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Harlingen native, TWC commissioner finds his true purpose at TSC

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Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez got his start at TSC, and since then has led a successful career promoting higher education and workforce development and training programs.

Texas Border Business

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Everyone must start somewhere, and for Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez, his road to success started at Texas Southmost College.

From a humble home in Harlingen, where hard work was encouraged, but not so much college, Alvarez drew his inspiration from neighborhood friends whose college plans encouraged him to follow suit.

“My parents instilled in me the value of hard work,” said Alvarez. “We didn’t have trust funds, or college funds, but we knew one of the biggest secrets to success is working hard. And that has shaped who I have become.”

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In the fall of 1986 and the summer of 1988, Alvarez walked the same halls as his father at TSC.

“My dad only went to TSC for one semester, because well, life happens,” he said. “But to walk the same halls and in the same buildings as my dad was a proud moment for me. They (mother and father) were both working so hard to pay for college and that was an honor.”

The first-generation college student and graduate also helped pay his way through school by working in the produce department at HEB because applying for financial aid and scholarships was not a process that Alvarez knew a lot about.

For Alvarez, the unknown about college changed when he arrived at TSC. It was here where he said he adapted quicker and found his enjoyment for learning.

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“At TSC, I finally met people with backgrounds like mine,” said Alvarez. “The instructors were compassionate, class sizes were small, and every class had value. As a Hispanic, young, married man, who got through college a little slower than others, this made all the difference. This is what allowed me to keep going and eventually become the first in my family to become a college graduate.”

Alvarez earned his bachelor’s degree in Education, six years after starting his college journey, making the achievement much more special for him.

“I never gave up, mostly because I had to finish what I started for my parents,” he said. “I remember the look of pride my parents had when they told people I was going to graduate from college. They were proud of me and never complained about the sacrifice it was taking to get me there.”

Alvarez has gone on to lead a successful career representing more than 14 million Texas workers as the TWC Commissioner Representing Labor, a position he was appointed to in 2016, then reappointed to in 2017 by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Prior to that he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and Texas Regional Director for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. He has served on the South Texas Drug Task Force as a state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), as the Director of College Information for a Rio Grande Valley college and as a football referee (now retired) for the Southland Conference.

A few recognitions for his work include: 2020 Fellow for the Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution at the University of Texas School of Law; 2019 Career, Technology and Education (CTE) Champion Award for the Career and Technical Association of Texas; and in 2018 he was appointed Official of the Year by the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children.

Alvarez has since been back to TSC as TWC Commissioner Representing Labor to award grants that fund student scholarships and programs that lead to careers that impact lives and communities. Each visit back to the Valley, he said he is filled with pride to see how TSC has evolved and how it understands the needs of students, industry and the community.

“To think that all of this started at TSC because my instructors believed in me and didn’t give up on me when I did,” said Alvarez. “TSC catered to this nontraditional student and changed my life, and it continues to touch the lives of those that walk through its halls. It’s a beacon of hope for people like me.”

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