QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the second installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Staying at home 24/7 during an almost catastrophic pandemic can be daunting. However, for Texas A&M International University art student Elkin Cortez, he sees this as an opportunity to get back to his creative ventures.

Cortez possesses multiple talents, including art, photography and even a knack for making YouTube videos in his spare time. He says that now, more than ever, he can focus on his passions.

“I am spending a lot of time on my favorite activities during this quarantine,” Cortez said. “Activities such as painting, drawing, videos and photos.”

For many students, the transition from regular college life to a secluded online routine can be challenging. Cortez came to TAMIU from Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas and returned home when the campus transitioned to online classes.

“My routine changed completely because I was living on campus and now I am at home with my family,” he said. “Therefore, the living routine is different.”

COVID-19 undoubtedly altered people’s lives but there are always ways to reshape this new way of life. Students now have time to explore new hobbies and get creative at home. Because of what is going on in the world, new leisure activities can be helpful, both physically and mentally.

He said that although many students are in different situations, he still encourages them to get as creative and productive as possible.

“Try to be as efficient as you can with the time you have,” Cortez said. “Try to strengthen your skills or develop new ones if it’s possible.”

Submitted images | courtesy Elkin Cortez
Elkin Cortez paints in his room during the stay-at-home quarantine.

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QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 1

TAMIU together: dealing with the pandemic

By Angela K. Carranza
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the first installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Daniel Rodriguez
TAMIU senior

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals discover how to keep themselves busy in many different ways. For example, some take up different hobbies: cooking, reading, gaming, etc. But for Texas A&M International University senior Daniel Rodriguez, a variety of hobbies keep him occupied throughout the day.

“I have been living alone for quite some time now, which has forced me to cook and be more independent,” Rodriguez said. “I have also gained some hobbies back, such as: gardening, playing Sudoku and playing video games.”

On another note, Rodriguez said life changed when his self-quarantine began.

“In this time of quarantine, I have been thinking about how we often live life in a rush,” he reflected. “This realization made me take more time with things at a slower pace.” 

Submitted photos | courtesy Daniel Rodriguez

Daniel Rodriguez cooks at home during his self-quarantine.

Ruben Reyes
TAMIU sophomore

Quarantine impacts students in many different ways. Some students see it as an advantage to finally beginning the things they had no time for previously, but others find it difficult adjusting to this period of self-isolation. At home, find many distractions.

“My entire routine has completely changed,” sophomore Ruben Reyes said. “It is really hard getting adjusted to this, being at home, 24/7. I was used to going to school at a certain time, going to work at a certain time, and now that we’re stuck at home there’s really nothing I can do.”

In contrast, there are also many things Reyes has been able to dedicate his time to.

“I’ve pretty much been gaming and spending time with my friends online,” he said. “During these last few weeks, I’ve been virtually meeting online with my friends on Discord. We just hang out as if we were hanging out in person, except through Discord.”

Reyes also runs a gaming YouTube account where he uploads gaming videos.

“Lately, I have been able to do more content creation, mainly because I am sponsored by a gaming organization through YouTube, and I did not get the chance to do this as much during the semester because of classes,” he said.

Interested persons may view his YouTube channel: rubenkings.

submitted photo | courtesy Ruben Reyes

Maria Hernandez
TAMIU student

During this self-imposed quarantine, many individuals adapt quite differently.

“Quarantine has mainly impacted me with my schoolwork,” Texas A&M International University student Maria Hernandez said. “It is harder to concentrate because my family is with me all the time. And there are not many places that I could go to do my schoolwork.”

For some, the forced introverted life might seem repetitive.

“Well, basically, [I’m] just doing house chores, homework, watching TV—the minimum stuff,” Hernandez said. “I have also been getting into doing arts and crafts with polymer clay. I usually just decorate things, like I have recently been decorating plant pots.”

She said she is also quite fond of self-quarantine.

“I get to be with my family and live with them,” Hernandez said. “I don’t live with my family, but in this quarantine I have been spending my time with my family.”

submitted photos | courtesy Maria Hernandez

Alyssa Veronica
TAMIU junior

This self-quarantine life has many different impacts on Texas A&M International University students. For some it turns harsh, yet for others beneficial.

