Brownsville dropout gets second chance at career in health care

The Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at Texas Southmost College is a step in the right direction toward a career in health care for many lower Rio Grande Valley high school and adult education students like Michael Ybarra.

After leaving high school in the 11th grade and working a series of dead-end retail jobs, TSC gave this 29-year-old hope for his future when he received his certificate in 2019.

“This program is exactly what I needed to jumpstart my career,” said Ybarra. “After receiving my GED diploma, TSC was there to help me get back on my feet.”

The program works in collaboration with the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) Adult Education program and Los Fresnos High School to train their students.

BISD and the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District (LFCISD) fund this training initiative annually for 22 and 20 students, respectively.

Ybarra now works as a certified nursing assistant at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, where he has been for the past two years.

“I had been out of school for so long I was nervous returning,” he said. “The instructors were great, and my overall experience was amazing. I was fully prepared to start working and now I have the confidence I need to keep moving forward.”

TSC’s CNA program trains students like Ybarra in bedside patient care, which covers feedings, bathing, patient transfer and positioning, exercise and rehabilitation.

Program Coordinator Celia De La Garza said TSC’s CNA program is the first steppingstone for those interested in pursuing a career in health care.

“The CNA program provides the foundational skills needed to start a career as a trained, highly-skilled certified nursing assistant,” said Garza. “This certification can open doors of opportunity for a person and can change lives.”

The seven-week program includes hands-on training in the classroom as well as at local medical and rehabilitative centers and hospitals.

Spanish Meadows of Brownsville is where most TSC CNA students complete their 48-hour clinical rotations although Valley Regional Medical Center just signed on as a clinical affiliate for CNA students as well.

Julio Rodriguez, Spanish Meadows’ infection control and staff development coordinator, said they have opened their doors to TSC’s CNA students since the program’s inception. They also support TSC’s Vocational Nursing, Registered Nursing and Respiratory Care Science students during their clinical rotations.

“It’s always a great experience when we have TSC students training with our staff and taking care of our patients,” Rodriguez said. “All of the students we receive are articulate, outgoing, ready to work and provide the best bedside patient care. They never disappoint.”

As a TSC nursing graduate himself, he is always ready to offer his top students a job at Spanish Meadows.

“Most of our students are offered a job before they even finish the program,” said Garza. “This means TSC is helping to fill an industry need and meeting industry demands. This is why in the near future we hope to expand our services to more Cameron County high schools.”

Garza added, that after successfully completing this program and passing all required board exams, a CNA graduate can go on to earn between $23,000 to $30,000 a year, with the chance of continuing their education in the health care field.

Many of the TSC graduates in this program go on to become registered nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, while significantly increasing their earning potential.

TSC’s CNA program welcomes a new cohort every fall and spring semester.

“This type of opportunity is having a significant impact in the communities we serve,” said Garza. “TSC is giving everyone an equal, fighting chance of finding a career and success.”

Visit TSC’s Certified Nursing Assistant program for more information.