Texas Border Business
By Joey Gomez
McALLEN, Texas – By attending South Texas College, Rosa Vasquez says she has taken her interest in cosmetology to new heights by combining the program with her passion to improve the quality of life for others.
Returning to STC after more than 20 years, Vasquez said she is looking to contribute to the program by fostering connections and awareness about how cosmetology can be utilized to meet the needs of those in the community.
There often aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything on her list, according to Vasquez, but the opportunity to work and then attend class at STC from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday feels more like a blessing than a chore, she said.
“I’m doing what I want to do, which means I’m helping others while also helping myself to become a better person,” Vasquez said. “I’m proof that it’s never too late to make a change and make your life better for yourself and those around you. STC has been a blessing in my life.”
Vazquez, 48, previously attended STC in 1997 when it was then known as South Texas Community College. Originally looking to enter a career in law enforcement, Vasquez said she was eager to begin working with juvenile cases and graduated from the city of Pharr’s police academy when she was 19.
Then life threw her some serious challenges. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Vasquez said she shifted her focus into health care as a way of offering support.
A former teacher she knew from grade school had become the nursing director at a local nursing home, and Vasquez said she entered the medical field for the first time as a nurse’s assistant.
“Even though my mother was diagnosed with cancer, everything fell into place for me at that time career-wise.” Vasquez said. “I was able to connect with a teacher I had known since fifth grade, and with her help I began to work at the nursing home to provide for my education. While I was working there, I realized that this was the field I was meant to be in. Even though I was studying to become a police officer, I knew I wanted to do what the nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN) were doing for our seniors. They were taking care of the elderly and my career just took off from there.”
Vasquez said she also earned certificates in health care through the STC’s Continuing Education department as an Activity Director and Medication Aide.
Activity Director and Medication Aide are courses available through Continuing, Professional and Workforce Education (CPWE) that enable students to receive certificates of completion usually after one semester depending on course schedule.
Now, more than 25 years later, Vasquez said she returned to STC and entered the new cosmetology program in order to supplement a career dedicated to caring for recovering patients at DHR Health.
As an activity coordinator with DHR Health Rehabilitation Hospital, Vasquez said she discovered how STC could help her support those who are recovering from surgery and other life-changing procedures.
“I have entered the cosmetology program at STC so I can continue using the skills I have learned here and carry it into the medical field, especially with patients who are stroke victims,” she said. “I thought it would mean a lot to those recovering patients to receive services like manicures and haircuts, just as a way to help them feel better while they recover.”
Earlier this summer, Vasquez was instrumental in organizing the first event between STC’s Cosmetology program and DHR Health’s stroke support group that enabled students to assist the community by offering haircuts, braiding, hairstyling, manicures and makeup application to patients.
“Sometimes the patients have had a surgery where they had to cut half of their hair, and that is sometimes necessary because health comes first of course,” Vasquez said. “Doctors are here trying to save patients’ lives, but once they reach us at the rehabilitation hospital, our job then becomes to assist the patient. We just feel like we’re doing good for somebody.”
Now set to graduate in December as part of the first cohort of cosmetology students since the program began in the spring, faculty say they are proud of the work that students like Vasquez are achieving as the program gets off the ground.
“Rosa is a model student and who has done everything to improve herself in any way that she can to offer better services to her patients,” said Cosmetology Program Chair Carla Balleza. “She brings everybody together in the classroom and genuinely wants to take part and learn more about cosmetology to be able to offer more to those she serves. She has empowered our program just like she has empowered her patients.”
For more information about STC’s Cosmetology program visit www.southtexascollege.edu/academics/cosmetology/.