Texas Border Business
By Joey Gomez
McALLEN, Texas – South Texas College Construction Supervision student Angel Lopez remembers the exact moment he discovered his love for building things and how he knew he was meant for a career in the construction trade.
Born in Hidalgo, Texas, but raised in Reynosa, Mexico, Lopez said he was 15 when his mother took him aside, put a hammer in his hand, and began introducing him to simple construction projects at home.
His mother, who worked a day job as a nurse in Mexico at the time, had been previously introduced to building through family, and constructed and designed everything from cabinetry to furniture to make ends meet.
Lopez recalls one instance when his mother took it upon herself to remodel their entire home on her own. Pretty soon, other family members were asking for their assistance.
“I have always loved seeing my mom build things, ever since I was small. She inspired me to go into this career,” Lopez said. “I remember when I was a beginner and she taught me about wood and all the tools. Now I feel like I’m ready to take what I learned into a professional career.”
Several years later, that early experience would bring Lopez, 20, to STC, but not without difficulty. Lopez knew he would have to support himself and his daily trips across the border to attend classes.
He began working at a local Stripes convenience store in order to save up funds to purchase a small scooter that enabled him to take courses at STC’s Technology campus. While there, he said he made it a point to learn English by interacting with customers and would work the morning shift before heading to class in the afternoon.
Currently in his first semester at STC, Lopez said he is looking to earn his Construction Supervision Assistant Certificate and eventually move on to STC’s Construction Supervision Associate of Applied Science in 2024.
“Having a career one day is important to me and it drives me; to one day be a professional,” Lopez said. “I believe being a professional in a career will set me apart from those around me in my life who work so hard, but who are held back because they don’t have that college degree. Receiving an education gives you the chance for knowledge and to hopefully become a boss of your own one day.”
STC’s Construction Supervision program, together with its industry partners in the community, recently came together to recognize Lopez who they say epitomizes the determination and dedication of those in the program.
Lopez was commended by representatives from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department along with the college’s partners in the business community including Matt’s Cash & Carry Building Materials, Gomez3 Construction, McCoy’s Building Supply and local non-profit Treating Others With Respect (TOW-R).
Matt’s Cash and Carry donated tools to support Lopez, and McCoy’s matched that with a $250 gift card.
“Supporting students like Lopez really means a lot to me, to be able to participate in students’ education,” said Gomez3 Founder Efrain Gomez. “We are 100% committed to supporting our community, any organization and any college like STC that provides guidance to students who are entering our industry so we will continue with our partnership with the college and help out in any we can.”
Matt’s Cash and Carry Co-Owner Isaac Smith said he felt a parallel with Lopez’s struggles to succeed.
“We are all products from the Valley, our home is here, and our heart is here along with our families so we feel we are one with the community,” Smith said. “We will always support our students and their efforts to be educated and move up in life. This is how we give back, and it’s just a small token of our appreciation because students like Lopez are the lifeblood of our business.”
While in STC’s Construction Supervision program, Lopez said he has taken advantage of every opportunity so far to get hands-on experience and has built everything from walls, closets, tables and roofs, he said.
“To all the students like me who have grown up with very little but who have big dreams, I would say never surrender,” Lopez said. “I come home dead tired every day while I balance school and work, but every day is a brand-new chance to prove something not only my professors but to myself. I will do whatever it takes to reach my goals.”