For 10 years, Mercedes native Jose M. Gutierrez worked for Dollar Tree, earning the titles of store manager and district trainer. But four years ago, despite his success with the company, Gutierrez felt a sense of discontent. He began exploring the possibility of going to college and changing his career path.
Gutierrez enrolled in evening class at the South Texas College Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco. Two years later, after completing his prerequisites, he applied to the Associate Degree Nursing Program, housed in STC’s Nursing and Allied Health Center in McAllen, and was accepted. The next decision Gutierrez had to make was both difficult and life-changing. In order to enter the program, he would have to quit his job and attend college full time. But if he quit his job, how would he pay his tuition and all of his other expenses?
“I spoke to God and asked Him to help me make the right decision and guide me in the direction I should go,” Gutierrez said.
Then Gutierrez heard about the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, a program that helps low-income, unemployed and underemployed residents of the Rio Grande Valley get the education and training they need to secure high-skilled, high-wage jobs. Gutierrez submitted his application, and the answer to his prayer came in the form of acceptance into VIDA.
“I was so relieved with the assistance — tuition, books, uniforms, and test fees — VIDA provided for me because I was able to concentrate on school only and not worry about paying for all of that,” Gutierrez said.
In two years, Gutierrez earned his ADN, which prepared him for the NCLEX-RN, a national licensure exam. He passed, which earned him the title of RN.
Now 38, Gutierrez is an employee at Harlingen Medical Center, earning $57,200 plus benefits. He credits VIDA and the program’s career counselors, who provide sessions on topics like time and stress management, as well as soft-skills training in areas like study skills and resume preparation. The career counselors also offer individual counseling for VIDA participants, determined to help them break down the barriers that often lead this demographic to drop out of school.
“It’s never too late to go back to school and achieve a brighter future,” Gutierrez said. “Success comes with sacrifice.” Success often requires help, too. “VIDA is important because it helps people reach goals they thought they couldn’t, due to lack of resources.”
But with VIDA’s help, he said, the seemingly impossible goals became possible. “Thank you, VIDA!”