TSC vocational nursing alum earns award for her dedication as an educator

TSC alumna Luz Maria Silva earned a certificate in vocational nursing from the college in 1983.

It was 1983 when Texas Southmost College gave alumna Luz Maria Silva an opportunity she thought was too far-fetched for a young girl from Durango, Mexico.

Now she is the recipient of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Mentor of the Year Award, where she works as a Clinical Associate Professor for the School of Nursing. Silva said it was her education at TSC that opened up the many doors of opportunities it took for her to get to this point in her career.

“I moved to Brownsville from Mexico with my family when I was 18 years old,” the 63-year-old reminisced. “I didn’t know English, but I knew I needed a college education. My father didn’t give me a choice.”

Coming from a family whose parents had no formal education, but believed in the power of college, Silva enrolled at TSC to learn English and start working toward a career in nursing.

“Nursing programs are challenging, especially for students like me who have a language barrier and financial burdens, but between my instructors and my family, I had a great support system,” she said. “All it took was one step forward to gain momentum and I took that step at TSC.”

Silva balanced school and a part-time job at a supermarket while attending TSC, and thanks to her hard work and nurturing instructors, who were dedicated to their students’ success, she was able to become a college graduate.

She earned a certificate in vocational nursing from TSC in 1983, and went on to work as a licensed vocational nurse and continue her education.

In 1986, she received an associate degree in nursing from Highland University in New Mexico, and when she returned to the Rio Grande Valley, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Texas at Brownsville and TSC (UTB/TSC).

“My goal was to become someone who could help others,” she said. “As a nurse I have been able to do that, but as an educator I get to change lives.”

Silva has been an educator for 14 years, beginning her teaching career at UTB/TSC, teaching future generations of nurses and assisting other nurses who share her passion of entering the world of teaching.

“It takes more than just being a nurse to teach,” she said. “It takes passion, sharing your personal experiences and knowledge and being a role model.”

It is this dedication to her students and colleagues that earned her the UTRGV Mentor of the Year Award.

“It was an unexpected, pleasant surprise,” Silva said. “But I don’t do what I do for the awards or recognition, I do it because I love it and it’s my passion.”

UTRGV School of Nursing Undergraduate Director and Silva’s supervisor Melinda Rodriguez said Silva takes the lead when it comes to taking new faculty and students under her wing and getting things done.

“Luz is so deserving of the Mentor of the Year Award. She is a soft spirit and everyone is drawn to her,” said Rodriguez. “She is an out-of-the-box, innovative professor and that is impressive. We’re fortunate and glad to have her on our faculty team.”

Silva said even though retirement is on the horizon, she still has a lot to offer her students and doesn’t plan on stopping now.

“Nursing is fast paced and as a student you need a lot of support,” she said. “I want to be that support, to motivate and encourage, the way those TSC instructors were there for me during my most difficult time. It was a life changer and I’m glad to be in a position where now I can change lives too.”

Visit TSC’s Licensed Vocational Nursing program for more information.

Registration for spring 2021 is underway. Classes begin Jan. 18.