HARLINGEN — Melissa Castro, of Mercedes, grew an interest in the automotive industry with motivation from her uncle, who was a mechanic. His approach for resolving automotive issues impressed her.
After her uncle’s death, the hardworking mother of four desired more for her family. Now she is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Harlingen campus.
“I remember my uncle worked on the alternator to my aunt’s vehicle,” she said. “I found it very interesting when I was a teenager. Now that I am older, not only do I want to continue his memory, I want to earn my degree from TSTC.”
Castro is one of two women enrolled in the traditionally male-dominated program, and she feels empowered.
She said any woman can do a man’s job.
“All you need to do is put your heart and soul into the job,” she said.
As Castro’s automotive knowledge increases, she said her uncle’s spirit is there with her every step of the way.
“He always told me to keep going and never give up,” she said.
Miguel Zoleta, a TSTC Automotive Technology instructor at the campus in Harlingen, said Castro demonstrates strong initiative and performs class assignments exceptionally well.
“Her work ethic is amazing,” he said.
Castro’s favorite program experiences have consisted of rotating and changing tires, and brake removal. She recalled a class assignment in which every student had to perform a tire removal.
“I allowed some of my classmates to do the tire removal before it was my turn,” she said. “Many of the male students were surprised that I completed it faster than they did.”
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and an Automotive Technician certificate of completion at the Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco campuses. Several other certificates, including Chrysler Specialization, Tesla START Technician and Toyota T-TEN Specialization, and a Basic Automotive occupational skills award, are also available, depending on campus location.
The need for qualified automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow in Texas over the next several years. According to onetonline.org, Texas has more than 60,000 technicians employed around the state, and that number is forecast to top 65,000 by 2028. The average annual salary for a technician in the state is $45,520.
To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.