Jerry Nieto is one of the first students in Electrical Power and Controls, a program in its first semester at the Texas State Technical College Fort Bend County campus.
Originally from Brownsville, Nieto first enrolled at the TSTC Harlingen campus in 2001 to pursue an associate degree in what was then Drafting and Design Technology.
Although he completed his classes and the job offers flooded in, Nieto never registered for graduation and never received his associate degree. Immediately after this he moved to New York with his sisters and never looked back.
“I sometimes wish I could turn back time and give my young self a pep talk,” said Nieto. “I don’t know what I was thinking back then. I could have had a stable, good-paying career. But I can only move forward now.”
Life altogether has not been bad for Nieto. He held onto a successful car sales job In New York before moving to Houston and going into business with his father-in-law. However, neither gig was something he could see himself doing long-term.
So, after nine years, Nieto and his father-in-law sold their fiber-optic cable business and Nieto started making calls to TSTC’s Harlingen campus wondering if it was too late to get his associate degree.
“Time moves on and things change, but I figured it was worth the try,” he said.
Well, with nearly a decade gone by, some of Nieto’s credits didn’t count anymore and he would have to take new classes. Basically, starting all over.
“TSTC was great to me once, so I knew if I was going to start anywhere, it was going to be at TSTC,” said Nieto. “Lucky for me the Fort Bend County campus opened, because I am back.”
Barely reaching the halfway point in his first semester, Nieto said the Electrical Power and Control program is already exceeding his expectations.
“I’m a husband and father now with a different mindset,” he said. “I’m ready to learn. I understand the importance of an education and I’m ready for a new career.”
Nieto added he now understands the importance an education can have on his life and the opportunities TSTC provides for its students.
“Not only are classes hands-on, but our instructors are leaders in industry with extensive experience,” said Nieto. “That has to be appreciated, because that’s what gets students far.”
TSTC Electrical Power and Control Instructor Jonathan Bonkoske spent more than 30 years in the industry working in power distribution, electrical power and motor research and design.
In August, he made the jump to teaching to share his knowledge with students like Nieto and to help give them insight into the industry.
“Nieto is one of my students who I know has life experience and is eager to learn,” said Bonkoske. “I know it’s early into the semester, but seeing him work hard and jumping into his projects like he is, lets me know that he has a bright future. He has all of the qualities an employer looks for.”
Bonkoske said his goal is to share his experience with all of his students and teach them the hands-on skills they need to be placed in a good-paying job that will help build their career.
And as for Nieto, he said his goal is to learn as much as he can from Bonkoske and his peers, graduate with his associate degree and find a career that will help him support his family.
“This time around I’m taking advantage of everything TSTC has to offer me and I’m going to make the most of it,” he said. “I know they’ll give me the confidence I need to be one of the best in the industry.”
Electrical Power and Controls is also offered at TSTC’s North Texas and Waco campuses. For more information visit, tstc.edu.