Success Stories

Eusebio Aguirre | GED/THEA Academy/LVN | McAllen | STC

Eusebio Aguirre was working as a provider earning $6.50/hr when he applied at Project VIDA. With the help of Project VIDA he enrolled in Pharr’s Region One ALC and obtained his GED in Spring 2007. He then enrolled in VIDA’s College Prep Academy and passed his THEA with a score of 250+ in each area of the exam. After completing his GED and THEA, he still had doubts about enrolling in college due to his limited English speaking skills. Mr. Aguirre was invited to speak at a C.N.A. Graduation Ceremony late December 2009 where he said, “I remember my case manager telling me that if nurses whose first language is another language other than English, and they were working in the US, why would I be any different.” He said that motivated him to pursue the LVN Program at STC. He began his prerequisites for LVN at STC in Fall 2007. He was accepted in the LVN program at STC in Fall 2008 and graduated in Fall 2009. He passed the Texas Board of Nursing February 2010 and is now employed at Mi Mansion Adult Day Care earning $18/hr.

Fabian Hernandez | Physical Therapist Assistant | Pharr | STC
Fabian received a medical discharge from the United States Marine Corp after being injured during a tour of duty in Iraq. During his long rehabilitation including physical therapy he decided what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. VIDA helped with expenses that his VA benefits did not cover. Fabian graduated from STC with an associate’s degree in Physical Therapy and is now employed as a Physical Therapy Assistant earning $69,000 per year with full benefits. But that is not all that Fabian earned while in the program. He earned the heart of a fellow student and VIDA participant, Mireya Perez (employed now making $63,500 per year). They graduated and were married.They have just welcomed a new baby to join the family alongside Mireya’s older son!
Eddie Guerra | HVAC (Certificate) | Raymondville | TSTC
Eddie, a married father of three children returned to his home in Raymondville after a tour of duty with the United States Army in Operation Desert Storm. He was happy to be home, but he faced a huge challenge in obtaining and maintaining employment. After some time, Guerra landed a good job as a manager of a used car department of an auto agency, but the dealership was sold. Eventually Edwardo found a similar job, but after an extended medical leave due to surgery, he lost his job. Determined to work and provide for his family, he started a landscaping business, but it provided neither the income nor the reliability to support his family. It was obvious to Edwardo that his only real solution to this recurring problem was to go to school…but how? VIDA! With funding from Willacy County, VIDA was able to help Edwardo obtain a college certificate from TSTC in Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). Mr. Guerra is now the Maintenance and Transportation Supervisor for Santa Maria ISD earning $38,400 per year plus benefits. Congratulations Edwardo…and thank you for serving our country!
Yvette Rivera | Education(Assn) Computer & Information Technology (Bach) | McAllen | STC
Yvette of McAllen entered VIDA as a single parent and unemployed looking for a better life for her and her son. Yvette earned her GED, graduated from STC with an associate’s degree in Elementary Education and a bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Technology from South Texas College. She now works at her alma mater as an Open Lab Technician.


Juan Pena | HVAC (Certificate) | Brownsville | UTB/TSC
Juan was 14 when he came to the United States and began mopping and waxing floors at a local restaurant. At 16, Peña enrolled in high school as a freshman but quickly had to quit. He lived with his aunt and uncle and he needed to work full time to help with the family expenses. Years passed and he found an opportunity in welding. With this skill he moved where the employment was and did well for ten years. After an extended lay-off, now married and a father of three, Juan knew that Brownsville was where he wanted to raise his kids and that education was his only hope for stability. UTB-TSC offered Juan the perfect program with the HVAC certificate and EPA state certification. Today, Juan owns his own company, Ice Valley Air Conditioning in Brownsville.
Leonel Lopez | LVN | McAllen | STC
Leonel had full custody of his seven year old daughter and lived with his elderly parents. Employed part time at a hospital, Lopez worked arduously towards the completion of the LVN program.
“No words can describe the feeling of gratitude.
VIDA made a huge impact on my life and my family”.
Lopez works at a nursing home with a base salary of $44,054 per year plus benefits.


