It was during my freshman year of high school when I first realized that STEM was not the career pathway I wanted to pursue.

While I understood the importance of a strong foundation in STEM fundamentals, my real passion was business.

My story starts my freshman year of high school in Pharr, a south Texas border town. I applied to a STEM school in my district which had a reputation for academic excellence. I was accepted, and my family was ecstatic. Being the youngest of six sisters in a family of humble migrant farm workers, I grew up in the fields, worked hard and believed in the opportunities a good education could bring.

Dioselina De La Cruz

I had been attending the STEM high school for a month when I began to question whether this was the right school for me. I started researching high school business programs in the area and found Southwest Marketing, a high school-based student-led marketing agency at PSJA Southwest Early College High School. The program piqued my interest as it enables students to provide marketing solutions and services to real-world customers in exchange for hands-on learning opportunities.

I transferred to PSJA Southwest ECHS and quickly realized that I would have the opportunity to be a business leader in my community with the aid of Southwest Marketing. When I first thought about a marketing program like this, I thought it would bring in business leaders to talk about their occupations and that would be my experience with “working with businesses”. 

But as I sat through my first class, my mind was blown. Not only was I learning about the fundamentals of business and marketing, I was able to apply them as a marketing consultant working with high level executives. When I became the president of the Southwest Marketing agency my junior year, we decided to take our efforts to the next level. We began collaborating with international multi-million-dollar corporations and serviced 14 different clients.

Thanks to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and PSJA Southwest ECHS, I now have the experience and skills to succeed as a business student at the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, where I plan to attend in the fall. Most importantly, I discovered my passion for marketing and strategic communications. People know Career and Technical Education by many different names, but for me it is “Southwest Marketing.”

Editor’s Note: The above guest column first appeared on the U.S. Department of Education’s official blog page. Click here to read the original posting. The column appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with permission of the author.

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian has a marketing agreement with PSJA Southwest Marketing. The group is studying the possibility of developing a digital news media platform for students in South Texas.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Carlos Rodriguez, Monik Azuara, Eloy Garza, Kassandra Moreno, and Dioselina De La Cruz. Garza is director of Southwest Marketing at PSJA. Rodriguez and Azuara are former members of the marketing group. Moreno and De La Cruz are current members.