“I would actually say that quarantine has benefited me,” TAMIU junior Alyssa Veronica said. “I finally have time to do things around the house. Now I can actually cook. I have been cooking all my meals which is great because I love to cook. And before I hadn’t had the chance to do so because of school.”

“I’m very into nutrition, I like to watch what I eat and find different healthy options that are easy to make,” Veronica said.

In addition, she finds some things too restrictive.

“I think the least favorite thing about quarantine would have to be the restrictions, in terms of going out,” she said. “Like, you can’t go to a friend’s house. You can’t hang out with anybody.

“But my most favorite part about quarantine is that I don’t really have to wake up for class, get ready and find parking. So I would say my favorite part is not having to worry about parking.”

Many students posted about parking issues online in the TAMIU Student Network page on Facebook prior to the impact of COVID-19. 

Veronica turned a not-so-happy situation to her advantage as now finds time to do things she really loves. Despite these “difficult times,” as many people are calling them, some find it important to always look for the bright side in every situation. 

submitted photo | courtesy Alyssa Veronica
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OPINION: Internships, more hurt by COVID-19

OPINION: Internships, more hurt by COVID-19

By Tomas Cruz
Bridge Marketing Director
Published Monday, May 11, 2020

The Spring 2020 semester rapidly became one of the toughest semesters for many students’ academic journey at TAMIU. The coronavirus pandemic impacted not only our university, but the rest of the world.

As a Texas A&M International University senior, I faced many bumps on the road to finish my degree. This spring semester I was interning at a marketing/advertising agency for my COMM 4350 Internship course.

Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, many interns faced issues with internship locations closing and not being able to complete their hours. While some of us were able to work remotely, many others were unfortunately not able to return to their internship because numerous businesses temporarily closed. This prevented students from trying to put their academic skills into the work environment face-to-face and frightened those of us seniors looking at the job market after graduation. 

As a former student employee of the A.R. Sanchez School of Business Dean’s office, it was unfortunate I was not able to physically be there at work my last days. I would like to recognize the entire college for allowing me to work all four years of my academic journey, everyone was very nice and helpful to one another. I would also like to recognize the Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade for allowing me to photograph their speaker series events and conferences.

Like many employees once the lock-down began, I had to work remotely from home and finish all my tasks from work, school and my internship. Even The Bridge student newspaper transitioned into more of an online publication. While it was a new and difficult situation for many, we are finally here at the end of the semester. I can officially say I received my bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in marketing. Although, it does not feel like it yet. Sadly, every graduate was supposed to walk across the stage this May, but commencement was postponed until August.

The cancellation of everything saddens most individuals. Commencement, internships, jobs, traveling and more, suffered cancellations due to this pandemic. However, life must go on and everyone should think positive. Many people’s lives are at risk right now and the best we can do is be glad we are alive and remain safe. Although we weren’t able to walk the stage this May, we will hopefully walk in August. For now, my only wish is for all TAMIU and everyone in this world to get through these tough times taking precautions and staying safe. 

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Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

Spring graduation falls shy of fall semester

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, May 11, 2020 

This spring’s graduation occurs at the beginning of the fall semester on Thursday, Aug. 13, at the Sames Auto Arena, due to the pandemic.

On April 17, Texas A&M International University President Pablo Arenaz, appeared in a video in full regalia, in front of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts organ, speaking to the 50th graduating class in TAMIU history. He said the graduation ceremony, along with summer commencement exercises, would be postponed until mid-August before the start of the fall semester because of the coronavirus pandemic affecting day-to-day routines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on life as we know it,” Arenaz told viewers of the video. “… The senior class of 2020, you have seen your last semester delivered online, and the traditions and celebrations that have always framed the senior year experience either canceled or postponed.”

Soon after saying so, Arenaz offered some good news that the postponed ceremony would still be held at the Sames Auto Arena, as so for the past four years.

“For we are TAMIU together, always,” Arenaz added.

Then around May 7, Arenaz spoke again in another video. This time in a full suit and tie, inside the Great Hall on the third floor of the Sue & Radcliffe Killam Library.

