(HARLINGEN, Texas) – He started from the bottom, now he’s here at Texas State Technical College as the Harlingen campus’ newest counselor.

Alex Galan has already been at TSTC for about one month, but said it actually took him 18 years of hard work and perseverance to get to where he is today – at his dream job.

“College was never discussed in my family,” said the first-generation college graduate. “Graduating from high school was always enough, but I always felt like I wanted more.”

The 35-year-old grew up in Mercedes as a migrant worker traveling annually to Ohio with his parents to harvest cucumbers and drive tractors. They had moved to the U.S. from Mexico for a chance at a better education for their children.

“My dad always told us that if we didn’t get an education, then field work is what we would do for the rest of our lives,” said Galan. “But I didn’t want to do this the rest of my life, so I had to make the decision to leave home.”

Had Galan not left home, he would have to have continued working in the fields – house rule.

But by leaving, he was in for, what he calls, the adventure of a lifetime.

Galan began his college career at San Antonio College, where he earned an associate degree in sociology in 2003.

During this time he was a full-time student with a full-time job, not able to make ends meet.  

“I spent countless days and holidays alone in a dark apartment,” said Galan. “And only thanks to friends, I had food to eat. It was a difficult time, but I’m proud that I did it. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could go back. I have no regrets.”

Galan went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2005 from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling with a licensed professional counselor concentration in 2014 from the University of Texas-Pan American, now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

It was a job at  San Antonio College as a work study in the counseling center that kick started  his career path.

“It has definitely been quite a journey and as the only college student and graduate in my family, I was under a lot of pressure to prove that I could do it,” he said. “But it was these trials and tribulations that made me who I am today and it has made all of the difference in my life.”

Now almost two decades later, armed with extensive experience, Galan is at TSTC doing what he first set out to do.

For more than 10 years Galan has worked as a substance abuse, drug and alcohol counselor for the Valley AIDS Council, federal prisons, adult and juvenile detention centers, Cameron County boot camp for probation and parole facilities and as a support service coordinator for Mid Valley Academy.  

Currently, he also works as needed at Palms Behavioral Hospital in Harlingen as a clinical therapist.

“This was God’s journey for me and I feel that I have come full circle,” said Galan. “And because of the experience I have gained throughout my career I am ready to be the best counselor I can be for our TSTC students and better prepared to handle different situations.”

Galan said his goal is to help students toward a better life.

“Whether it’s helping students with mental illness or helping handle the everyday stresses of college and life, I hope that the help they receive will allow them to finish school and graduate,” said Galan.

He added that he is excited to be at TSTC and can’t wait for the start of the new semester.

“I know I finally reached my goal, but I know my journey doesn’t end here,” he said. “I started from the bottom, now I’m here, where I’m supposed to be.”  

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