A new partnership between Hidalgo County Precinct 2 and South Texas College is enabling county employees to return to college and complete their degree.

As a non-traditional student, Oscar Salinas said he made the difficult decision to return to college despite a full-time job as a truck driver and in field operations with Hidalgo County Precinct 2. 

Starting college 20 years after graduating from high school, Salinas says it is never too late to pursue career goals.

He now plans to complete his certificate in Business Management by May 2020, and then wants to continue with an associate degree in Business. His ultimate goal however is to one day enter STC’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership (BASOL) program.

“Starting college 20 years after graduating from high school is a scary thought. I always wished I would have gone right after high school but I didn’t and I can’t change that, but I can start now because it’s never too late,” he said. “A college degree is often necessary for career advancement and that is what I am looking for. I want to keep learning and growing both personally and professionally. Education gives you the opportunity to do that.”

Salinas is among five employees with Hidalgo Co. Precinct 2 who have opted to return to college fall 2019.

College Connections at STC recently held an Apply Texas and Financial Aid drive at the Hidalgo County Precinct 2 offices. Financial aid outreach representatives from STC along with recruitment staff were on hand for county employees who are seeking to attend classes at STC in the fall. 

The event was the first of its kind for the college, which will continue to conduct outreach with employers and non-traditional adult learners in the community. 

“We usually do these kinds of events with high schools, but we had never done it with an employer so we were willing to give it a try,” said Maricruz Hinojosa, Coordinator of College Connections. “We had about 10 employees stop by, and the precinct set us up with a few computers in a conference room. We had the employees go through the application process and submit the forms for financial aid.”

To assist students, Precinct 2 allowed employees to come to campus to speak with advisors if they needed. The county precinct office has also pledged to work with employees’ schedule so they can attend classes.

“It’s difficult for these adult learners to come and seek services at the college. They usually can’t come to us even if they wanted to, so for us to come to them and help them through the process was something they appreciated,” Hinojosa said. “With the county precinct’s assistance, we were able to offer this for them as well as facilitate and encourage them to continue their education.”

The College Connections Department builds a college-going culture by providing off-site assistance to residents in Hidalgo and Starr counties. College Connection Specialists assist with enrollment, financial aid, and college bound events district-wide.

Recruiters are tasked with promoting STC and connecting with prospective students as well as with the community to help transition them into higher education.

“From the very beginning, I just wanted to make sure that all of our employees knew that there were opportunities out there to get a degree,” said Hidalgo County Pct. 2 Commissioner Eddie Cantu. “We want them to become a better asset to themselves and to the county.

“I have always encouraged our staff to look for better opportunities, whomever it may be, they need to know there is always something better out there and they need to reach for the job of their dreams,” Cantu said.