He brought up again the bittersweetness of graduation from the presentation of the flags representing various students’ countries, the student respondent speech’s heartfelt words and the roaring cannons of confetti that spray on the graduates.

Though, his new message was directly to the point–conferring of the students’ degrees.

“So by the authority vested in me, by the Chancellor, and by the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, acting under the enabling legislation establishing this University, I hereby confer upon each of you the degree to which you are entitled with all its rights, privileges and responsibilities,” Arenaz said, concluding with “Congratulations!”

Arenaz then went on to say, “You have a bright future ahead of you. You have been prepared by outstanding faculty to enter the workforce, graduate or professional school …”

This message of good will was sent to all of the graduating class of 2020, but when unemployment currently resides at more than 20 percent due to the pandemic, Arenaz’s message falls on the fearful ears of job seekers.

“It … sucks,” former editor-in-chief of The Bridge and fall 2019 TAMIU graduate Matthew Balderas said about the current job market.

“I had one official job offer from a TV company and made it to second-round interviews with the Houston Astros and had just secured an interview with the Houston Dynamo right before they decided to suspend the sports season,” Balderas said.

“Unfortunately, the job offer and interviews fell through but I’m hoping once this is all over, I can backpack up where I left off, if at all possible.”

For some, Arenaz’s message of “graduate or professional school” might feel like a safer route.

“For now, I have entered into a master’s program with TAMIU for my MBA [with a] concentration of international business for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester,” Balderas said.

As of now, with businesses opening throughout Texas, and across the nation, no one knows what summer has in store.

“Our commitment on this is clear, but I must caution that we will not proceed should public health conditions force us to revisit the plan,” Arenaz said, regarding the rescheduled commencement.

“Class of 2020, I look forward to handing you your diplomas.”

For the latest updates, visit the dedicated commencement website at www.tamiu.edu/commencment/

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PHOTO GALLERY: Pandemic life

PHOTO STORY: Pandemic life

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
and
Alejandro Hernandez
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

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Stimulus package falls short for many college students

Stimulus package falls short for many college students

By Alejandro Hernandez
Bridge Staff Writer
and
By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

On March 26, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act bill secured $1,200 for U.S. citizens ages 18 and older and $500 for every dependent child 16 years and younger as a stimulus payment in April.

While some received their checks through direct deposit, a large population still awaits theirs. Many college students became disappointed to find out they would not receive financial assistance through the stimulus. The bill did not guarantee a payment made for those claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return; this includes a significant number of college students. Even if these students are financially independent of their parents and filed their own taxes, their parents could still claim them.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, “The CARES Act provides for Economic Impact Payments to American households of up to $1,200 per adult for individuals whose income was less than $99,000 ( or $198,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child under 17 years old–or up to $3,400 for a family of four.” Thus, these young adults are left out: they are too old for the parents who claimed them to receive $500 for the claimed dependent and since they were claimed as a dependent, they do not qualify for the $1,200 stimulus payment.

Some of these young college students are part of the most disadvantaged populations in the country. Riled with student debt and college fees, many struggle to live on a weekly basis. A large percentage of college students work in service industry jobs, an industry hit hard by recent events, which led to many layoffs.

Sergio Martinez, double major in political science and history, said he was not eligible for the stimulus package since he is a permanent resident, a non-citizen with a Green Card or visa.

“I, unfortunately, was not eligible for the stimulus,” Martinez said. “Personally, my family was hit by [COVID-19] as one of my parents was furloughed and well, bills keep stacking up.”

He said although he was ineligible for the stimulus package, he plans to apply for the TAMIU CARES Grant, which is $9 million provided by the U.S. Department of Education to TAMIU. Half of those funds are earmarked to help students who suffered economic hardships due to COVID-19.

 “I do plan on applying for the CARES Grant,” he said. “I hope to take online classes and the money would come in handy for small repairs at home and to pay the summer tuition. Should I get the grant, I would definitely use it to ‘fix some holes’ around the house, not fall behind on rent and reinvest it for summer classes.”

On the other hand, some TAMIU students received the stimulus check, but many believe a one-time payment is not enough to carry them throughout the summer. Many students have overdue bills to pay or family members to take care of.

