12:57 PM

A new challenge

Student of the Week: Ian Salazar

"With the PTA program, what initially lured me in was the idea of helping people and being with them every step of the way."

STC Student of the Week Ian Salazar

When Ian Salazar, 19, decided to make a complete shift in his educational goals, he found his perfect match at South Texas College.

Salazar said he grew up involved in the fine arts and initially intended to major in music performance. But when music went from being a stress reliever to a stressor for the McAllen native, he decided to make a change in his career path.

Salazar said he considered studying kinesiology when his mother suggested he look into the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at STC.

“With the PTA program, what initially lured me in was the idea of helping people and being with them every step of the way,” Salazar said. “My dad’s involved in the medical field so I get to follow in his footsteps. He works for Performance Therapeutics, and I went with him to his office to see like what it was like and just thought it was really cool.”

Physical Therapist Assistants, or PTAs, are licensed skilled health care providers who work under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. PTAs assist the physical therapist to provide treatment programs to help restore or improve function, relieve pain, encourage independence and educate patients and their families.

Salazar just finished his first semester in the program and said his favorite class was Anatomy and Physiology because it helped him build his work ethic and served as a strong introduction to the skills he needs in his future career.

“The class helped me focus on my work ethic because I knew I needed to study extensively,” Salazar said. “It was a lot of fun because it challenged me and I was able to learn a lot and apply it to my life. I remember my grandma was talking about having this pain that shot all the way down her leg and I told her it was the sciatic nerve. She was then able to go and get it diagnosed.”

As part of the PTA program, Salazar also must complete volunteer hours and said he especially enjoys the hands-on work.

“When I started volunteering at the inpatient clinic, I was able to interact and get to know people.” Salazar said. “I’ve always been sociable, but I used to be really in my shell and didn’t talk much. Then, I realized I really like talking and interacting with people and that's a majority of what the medical field is so it’s perfect for me. I enjoy being able to interact with people and learn their stories. Knowing I can treat and care for them effectively is what drew me in.”

As a first-generation college student, Salazar said he is grateful for the support of the people in his life, especially his girlfriend, Samara.

“She was the one who pushed me into the medical field in the first place,” Salazar said. “She helped me build the career path that I wanted and learn how to get there efficiently. I also learned from her how to secure scholarships or get in contact with certain teachers. She’s probably the biggest reasons why I’m even in college today.”

Salazar said he’s looking forward to staying busy this summer with classes and is eager to dig deeper into the world of health care.

“I think being successful is really all about adaptation and learning to balance your work and social life,” Salazar said. “Once you learn to balance it, you can take a step back and see how to also focus on yourself. I want to focus on school and getting these classes done.”

Salazar said once he completes the Physical Therapy Assistant program at STC he wants to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a physical therapist. He encourages other students to consider the STC program because of its impressive 2022 National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) pass rate of 100%. The licensure exam is a grueling four-hours and 250-questions.

“I also think STC is a lot more accessible than other schools because I remember dealing with loans and wondering how I was going to make ends meet,” Salazar said. “Then when I got here, the financial aid came through and I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t even have to worry about this.’ On top of that, it also provides a lot of access. I had no idea what I was doing stepping into the medical field. I went from music to learning how the heart works, and STC helped me get there and provided a smooth transition.