Horacio Balli | Welding (Associates) | Harlingen | TSTC
Horacio lived in a house with his three siblings and mother, all first generation immigrants. They were supported by Horacio’s mother with only $500 per month. As the eldest child, school was not an option. Horacio had to work to help his mother support the family but part time, minimum wage was all that he could find. Balli attended an orientation at Sacred Heart in Brownsville and with VIDA’s support, Horacio graduated from TSTC with an Associate’s Degree in Welding. Today, Horacio works for a compressor company and earns $41,600 per year base salary plus benefits.
Jennifer Garcia | LVN | Harlingen | STC
Jennifer, a single mother of two, shared a home in Harlingen with her mother and three siblings. With public assistance and part time minimum wage jobs, she and her mom were barely able to keep afloat. Jennifer was the oldest of seven in her family and she was driven to set the example. She was the first to graduate from high school and was the first to graduate from college. Jennifer is employed as a nurse in Harlingen earning $37,440 a year with benefits. “I am so grateful to VIDA and to the City of Harlingen for investing in my family’s future. I am so proud to say that I am no longer on public assistance and can provide for my family on my own!”
Graciela & Erika Gonzalez | College Prep/Computer Support Specialist | Weslaco & Mercedes | STC
Graciela & Erika, a mother/daughter team from the Mid-Valley. Both participants are sponsored by GTF and enrolled in the College Prep Academy, an intensive 16 week, five days per week, six hours per day program. Graciela, is a single parent on public assistance, who is raising her eight year old grandson. She was cleaning houses and baby-sitting to help make ends meet. Graciela knew she needed a better life for her grandson and herself. She needed to get an education, but it had been over 20 years since she was in school and she wasn’t sure if she could handle college. After seeing an advertisement in the newspaper, Graciela contacted VIDA and was accepted into the College Prep Academy. Graciela attended class everyday. “Hard work does pay off,”noted Graciela who received a perfect score on the writing portion of the college entrance exam. She passed all three sections of the college entrance exam and has enrolled in South Texas College and has started working on her associate’s degree as a computer support specialist. Erika, Graciela’s daughter, is a young single parent raising twin daughters. She also relied on public assistance with no help from the father of her children. Like her mother, Erika knew she needed to make a change in her life. She needed to get an education. It had been a while since Erika obtained her GED and she wasn’t sure if she could succeed in college. Her mother told her about VIDA’s College Prep Academy and asked her to apply. Attending college was demanding. It was made even more difficult by the hospitalization of one of her daughter’s and the fact that Erika traveled over 3,200 miles to and from school! But Erika was determined and this mother/daughter team had a built in support system in one another so they both did well. Erika passed all three sections of the college entrance exam and has enrolled in STC and has also started work on earning an associate’s degree as a computer support specialist.
Aurora Gonzalez | Social Work | Mission | STC
Aurora, a single parent of three on public assistance, who was looking to better the lives of her children. She grew tired of dead end jobs with no future to maintain her family. She wanted to find a good paying job but she lacked the training to get one. Aurora knew she needed an education but it had been 18 years since she was in school and she didn’t think she could pass the college entrance exam. Aurora had always dreamed of being a social worker and decided it was time to make a change. She heard about VIDA’s College Prep Academy, quickly applied and was accepted into the program. Through determination and hard work, Aurora passed all three sections of the college entrance exam, scored the highest test grade in the class on the math section of the exam with a 287 out of a possible 300 and is enrolled at South Texas College. She will begin college credit course work this summer working towards an associate’s degree in social work.
Carlos Vega | Radiologic Technology | San Juan | STC
Carlos had worked hard all of his life but was still not able to provide for his wife and three kids without public assistance. Carlos’ tenacity and VIDA’s assistance ensured his place at the STC Spring 2011 Graduation Ceremony. Carlos earned his associate’s degree in Radiologic Technology and is employed by DHR earning nearly $39,000 plus benefits.