Psychology major Javier Lopez said he was able to file as an independent and got the stimulus check after moving out of his parent’s house. Still, he plans to apply for the TAMIU grant.

“I am the only person that is working from my family, so everyone relies on me currently for bills and basic needs,” Lopez said. “I plan on [applying], but the grant asks for past due bills. I luckily am not in that situation, but I could definitely use the help because I have been managing by a thread.”

He continued, saying TAMIU should focus on the well being of students at this time. He explains that many students, such as himself, have taken on more hours at work to help their family members who lost their jobs. Now, more than ever, money is heavy on students’ minds.

“Depending on how everything turns out, if necessary, I am willing to take a semester off to financially stabilize myself,” Lopex said.

Currently, a bill introduced by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., known as the Emergency Money for The People Act might help those left out by the stimulus bill. It aims to give a supplemental $2,000 payment for at least six months to ensure financial stability to all U.S citizens ages 16 and up and $500 for each child, to a maximum of three. The new bill would provide payments to college students and adults with disabilities, even if claimed as a dependent. However, as the White House moves to reopen the country, chances of a new stimulus bill for the public could remain low.

A new stimulus package could mean the public would not have to return to work to pay expenses. Furthermore, supplementing state and local governments would also allow cities to extend lock-down periods, keeping businesses closed and people at home. To be sure, there is no evidence yet to support what additional lock-down time could do to the U.S. economy. As business continues to decline, so does the tax revenue from which these stimulus payments are funded.

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OPINION: Following an amazing editor

OPINION: Following an amazing editor

EDITOR’S VIEW
By David Gomez Jr.

Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

I, David Gomez Jr., am the latest editor-in-chief of The Bridge student newspaper at TAMIU. Many of you who have already seen my articles and editorials knew I had some great big shoes to fill.

David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief

Matt, the editor-in-chief before me, was a shining example of what it took to run a campus student newspaper. He had the will, the fortitude, the social skills and the natural talent to find a story. Among our own reporters, photographers and editors, he is talked about fondly and they reminisce of his managing and straightforward advice. He was absolutely one of a kind.

“I remember when Matt would…,” someone in The Bridge staff would say as I was about to suggest a story or angle. Like I said before, I had big shoes to fill, and over time it was getting annoying. Not because of the staff, but because I, ME, would start to ask myself, “What would Matt do?”

So, on my own by the March issue, I felt overwhelmed and low. I would feel small in comparison to my old editor. I would add even more added pressure to my already heavy work and course load of daily activities. My mind would wander off into the Mac monitor in our shared Bridge office in Pellegrino Hall. YouTube and how-to videos would help me further learn the building blocks of how to lead a student-ran paper.

Of course, before I took the editor-in-chief position, Matt and Assistant Professional Thomas R. Brown, my faculty adviser for the paper, would teach me the basics and help me edit along so I could get the hang of it all. Even with their advice and hands-on learning techniques, I still felt as if I was going skydiving without a parachute.

Though, the funny thing about skydiving is, you cannot jump out of the plane before passing the four-hour training session, on the ground—before even boarding the plane. So there I was in February, sitting inside The Bridge office, skydiving headfirst into articles without sources or quotes. I remembered teachings on how to get out of such a situation. The first thing you must remember is: you do have a parachute and that you do know what to do yet the mind goes blank the moment after jumping.

So again, sitting in front of that Mac monitor inside that office, I would slowly start to recollect all the things previously processed, add it to the articles and ask myself some questions: What’s a good headline? What information do the readers want to know? How can I make the newspaper be read even more?

Up until mid-March, things were looking up, but then, the coronavirus took over our articles for the rest of the semester. Including our Bridge office that contained our software to edit our stories and design the whole paper.

So far, my single semester as editor-in-chief proved to be a challenging experience, but also a rewarding one. I could not have asked for better mentors, or staff, to keep me from destroying The Bridge. I can hardly wait for what I will write about next semester.

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$4.75 million TAMIU CARES Program grants emergency funds to students

$4.75 million TAMIU CARES Program grants emergency funds to students

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, May 4, 2020

On April 24, TAMIU announced it will give emergency grants to students thanks to the TAMIU CARES Program. These funds could begin disbursing to applicants as early as May 8.

