McALLEN, RGV –  The first in his family to graduate from college, Palmview native Roberto Salinas says he is a product of the Rio Grande Valley’s success.

The son of a single mother and from a family of limited income, Salinas was motivated from an early age to do well at school.

From the start, Salinas had set his heart in becoming a civil engineer, and to begin his pursuit towards that career goal he decided to stay close to home and study in the mechanical engineering program at the former University of Texas – Pan American. He had earlier graduated from La Joya High School in the top-ten percent.

“I always wanted to do civil engineering, that’s what I set my heart on, but the closest program to home was at Texas A&M Kingsville,” Salinas told Rio Grande Guardian.

Many Valley students have moved away in order to attain their career goals. Salinas did so in 2010. That year, he decided to transfer to TAMUK and studied rigorously to receive his bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Transferring universities was a decision that helped Salinas expose his talent to a wider audience. During his last semester as a graduate student Salinas was recruited by Govind Development, an engineering firm located in Corpus Christi.

There, for three years, the A&M Kingsville alumni worked in the refineries and focused on municipal projects for the City of Corpus. This entailed, among other things, roadwork, drainage and water line management. Salinas also took part in the remodeling of Greenwood Drive. Having been part of this firm, Salinas said the experience reaffirmed he had made the right career move.

“When one goes to school you are just focused on the books, but once you start working and you start doing day-to-day things; I really liked what came of my education,” Salinas said.

After gaining substantial skills in Corpus Christi, and at 28 years of age, Salinas has returned home to use his experience to help the Valley.

“I really enjoy what I do and to me it is a pleasure to work, especially when one sees the stuff that one works on get used by many people out in the community,” the engineer said.

Today, Salinas is one of the four engineers working for the fast-growing local firm Sam Engineering and Surveying Inc. (SAMES) in McAllen, Texas. The company develops projects for the Valley and counties within Texas. To bring things full circle, Salinas said SAMES was recently involved in a project in Corpus Christi.

Immediately he joined SAMES, Salinas said he felt right at home and welcomed in the company’s environment.

“It really attracted me here, [SAMES] more than other companies that probably have more of a rigid structure. Here everyone gets treated as a family, and it is good experience working,” Salinas told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Salinas is currently responsible for projects in public infrastructure, organizing structures and the operation of roads, waste water, and storm water. He additionally oversees designs for construction projects and works closely with county government in making plans tangible.

As he waits to embark on more projects at SAMES, Salinas is preparing to achieve another milestone. Though the title of Professional Engineer has opened doors for him, the engineer plans to attain the certification of Registered Professional Land Surveyor (RPLS), which, according to the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying, would allow him to practice land, boundary, or property surveying.

Throughout the six years he lived outside the Valley, Salinas said that on return visits to family he would notice the growth of the Valley and the talent it was assembling.

“It’s amazing how somebody that is familiar with the Valley just spends a couple of months outside of it, comes back and finds the tremendous explosion of growth that’s happened,” Salinas said. “It’s something good, we’re creating jobs and its definitely driving the economy.”

Salinas has encouraged colleagues to not feel discouraged in coming back to the Valley and to find opportunities here and help the region grow. “Valley colleagues feel discouraged in coming back because they don’t see that there are opportunities.”

Salinas said he is proud of his achievements as a Valley native. Additionally, he is proud that the Valley provides more options and aid for future professionals by providing college education close to home and growing career opportunities.

“The Valley as a community is growing and I’m a product of that growth,” Salinas said.