Recent Houston Transplant, Sergio Baca, always knew he wanted to work in the medical field. Originally from New Mexico, he got his start taking classes between New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College taking some prerequisite courses for a Kinesiology program before deciding to move to Houston to be with his sisters who had moved a few years back.
Moving to a new town is challenging, so we are incredibly proud of him for not losing focus and continuing along his higher education journey. He found out about Capital IDEA Houston through the PTA Program Director and was able to get his second year of tuition, books, fees, supplies and test fees, all fully funded by CIH. He graduated from the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at Houston Community College in July 2022 and now he’s gainfully employed as an Aquatic Therapist at Texas Orthopedic Hospital.
I recently caught up with him to ask him about his move and his experience working with CIH. Below is the condensed and edited version of our interview.
You graduated a few months ago, what was finishing the program like?
My case was interesting because everything was very much out of order, I did the pinning ceremony before I had finished my last clinical rotation and I took the certification exam two days before the end of it. It was a little hectic having to study for the exam and making sure I was doing a good job at my clinical rotation.
The reason things got a bit out of order for me was because at the start of the 3rd week of my second rotation at Memorial Hermann in the Acute Care setting, I got COVID. I missed too much time there and had to restart another 6-week clinical rotation at a different location later on.
In the program all students must do three clinical rotations. Through these clinical rotations, students are placed either in a hospital or private clinic for 6 weeks. This gives you a chance to work on your hands on skills and people skills and gives you a chance to put all the training together and get the practice you need before becoming a fully licensed PTA.
How did you find out about Capital IDEA Houston?
I found out about the program through Michelle Voigt, the HCC Physical Therapy Assistant Program Director. During the first year of the program, she let the students know and gave out some information at a meeting. I was already in the second semester of the first year of the program, so I was still able to get a full year of sponsorship, thankfully.
What were your initials impressions of CIH?
As a student, I was open-minded about the process. I listened to the information that was provided. The referral came from the director, so I felt confident applying to the program. Later when I met you guys and sat through our initial meetings and did my own research about the program online, I felt safe applying and well taken care of by the CIH team.
You mentioned having to take your exams while you were at your last clinical rotation. How have things been since taking the certification exam?
Trying to stay on top of my responsibilities was tough but I made it through! Before the end of my last rotation, I was offered a full-time position as an Aquatic Therapist at Texas Orthopedic Hospital, one of the best orthopedic hospitals around. This is where I am currently working. It’s been great, I love it. It’s a good staff and a great hospital! Great job security, too!
I came to do pool therapy because it was a part of my 3rd clinical rotation. I knew my clinical instructor because I volunteer with her at the San Jose Clinic in downtown. We are both volunteers there. I knew she worked at Texas Orthopedic Hospital. She’s been doing aquatic therapy for 20 years. She took me under her wing and taught me everything I know.
I usually work 4 days out of the week and spend most of my time in the pool. As an Aquatic Therapist I spend about 80% of the time in the pool. Most weeks, I spend one day ambulating patients who get their knees or hips done, or others how have had spinal fusions surgeries. I make sure they are safe to go home.
If patients have steps to practice prior to going home, I make sure they can do that before they head home. It's really cool to get to work in a variety of different settings, sometimes in the pool and at other times in an in-patient setting. In the future, I’ll also have the chance to work in the outpatient clinic. They use me wherever they need help so it's great for me because every single day is different. That's pretty awesome!
As someone who was able to receive a full year of sponsorship from CIH, which support had the biggest impact on you?
A lot happened during the transition from New Mexico to Texas: I was living with my sister, I was going through a breakup, figuring out a new school system, navigating a new city, finances, emotional stress, anxiety. Capital IDEA Houston really reached out and made sure that I wasn't just ok financially, literally at any time of the day or late at night, they made sure that I knew I had someone to talk to. There was always someone that was there to vent. That meant a lot more than anything else. They really try to help you work through all of your challenges.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about going back to school?
Trust your gut! You’re going to get so many opinions, thoughts and ideas from various people but always go with your gut. Take it from me, when you’re thinking about the future and where you want to go in life, it can be scary. You can’t let fear stop you. Take that step just like I did. I packed up my bags and got on a bus from New Mexico and moved to Texas. I was picked up by my sister at a bus station and the very next day, I put on a suit and went to the interview for the PTA program.
There's never going to be perfect timing to do things, so you just have to go for it and trust your instincts because you don't want to regret what could have been. At least if you try and you fail, you can say you tried, and you’re not left wondering what would have happened if you had taken that step and went for it. Just try and give yourself the chance.
Thank you, Sergio.
If you are ready to jump start your livelihood, join us at one of our upcoming virtual info sessions to find out how we’ve helped nearly a thousand students achieve self-sufficiency and get the training they needed with a sponsorship from Capital IDEA Houston: www.capitalideahouston.org/infosession