As one of the many universities which received this emergency grant from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved by the Department of Education, Texas A&M International University was awarded $9 million. This amount was based on the number of students enrolled who qualify for the Pell Grant and those who do not. According to the CARES Act, the money would be split in half so $4.75 million will go to the university and the other half provided to students in the form of grants, refunds, loan forgiveness or campus-based waivers.

TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz said this emergency aid would help students directly affected by COVID-19.

“Thousands of TAMIU students and their families have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Arenaz began in an email sent to students, faculty and staff. “ Some students may even be questioning their ability to continue their degree dream. The availability of this assistance will be a welcome relief and we are thankful to our congressional delegation for their leadership on this.”

Those interested may look up additional information at https://www.tamiu.edu/cares/.

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge Photo Illustration
A TAMIU student reviews the TAMIU CARES Emergency Funds website for the spring semester.

Because of this aid, the University set up the TAMIU CARES Emergency Fund. The money would go directly into the form of emergency grants distributed during the spring, summer and fall semesters for 2020. In order to access these grants, students must apply through an online application. TAMIU requested students apply through this application with supporting documentation of unforeseen hardships due to COVID-19, which include: food insecurity, urgent medical expenses, utility bills, school expenses, and on-campus and off-campus housing. Other requirements may apply.

In addition, students must have a FAFSA file with TAMIU or be eligible for Title IV student assistance.  TAMIU Finance Director Laura Elizondo said TAMIU has 5,760 students who currently meet Title IV eligibility and can qualify for this grant. However, some students have not started or completed their FAFSA, so that number might increase or change. As of last week, about 1,478 students applied but numbers continue to increase.

Elizondo said she and the committee in charge of the TAMIU CARES Program are looking closely at the applications and said all details are important in determining whether a student is eligible for the grant. She said some applications show students focused on their needs for the spring semester, while others did not.

“There’s a lot of students who are submitting, ‘I need help in the summer for tuition,, well this is not the summer right now,” she said. “Anybody who’s submitting right now for applications for summer or next fall they will close up the application and let the students know at this time we’re not processing summer applications. You need to wait and come back and apply later in May. Right now, we have to concentrate and pay out our spring needs.”

She said they are focusing on students who expressed urgent need of funds.

“If you do not own a computer and now you have to work from home and you use a credit card to purchase a computer, that’s a perfect item that we can help reimburse you for,” Elizondo said. “If you do not have internet at home and now you have to add it, that is a perfect item that we can help you pay for. So some students are giving us a lot of [information] while others are not saying much.”

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge Photo Illustration
A TAMIU student reviews the TAMIU CARES Emergency Funds website for the spring semester.

Moreover, she said if a student does not submit enough documentation for a claim, the committee will contact that student with an email or mobile phone number on file and allow them 48 hours to resubmit any photos of bills or proof to tamiucares@tamiu.edu and someone there will upload the documents for them onto their application.

Elizondo said the first round of funds will go out at the end of the week, possibly May 8 and onward.

For those who do not receive any money for the spring semester, they can still apply for the summer and fall if they are enrolled for classes. The summer application opens up on May 18 and August 17 for fall. Elizondo said summer applications will process through the end of May, June, July and even August because of the different summer sessions students might be enrolled.

She also said it is extremely important for students to apply because this money goes directly to them.

“Students don’t have to confirm what they use [the money] for,” Elizondo said. “If the student said they need it because x,y, z and then they get the money and something else happens and they need it for something else, that is their prerogative. They decide. They don’t have to come back and give us any type of proof of what they used it for.”

A BankMobile account is recommended in order to receive the funds. She encourages people to be patient and know that the University is doing everything it can to help the students during this time.

In addition, students can still apply for other grants like the Student Emergency Grant, the Texas A&M University System Emergency Regent’s Grant and the Lamar Bruni Vergara Emergency Fund—all with their own eligibility requirements.

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Comics take over TAMIU

Comics take over TAMIU

By Andrew Alfaro
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday April 27, 2020

The kids who came of age during the comic book movie boom are now adults and want to see how far the genre can go.

In today’s world, comics are all over pop culture and every weekend it seems as if a new comic book movie was being released before COVID-19. The popularity of these comics has even made its way into classrooms with topics based on the art form.

