When Jose Cavazos’s co-worker at Barcom Technology Services in Harlingen told him they had a service call at the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement office in Mercedes, he felt a sense of both nostalgia and excitement. Cavazos had considered stopping in VIDA’s former office in Weslaco several times, but it was always closed by the time he got out of work.
“As soon as we walked into the building,” Cavazos said, “I got goosebumps.”
Cavazos thought back to 2012, at the end of his second semester at Texas State Technical College, where he was studying computer systems management technology. Someone at TSTC told him about VIDA. It could not have come at a better time. Cavazos had worked in the housing market before moving to Indiana. After one-and-a-half years of being away from their family, he, his wife and their children packed up and headed home to the Valley. But Cavazos struggled to find a job.
“At other jobs, I was always the makeshift IT guy,” Cavazos said. So in 2011, at the age of 40, he enrolled at TSTC.
Discovering a new VIDA
VIDA, Cavazos learned, has a unique service strategy, providing financial assistance for tuition, books, training tools and other necessities, as well as individual and group counseling. The program, in its 25th year, was designed to break down the barriers that often prevent unemployed and underemployed Valley residents from earning a certificate or degree that can transform their lives and the lives of their families.
Cavazos applied and was accepted into VIDA. He called it “HUGE” that VIDA paid his tuition, as well as covering his books and supplies. They also provide him with a gas stipend during the three semesters remaining to complete his degree.
“Going to school full time, I was not able to find a job,” Cavazos said. He did work part-time as a tutor on campus. Before he graduated, Cavazos was offered an entry-level position at the Barcom Help Desk.
VIDA’s structure helped keep Cavazos on track and the staff inspired him to make it through any difficult times.
“I was never a straight-A student,” Cavazos said. “I was a B-C student. Having that support was huge. I graduated with a 4.0 average.”
Commitment Leads to Success
Cavazos’s wife and children also encouraged him to keep going. Cavazos said he became a role model for his children. They would see him earning straight A’s, making it impossible for them to tell him their schoolwork was too difficult.
Cavazos earned his associate’s in CSMT in 2013. He is now the lead client-experience manager and an IT technician at Barcom. He credits the Barcom management for seeing the value of his degree and recognizing the importance of his pre-degree customer service, sales and management experience.
“The degree showed them a level of commitment,” Cavazos said.
With VIDA’s financial help and wraparound services, the support of his family and his own determination, Cavazos is now living a life he loves.