STC allied health programs helps student find her path
Student of the Week: Karla Santillana
"The more I was around the nurses, the more I wanted to help and do what they did. It really opened my eyes to who I wanted to be in the future. So, I reached out to the nursing program, and as soon as I applied, I knew this was my calling.”
South Texas College Vocational Nursing student Karla Santillana said she discovered her true calling at the Nursing and Allied Health campus, and is grateful for the support and educational environment that has merged her passion for helping people into a promising career in health care.
Santillana, 24, remembers how she initially wasn't sure what degree she wanted to earn when she began her higher education journey.
“Honestly, I came blindly into college and really didn't know what I wanted to study,” Santillana said. “My parents were the ones who encouraged me to go to college, so my best friend and I decided to become biology majors. Then, I started looking into anatomy and really started loving physiology and how the body works. That gave me the motivation to enter the Patient Care Technician (PCT) program.”
Santillana entered STC’s Patient Care Technician program in 2020, and during the process she said she became inspired to pursue vocational nursing.
“Once I entered the patient care program, I had the privilege of going to nursing homes where I was able to withdraw blood, do electrocardiograms (EKG) on patients and be communicative with them,” Santillana said. “While there I would see the nurses administer medications, IVs and X-rays, and all these things that I couldn’t do. The more I was around the nurses, the more I wanted to help and do what they did. It really opened my eyes to who I wanted to be in the future. So, I reached out to the nursing program, and as soon as I applied, I knew this was my calling.”
Santillana said she was part of an accelerated program going from earning her Patient Care Technician certification to the Vocational Nursing program. She intends to continue her education to help her reach her overall career goals.
“I am sure that I want to either be a psychologist or a psych nurse,” she said. “I want to work in the mental health field. The mental development of life intrigues me and makes me want to learn more. I especially want to help people here in the Rio Grande Valley and advocate for mental health awareness.”
Santillana also prioritizes balancing the demands of her education with her own mental health. She said she enjoys 5 a.m. trips to the beach, staying active and spending time volunteering with Nursing and Allied Health student life. She is currently the vice president of her cohort and is involved with the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA).
“With VIDA I help the elderly with their gardening and help distribute their food,” Santillana said. “On campus, I’m always here at the events. I love being very involved and with all the stress, it’s nice to have a little getaway.”
Santillana expects to graduate in December 2023, and while she says she is grateful for how advanced and exceptional the Nursing and Allied Health campus programs are and the educational support she received from the STC Centers for Learning Excellence, the personal connections she has built are what she cherishes the most.
“My favorite part of the program is the people,” Santillana said. “I believe that the right atmosphere can push you and give you more aspiration and inspiration to be who you want to be in the future.”
Santillana encourages future students to fearlessly pursue the education that will lead them to the career they picture themselves in.
“I want to help others, and I think that’s the most important thing - to put your heart into whatever you do with the level of education you decide to pursue,” Santillana said. “In any program you’re interested in, don’t hesitate, just do it. Don’t care what others say, don’t let anyone hold you down. Just push through.”