11:12 AM

STC student makes a Valley-wide trek toward higher education


STC Dual Credit student Clariza Sibayan travels from her hometown of Brownsville to the STC Mid-Valley campus to be part of the Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy (DEMSA) program.

WESLACO, TEXAS - Spending 13 hours a day dedicated to her education, South Texas College Dual Credit student Clariza Sibayan is ready to graduate this semester with an associate degree in Biology.   

Sibayan, 17, from Brownsville, is part of the Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy (DEMSA) program.   

“My dream has always been to help people while serving my community, and I know I can accomplish that through the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field,” Sibayan said. “I love chemistry and biology, so I think that really boosted my motivation in becoming a medical worker.”  

DEMSA is a two-year program developed for high school juniors and seniors from Hidalgo and Starr Counties who are seriously interested in pursuing a career in health care. The purpose of the program is to increase the number of rural area students committed to careers and service in Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing, among other Allied Health programs. 

DEMSA students also have the opportunity to attend seminars about health care, volunteer with area health providers and participate in health care-related field trips. 

Sibayan, a senior at South Texas Independent School District’s High School for Health Professions (Med High), said she didn't realize her DEMSA courses would be held at the Mid-Valley campus, or that she could potentially complete an associate degree when she was first introduced to the program.   

“There are dual enrollment classes that are held at my school, and I thought it would be somewhat like that,” Sibayan said. “I couldn’t believe that I would have the opportunity to earn an associate degree. I think it's a blessing that I was accepted to this program. I never thought this could be possible, but here I am, a senior in high school and a sophomore in college.”  

Sibayan initially faced the challenge of creating a schedule that could balance her daily commute with the dual credit opportunity and her high school activities.   

Every morning Sibayan wakes up at 6 a.m. and is bussed from her home in Brownsville to the Med High campus in Mercedes. In the afternoons, she is once again on a bus to the STC Mid-Valley campus. She doesn’t typically arrive home until 7 p.m. every day.   

“My days are very busy and I have a tight schedule,” Sibayan said. “Plus, I don’t only focus on my studies. I also help my family at home by taking care of my little brother.”  

I couldn’t believe that I would have the opportunity to earn an associate degree. I think it's a blessing that I was accepted to this program. I never thought this could be possible, but here I am, a senior in high school and a sophomore in college

South Texas College Dual Credit student Clariza Sibayan

In addition to her extracurricular activities at school, Sibayan said she also enjoys her weekly volunteer work as a youth teacher at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Brownsville.    

“I had to talk to my advisors to see how I could accomplish it all,” Sibayan said. “But, it’s all been worth it, because I’ve already reached some of my goals. I’m in the top 10% of my high school class and will hopefully be earning an associate degree by the end of this school year.”

Sibayan said she is now looking toward the future and thinking about what she hopes to achieve next. She said she dreams of one day becoming a surgeon who specializes in dermatology or neurology. 

“I want to earn all my degrees – all the way to a M.D. or Ph.D and become a surgeon,” Sibayan said. “It’s a challenging path and career, but my parents said if I really want it, to go for it. There’s no way to prove you can do it unless you try.”   

Sibayan also grew up with an admiration for health care workers, since her parents, Queen and Ronald Sibayan, are both physical therapists.  

“I really look up to my parents and they really inspire me to help the community, including my family members, understand the importance of getting medical care,” Sibayan said. 

Sibayan said because she has family members who live in the Philippines, she is motivated to become a health care worker who connects with her patients’ diverse and cultural needs.

“I feel like once my family members see me achieve the goal of becoming a medical worker, I’ll be able to encourage them to go to their medical appointments and seek help when they need it, even if they are afraid of reaching out,” she said. “I always think about them when I’m in school.” 

Now that Sibayan has experienced what the DEMSA program has to offer, she encourages her Med High classmates to also consider the unique opportunity. 

“If you’re really dedicated to earning your degree, then I feel like the STC dual credit program is the best choice,” Sibayan said. “It's not only about the degree itself, it can also help you financially. I’m only going to have two years left in college and then I’ll be able to go to graduate school right after. That’s my goal.”