Texas Border Business
By Joey Gomez
McALLEN, Texas – When situations are at their hardest, sometimes the best thing a student can do is remind themselves that while they may not have same resources as others, they will arrive at the same destination through hard work and effort.
This is a mantra that South Texas College Precision Manufacturing Technology student Victor Moreno keeps in mind as he cycles down the often-dangerous stretch of highway between the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge and STC.
Moreno said he wakes up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. and pedals down Reynosa’s streets to get to the bridge by 6:30. Sometimes he gets rides from his parents, which depends on whether or not his schedule matches with his sister’s on a given day.
Able to cross with a student visa, Moreno says U.S. Customs gives preference to students between the hours of six and eight in the morning.
“My parent’s car can’t travel long distances, so we only make one trip a day, but it helps that my sister’s school is closest to the bridge,” Moreno says in Spanish. “I usually get to the bridge around 7 a.m. so I can take advantage of the fact that the officers give preference to students if they show their school ID or their class schedule. I can cross in 20 minutes that way, but if I miss my opportunity it could take up to 2 hours to cross the bridge because of the long lines.”
Once across, the five-mile journey to STC by bike takes anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes depending on the weather and traffic, he said. The journey is long and risky with big trucks barreling across the wide curves as he pedals down Highway 281.
He bicycles out of necessity. Moreno said he was spending at least $10 a day during his first semester to ride roundtrip by bus from the bridge to STC and back again, which made the process difficult.
“And that was only my transportation from the bridge, I also had to cover other food and travel expenses in Mexico,” he said. “I would also have to keep track of a bus schedule that would end at 6 p.m. which made it difficult to keep a class schedule because I would still have class around that time. I had to drop some classes and instead chose others to complete my hours.”
Attending STC is worth the trip though, he said. Elements of design, manufacturing and production have had a big influence on his life. His father works in construction and his brother studies mechatronics so when he learned that the college offered a certificate in Precision Manufacturing as well as Associate of Applied Science in Precision Manufacturing Technology, he jumped at the chance to study stateside despite persistent fears of studying away from home.
“My parents have always tried to find a way to give me and my two siblings a better future. I was lucky enough to be born in McAllen, so we had always considered the option for me to come study in the US, so I can have a better chance at a good job and to learn English,” Moreno said. “We were all scared when I started coming to STC because we didn’t know the law in Texas, and my parents thought they would have to give up custody. We thought we wouldn’t be able to afford it. I was also afraid because I didn’t understand English, and I couldn’t imagine being at a school where people would solely speak English.”
Staff and faculty at STC quickly put those fears to rest, however. Early on his first semester in the fall of 2022, Moreno said he began meeting with College Connections specialist Jorge Cantu, who began helping him adjust to student life by offering studying advice, time management tips as well as help registering for classes.
“Victor is an exemplary student who from our first meeting proved to me that through hard work and dedication you can achieve anything. From the very beginning he showed the initiative needed and the urgency to enroll and obtain his education at South Texas College,” Cantu said. “He is willing to put the effort to come to our institution no matter the cost and that moved me so much to provide him with the best options and assistance that the college has to offer. As an alumnus of STC myself, I know that having someone open doors here is key for students like Victor, so that they can have the best experience possible, and I wish him the best during his time here with us and beyond.”
Moreno said he looks forward to finishing his certificate and associate degree before taking advantage of a partnership between STC and the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley created for students entering the field of mechanical engineering.
“I know I still have many things to do by then. I need to update my passport, I have to get a Texas ID and better transportation or maybe even find a place to live closer to the college so I can rest and prepare myself better,” Moreno said. “But the most important thing is to try. Everything requires a sacrifice. I made the first step, and even though I tripped and have fallen many times, I always make the effort to get up. I have to acknowledge my mistakes so I can fix them and get the results I want.”