Lorena Bocanegra | HPRP/College Prep Academy | McAllen | STC
As a single parent of three children from McAllen, whose only source of income was unemployment benefits. She had been struggling to make ends meet after she was laid off from her job. Her situation became worse when she received an eviction notice. Bocanegra heard about the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) from her landlord. She contacted VIDA and learned she could receive assistance to resolve her housing problem and assistance to get an education if she enrolled in school. Bocanegra quickly enrolled at Southern Careers Institute (SCI) to obtain a certificate in business accounting. Although enrolled at SCI, her real goal was to attend South Texas College (STC) and earn an associate’s degree in Business Administration, but she felt she wasn’t college ready. Bocanegra enrolled in the College Prep Academy at STC while she was attending SCI. She earned her certificate in business accounting. Through the College Prep Academy; she has already passed the reading and writing portions of the college entrance exam. If not for the assistance she received from VIDA through HPRP, she and her family would be homeless. Today Bocanegra is working as an office manager at Alaniz Counseling and Behavioral Center earning $28,000 a year with full benefits.
Rafael Galan | HPRP | McAllen
Rafael was living the American Dream. Working at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance as a Certified First Assistant, Galan was able to provide well for his family. Suddenly, Galan, a married man with three daughters, found himself without a job. In order to make ends meet, Galan began selling his personal possessions including household items and quickly maxed out his credit cards. Before he knew it, he was three months behind on his rent and was served with an eviction notice. Galan had no family to help him and he felt hopeless. Then Galan became aware of assistance available through the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP). HPRP was able to assist Galan with his rent and utilities for up to 18 months since he was enrolled in classes. Almost 12 months to the day after Galan applied for assistance, he called his case worker and proudly informed her that he would no longer need assistance for HPRP. Galan was re-hired at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance earning $58,136 a year plus benefits.
Carmen Gurolla | THEA Academy/Elementary Education(Assn)/Mathematics (Bachelors) | McAllen | STC /UTPA
Carmen is a perfect example of how the VIDA models works. When Gurrola first sought help from VIDA, she lived with her elderly mother, her six month old baby and a brother who is intellectually challenged. In order to better the life of her family, she knew she needed her GED. English was not her primary language, but through perseverance, she earned her GED, successfully completed the THEA Academy (an intense 16 week program, designed to prepare students for college without the need of taking remedial courses while in college) and earned her associate’s degree in education. Gurrola continued her education and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Gurrola is currently a math teacher and she is working on her master’s degree. She plans on earning a doctorate in mathematics.
Juan Pablo Benavidez | Back on Track/ College Prep Academy/HVAC | San Juan | STC
Juan Pablo is a first generation immigrant to the United States. He, his parents, and his three siblings were migrant workers since his arrival in this country at the age of 3. His family worked long and hard and for years Juan Pablo knew that he did not want to be a laborer all of his life. Bad judgment landed him in the 92nd District Court where Judge Ricardo Rodriguez placed Benavidez in the Back on Track program. Judge Rodriguez’s pilot program gives first time, non-violent offenders a chance to correct their mistakes and upon successful completion, their offenses will be stricken from their records. Juan Pablo entered VIDA’s College Prep Academy at STC and has completed his second semester in pursuit of an associate’s degree in Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Juan Pablo is an excellent student, an effective mentor, and is fully committed to a bright future.
Juan Carlos Montelongo | Back on Track/ Import Export | Mission | STC
Juan Carlos emigrated from Mexico at the age of 14 with his grandparents. Montelongo, a child of parents that had their own interior design business, was used to the good life and money wasn’t a problem for his family. He had aspirations of going to college and getting a degree, securing a good paying job and earning his own money. He completed high school and started college shortly thereafter. However, those dreams were shattered when the family business fell on hard times and eventually his parents had to file for bankruptcy. With no income, many of the things Montelongo was used to were no longer available. Unfortunately, he made decisions that resulted in his arrest. While in the judicial system, Montelongo learned about Back on Track, a program that gives first time non-violent offenders a chance to correct their mistakes. Montelongo wanted straighten up his life and he knew the key was to earn his degree. Montelongo learned about VIDA from a session he attended as part of the Back on Track program, and he was encouraged to apply for assistance from VIDA to return to school. He was accepted and is currently enrolled at South Texas College and is working towards an associate’s degree in Import/Export and is on track to graduate in the Fall of 2012. Montelongo is truly dedicated to making up for mistakes he made, and with the support Back on Track and VIDA, he will succeed.