Texas Border Business
By Selene Rodriguez
Over 400 high school students from across the Rio Grande Valley attended this year’s South Texas College Public Safety and First Responders Expo, where over 35 local, state and federal agencies showcased their initiatives and career paths to encourage students to pursue careers in law enforcement, fire science or emergency medical services.
“We present this event every year to showcase everything that STC has to offer for those wanting to pursue careers as a first responder. We also invite agencies so students get to experience what is like to work as a peace officer, firefighter or paramedic, and encourage them to follow their goals,” said Victor Valdez, program chair for STC’s Public Safety programs at the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence.
STC offers both a Law Enforcement and a Fire Science associate degree and certificate programs, as well as a Paralegal, Criminal Justice and Paramedic associate degree pathways and various certificates within Emergency Medical Services.
Some of the equipment displayed by STC’s instructors and students were a propane tank simulator that helps fire cadets train on how to put out a fire safely and a shooting simulator used by STC’s Police Academy cadets and offered to external agencies for training.
“We’re a regional center, we don’t only serve the students, but the region. This is an opportunity to show the agencies what everything STC has available for them to use to improve their trainings and professional skills,” said Valdez. “At the same time, we get to demonstrate the quality training of our students and help them get recruited, it’s a win-win opportunity for everybody involved.”
During the event, students were most excited to sit on and experience all the different patrol units and fire trucks exhibited at the school as well as meeting Pharr’s Police Department K-9 Unit and Mounted Patrol.
“Students are enjoying meeting our canine and horse officers, we are so happy to be invited to STC to showcase everything we have available,” said Pharr Police Officer Jackie Rodriguez from the Pharr Police Department Mental Health Division. “We have more than 10 positions available with us and we’ve talked to students that are interested in joining the force, but some of them are not 18 yet. We advise them to look into opportunities in dispatch or corrections as a steppingstone in a law enforcement career.”
The event was offered to the students in an effort to demonstrate the valuable work that these agencies do every day for the safety of their community.
“This event here at STC is very informative and eye-opening for our students, Once they graduate they can start the process to come to STC with a mind set in what agency they want to work for,” shared German Reyes, La Joya Juarez-Lincoln High School teacher.
Leslie Garcia, La Joya Juarez-Lincoln High School senior shared her dream of becoming a parole officer and has already registered for STC’s Criminal Justice Program next fall.
“One of the trucks exhibited here specializes in chemicals, which I hadn’t seen before. This is all very exciting, my favorite part was the driving demonstration where some of STC’s instructors took us on a serpentine test, where they had to drive in between cones, at a certain speed. I’m really excited to start my career here at STC,” Garcia said.
Melina Ramirez from Vanguard Academy also shared her excitement and motivation to become a first responder.
“It’s so fun to see how the fire cadets train here at STC, they showed me how to use the hose and the power it has to put out a fire. I’m more convinced to become a firefighter, it’s such a great career,” she said.
Exhibitors thanked STC for giving them the opportunity to connect to a younger audience and promised to keep working together for the betterment of the community.
“I am so impressed by this new generation, it’s amazing to be able to connect with them and answer all the questions,” said Firefighter Nohel Barajas from the McAllen Fire Department. “We’re excited to keep working with STC and keep promoting the importance of what first responders do.”
For more information on STC’s Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence and the programs and trainings offered, https://www.southtexascollege.edu/visit/