Back where it all started: Local educator helps high school students find success

Jose G. Arambul Jr. was the first in his family to graduate from college and his experiences as a migrant and first-generation college student is similar to those that belong to the students in this region, which makes him relatable to many when doing his job at Texas Southmost College.

The Brownsville native became TSC’s Executive Director of High School Programs and Services in October 2020, but this wasn’t his first experience on campus.

In fact, this is the exact place that Arambul’s journey to success began.

“Education was always important for our family,” said the 37-year-old. “No matter what, my parents always ensured that we got the most out of our public school education so that we could have the chance of going to college.”

Arambul and his siblings were never taken out of school to travel for migrant work. Every year, his parents waited until school was out for the summer to go pick and transport strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes, and arrived before it went into session in the fall.

But because money was often a challenge, being able to afford a higher education seemed an impossibility.

“My parents didn’t know about the college process or financial aid, so it was up to me to make their dream of college for us a possibility,” said Arambul. “And lucky for me I had a lot of help from counselors and friends.”

With this help, he was able to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in criminal justice in 2006 from the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, and a master’s degree in academic advising from Kansas State University in December 2013.

“A career in education was never my plan,” said Arambul. “I was going to work in the criminal justice field, but after my first job at UTB/TSC, I was hooked on higher education.”

Arambul has now worked in higher education for 17 years, he started out as a police dispatcher at UTB/TSC as a student and went on to work with development and alumni relations, the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which also helped him transition into college after high school, academic advising and as an early college high school liaison.

“Being able to directly effect change is what I like most about working in education,” he said. “Sharing my story and using my experiences to help others is what motivates me daily.”

From 2018 through October 2020, the 37-year-old also served a two-year stint at IDEA Public Schools in Brownsville as a college counselor.

“Working at IDEA was a very rewarding experience for me,” said Arambul. “I got to directly work with students and impact their futures. One hundred percent of my students went to college. And to this day, from time to time, some still call me and thank me. That’s humbling.”

Now back at TSC, where it all started for Arambul, his goal remains the same – making sure students pursue a higher education.

“We serve hundreds of students within our department with our dual enrollment program,” he said. “Our goal is to expose them to college early and give them the confidence they need to continue their education. This allows them to see that college is a possibility.”

Arambul added that he will continue to work diligently in not only maintaining established partnerships between TSC and numerous Cameron and Willacy county school districts, but also build new ones to give more students the opportunity of saving time and money through dual enrollment.

“I’m happy to be back,” he said. “TSC is the community’s college and it’s a place where we’re all working together for our students to help them learn, grow and succeed.”