Jorge Sanchez thought he had the perfect plan in place after graduating from high school. He earned a scholarship to St. Edward’s University in Austin, where he planned to major in biology with a concentration in biological sciences. But as he calculated the cost for tuition, room and board, and books, Sanchez realized this plan did not make financial sense.
“Even though I was given a scholarship to study at St. Edward’s,” Sanchez said, “I still would not have enough to pay for it.”
He declined the scholarship and fully committed to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
About a year ago, Sanchez and his family went to a public library in the Rio Grande Valley for a presentation by the staff at Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, a nonprofit organization that has helped bring Valley residents out of poverty and into high-skill, high-paying jobs through education for the past 25 years. After hearing the presentation, Sanchez decided to apply and was accepted.
VIDA has helped Sanchez, a resident of Pharr, with tuition and supplies, including books. But they have also helped in intangible ways.
“Aside from the financial help,” Sanchez said, “they have also helped me mentally. With the group sessions we have every week, our mentors motivate us to try to do our best to succeed. Moreover, this program has helped me become assiduous with my responsibilities and a better organized person. This has helped me be on top of my daily tasks and has helped me become a better student.”
Destination on Target
VIDA’s wrap-around approach is key to the success of program participants. The program’s career counselors work closely with each participant to specifically address the barriers that often prevent Valley residents from completing a trade certificate or degree. Group sessions incorporate soft-skills training, including resume preparation, job interviews, budgeting and study skills.
Although his road to success hit a detour at the start of his journey, Sanchez’ destination has not changed.
“My career goal is to work in a forensic lab for a law-enforcement agency,” he said. “I am expected to graduate by Spring 2022.”
As he looks toward graduation, Sanchez can already envision what the future holds.
“Once I have finished school, I expect my life to change drastically,” he said. “I hope I can get a head start in the real world, and hopefully I can give back to my family for the support they gave me.”
Sanchez fully recognizes the important role VIDA is playing in his life.
“Most of us here in the Valley strive for a career we truly want,” Sanchez said. “But when it comes to financial issues, that goal becomes almost impossible to accomplish.” With VIDA’s support, though, Sanchez said the impossible becomes possible.
“Another thing I have noticed about VIDA is the unique stories and people who have joined the program since I was accepted,” Sanchez said. “Most people are way older than me. Some have kids and some are married. What I am trying to say is that it is never too late to have that dream career you want.”