Texas Border Business
By Amanda Sotelo
From accounting to national television reporter, South Texas College alumnus Genaro Tijerina, took an unexpected journey, but is back in the Rio Grande Valley and ready to share his talents with new generations.
The 30-year-old graduated with an associate degree in accounting nearly a decade ago, a goal he set for himself when he moved from General Bravo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to the United States at 17.
“I had only come to STC for an associate degree and then my plans included moving back to Mexico with my family,” said Tijerina. “See, I grew up very poor in Mexico. I’m a son of migrants, and while I’m proud of that, I didn’t believe in myself when I started college. I didn’t know what I was capable of, but Dr. Esmaeili knew, and he has never let me forget it.”
Tijerina is referring to STC Dean of Math, Science Information Technology and Bachelor Programs Ali Esmaeili, Ph.D., who was one of his instructors as he pursued his associate degree.
“When I got here (U.S.) I didn’t know any English, I had to teach myself, so college was intimidating, but Dr. Esmaeili never let my doubts cloud my mind,” said Tijerina. “He always told me I was capable of more and didn’t let me stop at only an associate degree. He did that for me.”
Esmaeili said he always knew Tijerina was a bright student and was bound for success.
“Sometimes you just know. You just know what a student is capable of, and as an instructor, as an educator, it is our job to help build these students into the best versions of themselves,” said Esmaeili. “And with Genaro, I always knew he could do great things. He didn’t prove me wrong. Now that he’s back, I’m so happy he’s willing to teach and mentor other students. We need his talents here.”
A couple of years after earning his associate degree, under Esmaeili’s wing, Tijerina earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Technology Management, now known as Operations Management, and it was during a career fair that he applied at Telemundo for an internship.
It was this internship where he believed he would hone his skills in accounting and business, but instead he became on-air talent.
“I was told there were more than 300 applicants for this internship and what are the odds that I’m the one hired,” he said. “I started out behind the scenes, helping with the teleprompter, running cameras and doing some editing. I never expected to become the reporter.”
Now an award-winning journalist, Tijerina has done bilingual reporting with networks such as Telemundo and Univision, working locally and nationally covering everything from human interest stories and entertainment to immigration and politics.
He has worked in media markets in Texas – the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, San Antonio and Houston, and out of state in Miami, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.
Tijerina has even studied at the New York Film Academy earning a certificate in filmmaking and most recently received a “Top Journalist of the Year” award from the International Association of Top Professionals.
“Throughout my career, I have kept what I learned at STC at the forefront of my mind, with little voices telling me that success is usually outside of my comfort zone, and I have to go for it,” said Tijerina. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done and so grateful for every opportunity I have been given. It’s true what they say, ‘Education is powerful.’”
Tijerina said life has thrown him many surprises, but he has never forgotten where he comes from and where he got his start, which is why he works toward being a great example for his cousins and other students who need someone to believe in them.
“I’ve recently found myself at a crossroads where I’m ready to be home with my family and ready to pursue new career options in public relations,” he said. “I want to help inspire a whole new generation of journalists, media professionals and local talents in the Rio Grande Valley and at STC.”