Graduates return to Trinidad State for more
Valley Campus / January 25, 2017 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
Gone are the days when a worker would spend his or her entire career at one place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a 2015 study the average young baby boomer held between 11 and 12 different jobs by the age of 48.
And the younger the employee, the more jobs they expect to have. A recent Gallup survey showed half of millennials don’t plan to be with their current company a year from now. Many expect to get a new job every three years for the rest of their lives. Alamosa native, Terri Shea, graduated from Trinidad State with a certificate in Massage Therapy in 2005 after working as a pharmaceutical tech for 13 years. Her original intent was to study nursing. After completing her prerequisites, she had to wait a year before there was room for her in the nursing program. Meanwhile, she decided to study massage therapy so she could earn money while earning her nursing degree. When her name came up on the nursing list, she told them to give it to the next person because she really loved massage and that was what she wanted to do. But a month after she graduated, she injured her shoulder which required surgery. During the recovery time, she earned her Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Office Technologies maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout all her college classes. “I just really wanted to know the material,” she said. Her degrees have served her well with part-time book keeping jobs and figuring her own taxes as well as teaching massage classes at the college for two years.
At 57, Shea has now returned to Trinidad State for more. Giving massages is physically demanding work and after 12 years, she says the wear and tear on her body is adding up. “A lot of my clients had been asking if I would be interested in doing facials and waxing and that kind of thing for them,” Shea said. “I decided I could branch out a little bit and incorporate the esthetician training along with my massages. I’ll just do fewer massages.” When Shea is doing facials, she will still connect hands-on with her clients but in a gentler, less demanding way which will allow her to sit and still use the element of touch – so important in the healing arts. She will graduate in December with her Esthetician’s Certificate. “I’m really excited about it,” said Shea. “This will still allow me to work in a healing modality with my clients in the comfort of my home.”
About Trinidad State she said, “It’s a good college. It really is. The instructors help you. They know who you are. They pay attention to how you’re doing. I really enjoyed going to Trinidad State and I’m happy to be back.”
Tonya Olivas came to Trinidad State because she felt it was the best place in the Valley to pursue her interest in mechanics. When she was growing up in San Luis, she spent many hours doing mechanic work with her dad and grandad. “I don’t like the city. I like the country. I like learning new things and I’m an outdoor person. I love getting dirty!” said Olivas whose arms and face are often oil-smudged when she’s working.
After graduating from high school in 2009, she registered for Trinidad State automotive technology program which she completed a year later. She then began the diesel mechanics program but had to withdraw due to her first pregnancy. She returned a year later and a year after that she had earned a certificate in diesel mechanics. Competing for mechanic jobs in a male-dominated work world has been challenging for Olivas. To give herself an edge she decided to come back and study another year to complete her AAS in Diesel Technology. To further increase her employment options, in February she plans to earn a Class-A CDL (commercial driver’s license). Later she hopes to expand that rating to allow her to pull three trailers with one tractor.
When another student asked her what she came back to Trinidad State for, she was incredulous when Olivas told her she was finishing her diesel degree. Wide eyed the student asked, “Do you work on those big trucks?” “I can work on chain saws, lawn mowers, cars, pick-up trucks and big diesel trucks,” Olivas explained. She jokes, “I’m a famous person here (at Trinidad State) because all the staff know who I am!”
After she graduates Olivas hopes to move to Florida with her family where she already has a mechanic’s job lined up. “I’ll miss my mountains, but it will be a great opportunity to start over,” said 26 year-old Olivas. Her dream is to open her own mechanic’s shop where she wants to teach women how to maintain their own vehicles. “I’ve talked to many women who want to do this kind of work,” she said. She has already made business cards and named her shop. It will be GGG for Go Girls Garage - not that she’s discriminating against men. She just wants to encourage likeminded women to follow their dreams.
Eleven years ago, Valen Reyes completed the cosmetology program (JUST ONE COURSE?)at Trinidad State. She was 19. She started taking college courses two years earlier while in high school. Because she immediately joined the work force after graduation, she did not get her license. To make that happen now, she has returned to Trinidad State for a refresher. “I’ve always had a love for beauty, hair and make-up,” she said. “I grew up in a family of cosmetologists including my mom and grandmother.” Jobs from Texas to Las Vegas to Los Angeles have given her a wide range of experience but she longed to complete her cosmetology degree. “This is where I started. It made sense to come back here. I’m used to the way things are taught here, and I knew Miss Gayle (Pepper) and the teachers, so it felt comfortable. There’s nothing like people from the valley, the friendliness. It’s not like that everywhere. And coming here saved me a lot of money. I did a lot of research and education is expensive. This is a good deal. And I have family here too. I thought my mom might like to see me a little more!”
Reyes is razor focused on doing what she loves the most - hair and make-up. Reyes already has a position with Studio 5280 in Denver waiting for her. “I like cities,” she said. “As much as I love the friendliness of our little valley, I like the hustle and bustle and busyness of city life.”
“TSJC is a little gold mine,” Reyes said. “It’s under appreciated. The teachers here are really awesome. I recommend this program to anyone. If you’re interested in cosmetology, you don’t need to go to Paul Mitchell or a name brand school. People only want to know if you have a license. Classes are small here and you get more attention. Even if you want to get a four-year degree, start at a community college. Financially it’s way smarter. I love being back here.” Reyes’ advice to those students trying to find their way: “Think about what makes you happy. What is that one thing that you just get lost in time doing? Figure that out and go for it.”