesson.
“I was working two jobs, partially because I needed to save money for college and wanted to challenge (myself) if I could do it,” said Gamboa. “But it didn’t work out as planned, and it made me reprioritize and work even harder. It was hard watching everyone else graduate.”
Pursuing an education and a career in a field like Mechatronics Technology was something Gamboa was interested in at an early age.
“I’ve always liked to look at how things work,” he said. “And it continued to fascinate me through middle and high school. I was fortunate enough to have a high school teacher who took note of my skills and encouraged me to look into TSTC.”
Gamboa said it was during a TSTC recruitment fair that he discovered Mechatronics Technology and knew that it was the perfect match.
“There was never any doubt that this was the program for me,” said Gamboa. “It has been a definite eye-opener into the world of automation, engineering and robotics. Mechatronics is a little bit of everything, and now I have a solid foundation.”
Gamboa went on to excel in the program after overcoming a couple of rough semesters.
He even designed and created a working vending machine that dispenses small bags of chips and candy.
“It took me three months to design, build and program my vending machine, but it was well worth it,” he said.
The machine is now displayed at TSTC recruiting events, making it a staple at the Mechatronics Technology table and an area of fascination for younger students.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and all of the lessons I have learned,” said Gamboa. “I’m leaving with experience and skills that I know will help me begin my career because the training I’ve received has prepared me for the next chapter.”
Gamboa has already had numerous interviews with local companies and is waiting to hear back. There is one company in particular that is near and dear to his heart because his father works there and Gamboa previously worked there too.
“I’m excited to see where these interviews may lead,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed the mechanical and electrical areas of mechatronics. But I have an open mind, and I’m ready to try anything.”
Gamboa hopes to grow within the industry, become a leader in his field and live life to the fullest.
“Graduating at such a young age is a huge accomplishment for me,” he said. “And it’s exciting to think I have my whole future ahead of me and a chance to make my dreams come true. I hope that others that feel discouraged the way I did see that it’s possible and nothing can stop us.”
Statewide this month, more than 1,000 TSTC students will join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.