Assistant Professional of visual communication Thomas Brown, teaches photography and writing courses at Texas A&M International University. One of the courses he offers is Writing for Comics Books, a writing intensive course. The class will be made available again in Summer Session 1 via online due to COVID-19.

The class is meant to help students learn how to develop a comic book script and become more diverse writers. Brown also teaches a brief history of comic books in the class to help newcomers get a better understanding of the genre.

In the class, students learn terminology, such as balloons and tails, and how to build a world for comics. 

“My students don’t have to write a superhero comic book,” Brown said.

 The students are allowed to write any type of comic they’re interested in. Often, people believe comics are only superhero-based, but this is just one genre of comics. Before the influx of heroes in tights, a variety of stories focused on Westerns, war, detectives, horror and even romance.

“When the students end the class, they have the script for a 22-page comic book,” Brown said.  “They just need to find an artist if they want to get it illustrated.”

The students are in control of the comic from the characters to the plot, sometimes referred to as the hero’s journey. Some other things taught in the class are how to use screenwriting software, such as Celtx, which is free.

TAMIU spring 2019 alumnus Kenneth Jones took the course and reflected on his experience.

“The 22-page comic book was easier than it sounds with all the assignments the class did before starting the comic book,” Jones said.

Comics do not only ignite a love for fantasy, but also address social issues. 

In today’s world, there are people of different ethnicity, religion, creed, gender and sexual orientation. Some readers may feel superheroes are supposed to be a certain skin tone. However, there are a multitude of heroes which can satisfy a particular walk of life and the numbers of diverse characters continue to grow.

Major social issues and events helped create beloved characters, such as X-Men, Black Panther and Shang-Chi.

“With the events going on at that time, Marvel was making a statement that people should not segregate others because they are different, but instead of poking right at racism, they made it about humans vs. mutants,” Brown said.

When Marvel did that, not only did they introduce a new team of heroes, they also created interesting new characters to the fans—all while addressing social issues.

TAMIU could potentially see similar success in comic book-related organizations, such as Anime Club, or events like STCE’s Comic Con held annually at TAMIU.

Over the years, comics continue to grow in popularity. Manga, a Japanese art form related to anime, is one type of comic book. Anime has a large and growing fan base.

Anime Club President Liza Nguyen helps organize meetings, fundraisers and events that center around anime and manga.

“The club talks about many things concerning anime and one of the things is manga,” Nguyen said. “The club used to rent out manga, which is a genre of comics. Since the club was created, it has tripled in size.”

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Chasing ‘black gold’

Chasing ‘black gold’

By Tiffani De La O
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Three hours North of Laredo lies one of many oilfield drilling rigs. These rigs run around the clock without any means of stopping, which makes this profession one of the most demanding in the world. 

Working in the oilfields backtracks to 1859 when the first American oil well was discovered. OPEC started up in 1960 in order to coordinate and create a union between 14 of its members, all foreign countries—the U.S. not among them.

Under the guidelines of that organization, crude oil is being drilled every day, worldwide, to produce energy, gasoline and other resources used on a daily basis. Each barrel, which contains about 40 gallons of crude oil, makes 19 gallons of gasoline. The workforce, which contributes to this organization, comes from drilling companies with crew members who are from different backgrounds and ethnicities.

For Gustavo Chavez, 23, of Laredo, it was one of his dreams to be able to have the chance and experience life in the oilfields. After having a rough childhood, which ranged from poverty to displacement, he decided to get up and make his life better even if it meant being far from home. That is when he became a floor hand for Helmrich & Payne.

“Just like any person, you work at a different job and there is word of mouth that better jobs are out there which pay $2,000 a week,” Chavez said about his motivations. “That is when I decided I have to give it a try because I wanted to better my life and start making good money.”

Ryan Flores pursued a welding career in Oklahoma City before coming to Laredo.

“[It’s] always hard work for everyone, day in and day out, with busted hands and feet,” Flores said of working in the Laredo fields. 

