13:06 PM

STEM Alumni

Marcos Pena

Five years ago, I wrote my first line of code in C++ making a single line of text display on my computer, “Hello World”. Since then, I have had opportunities that have propelled me forward not only as a programmer but also as a contributor to society. I obtained my high school diploma from Thelma Salinas STEM ECHS at La Joya ISD as top of my high school class, and also at the same time obtained my Associate’s degree in Computer Science from South Texas College. South Texas College in partnership with La Joya ISD has given me the opportunity to reach my dreams and career goals in the area of Computer Science. I then continued my education acquiring a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; in addition, I have also experienced two internships dealing with autonomous motion planning projects. In motion planning the idea is to solve the problem by finding a valid path for a movable, non-static object from a start to goal configuration by generating random samples to form a roadmap then extract the best valid path.

In addition, throughout my tenure as a full-time Computer Engineering student, I have had the chance to work on several different projects such as, using machine learning to detect firearms and also converting an old car to an electric vehicle, and learn various skills making me a more well-rounded candidate overall. Graduating this May, I have had the honor of working at Boeing as a Software Engineer with not only my fellow colleagues from high school and university, but also dear close friends of mine, Leonel Pena and Brandon Martinez. Not only was I offered a position with Boeing in Mesa, I was also offered similar positions at Boeing in St. Louis, Lockheed Martin in Denver, Wells Fargo in Raleigh, and others. At the age of 20, I have accomplished more than I ever could’ve imagined, and I am excited about what my career has in store.

Brandon Martinez

Education has always been a huge aspect of my family, even being a first-generation college graduate. My parents and siblings always supported me growing up and pushed me to always strive for greatness. Early in life I never really knew what I wanted to do after high school, my brother joined the Air Force after graduating high school and my sister was unable to continue to college as she started a family after her graduation. It wasn’t until joining extracurricular activities in high school that I found a passion for engineering. Afterward, in the summer of 2015, I was accepted into an Undergraduate Research Assistant internship with Parasol Laboratory under Texas A&M where I developed a strong passion for Computer Science. I would later be invited to return in the Summers of 2016 and 2017 as a mentor for other interns because the department was impressed with my performance in my first Summer internship. I graduated with an Associate of Computer Science in May 2016 from South Texas College before even graduating High School, and went on to receive my Bachelor of Computer Science two years later in December of 2018 at UTRGV.

Afterward, I have had a strong desire to become a teacher for a couple of years to help students reach their goals like I had, but in February of 2019, I was offered a full-time position as a Software Engineer at The Boeing Company in Mesa, Arizona. Currently, I just reached my 1- year anniversary at the Boeing Company and have really enjoyed every minute of it. I have gotten the opportunity to work with a lot of very experienced individuals that have helped me grow as an engineer while also working on a lot of different things I would have never imagined I would be working on. Thanks to the opportunities that La Joya ISD and South Texas College has offered me in high school, I was able to save a lot of money and graduate 2-3 years faster than usual. Additionally, I was able to obtain a job that changed mine and my family’s economic situation in less than a year at the age of 20, thus allowing me to give back to my parents just how I always hoped I would be able to for everything they did for me. I hope to gather a great amount of experience and wisdom to later come back and help students be successful and reach for their goals.

Leonel Pena

Growing up, I never really knew what I would end up doing career-wise, but it wasn’t until I reached high school that I found my calling towards Computer Science. Thelma Salinas STEM ECHS really gave me the opportunity to save time and money by advancing my college credit/hours because of their partnership with South Texas College. Because of this partnership, I qualified for two internships that really gave me the experience to stand out in the crowd. The two internships really allowed me to get ahead of the curve and graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and acquire a Software Engineer position at The Boeing Company. I was also offered a top position at Lockheed Martin, one in Boulder CO and one in Littleton CO. I believe that the opportunities provided to me by my parents, my school, and teachers all allowed me to arrive to this point where I have more than doubled my family’s income at the young age of 20 years old and have a rewarding job as well. I look forward to a bright career in what I love doing programming and hope to amount a lifetime experience in the Computer Science field.