A typical day in the oilfields is nothing less than hot, it gets even worse during the summer. Texas heat will have one of these workers dehydrating and sweating their pores out. Shifts range from 12 to 16 hours, sometimes with no days off for weeks. On workdays, shifts begin with a safety meeting to update the crew on what happens with the rig and about ongoing operations. 

“The meeting is a safety measure to prevent any accidents or to learn about the dangers going through the operations such as drilling, tripping in or out the hole, and other crucial things,” Chavez said. “My primary job as a floor hand is cleaning, maintaining, organizing and being that extra hand the crew might need. It’s like being a custodian for the rigs.”

Flores, on the other hand, would be pre-inspecting equipment to be used and welding metals for the rig with equipment such as grinders, torches, bevel machines and more. “It is usually done way before a rig moves in,” Flores said of the welding process. “It is the main stage for frac welding, or even after in case a pipe has a leak or has been broken.”

Those who work in the fields admit how difficult the work can be.

“Being out on a location is tough but we create a bond through our work ethic,” Chavez said. “You see different kinds of people but there’s people that won’t put out or don’t last their full hitch.”

In fact, the work is so intensive they rarely find time to joke or relax.

“[There’s] not much horsing around,” Flores said. “You have to be alert for anything serious such as [hydrogen sulfide] gas or any explosion on live gas.”

Just like most jobs, some overachieve and others remain satisfied with the work they do—they don’t go the extra mile.

“Not everyone’s work ethic is the same,” he said.

The oilfield lifestyle is not for most, it is a demanding job that puts stress on the crew members who are working far from home. This can also affect life back at home because this career does not allow workers to get up and go home whenever they would like. The people working at Rig 626 have living quarters fully equipped with working stoves, fridges, restrooms and other appliances, but it is not as comfortable as one’s own bed.

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Espinosa reflects on season

Espinosa reflects on season

By Julynne da Silva Sa
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Coach Jeremy Espinosa took over coaching responsibilities for the men’s basketball team, following the absence of coach Joel Taylor. On the transition from assistant coach to calling the shots, he talks about the challenges he overcame in order to be seen differently by his players.

“The biggest challenge was changing the vibe of the team in a positive way,” Espinosa said. “At the same time not being too soft on the players. Creating that balance took time, but now it’s at a place where I can have fun with the players off the court and be strictly business once it’s time to get to work.” 

Before he started coaching, Espinosa played junior college ball in Oklahoma and finished his career at Newman University, in Wichita, Kansas. He described his coaching career as a “roller coaster,” moving through winning and losing seasons. It also took him places where those experiences helped expand his coaching knowledge.

“I have learned to take losses as opportunities to grow and be better,” he said. “I have also learned how to be a professional in winning.”

Since he took the reins, the team dynamics changed. He thinks the team adapted well and shows it through hard work as they transform efforts into wins. 

“I felt like it took the guys a little bit to get used to a different dominant voice,” Espinosa said. “In games, I see that they really want to play hard for me, which means a lot. Now we have to translate playing hard into winning games and figuring out how to win games together.”

Calvin Fugett, a junior from Denver, says Espinosa’s character helped the team build chemistry and learn how to work together. He thinks this opportunity showed the coach’s passion for the game but also his care for his players.

“Coach E is a very caring and hard-working coach,” Fugett said. “We can see that he wants the best for his players on and off the court. He’s a fun guy, and a very family oriented person.” 

He is not the only teammate with a positive opinion on Espinosa’s work. Freshman Adrian Nosa of Madrid, Spain, also feels confident about his coaching performance.

“Coach Espinosa works really, really hard and really cares about us,” Nosa said. “He always makes sure that we all feel good with whatever situation we are in. He’s definitely made me feel more comfortable playing basketball and he brings confidence to the team.”

The Dustdevils experienced a season of ups and downs. They continued working and making adjustments as the season continued on. Espinosa believes even though they won few of their games, the season was full of learning experiences for the team.

“It’s been a great year even though the scoreboard doesn’t always show [that],” he said prior to the end of the season. “I appreciate the hard work that the guys bring to the table. I plan on finishing this season strong and build some great chemistry leading into next season.”

The 2019-2020 season ended for both men’s and women’s basketball teams during the annual Senior Night event. With Taylor’s resignation from coaching at TAMIU, the spot opened up for applicants.

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