Alex Alatorre

NE student Alex Alatorre is vice president of Student Government and head coordinator of the speech and debate team, but he wasn’t always this involved in student activities.

He was forced to give up running track after tearing his hamstring. He became discouraged which began to reflect in his grades, he said.

Getting involved in student activities helped him substantially, he said. Forensics and debate remotivated him and gave him that spark to keep going, he said.

“Forensics definitely opened my eyes up to so much that’s going on on the planet and what people are really dealing with,” he said. “Student government showed me what politics is really like.”

This semester has been his busiest and most challenging, but he was able to raise his GPA one whole point, he said.

After TCC, he wants to continue his education at a four-year university and compete in forensics on a four-year college level, he said. After graduating, he’d like to become a college speech professor and a speech and debate coach.

Alatorre may also try his hand at acting, he said.

“Supposedly, the rumor is that they’re doing the Rocky Horror,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true, but I might apply for that. I love the Rocky Horror.”

Mario Montalvo


Saira Sanchez

NE student Saira Sanchez moved around a lot before living in the Metroplex.

She was born in Mexico City. Her parents moved to California when she was only 3 years old. After living there for six years, her family relocated to Chicago. She lived there for seven years before finally moving to Texas.

“Sometimes people think that they’re [her parents] military and that’s why I moved a lot,” she said. “But no, it’s just that they don’t like the routine so they want to try something different.”

Despite moving here at a young age, Sanchez had difficulty learning English, she said. Both of her parents spoke Spanish at home, and she attended bilingual classes which she said were mostly taught in Spanish.

It wasn’t until fifth grade that she took all English-speaking classes.

From a young age, Sanchez has liked art and anything with bright colors, she said. While researching a project in high school, she became interested in interior design. After graduating high school, she got a job with a designer.

She attended college part time but didn’t do well, she said. She took a few years off before deciding to return to school. She soon discovered she was a visual learner, and now she’s earning A’s and B’s in her classes.

“In high school I got C’s and D’s,” she said. “Now I want to have an A or I want to have a B. I want to feel what it is to get an A. I guess since I never had it before, once I got it, I was like ‘Wow, I can get an A.’ I like that feeling.”

Mario Montalvo

Diedra Suedmeier

NE student Diedra Suedmeier moved to the Italy when she was 11 and moved back to Texas at age 16.

Her family relocated because of her father’s job. Sudemeier’s father is an engineer for Bell and was working with an Italian company building the V22 Osprey military aircraft.

She arrived in Italy halfway through the school year without knowing a word of Italian.

“My parents threw me into an Italian school,” she said. “So it was a sink-or-swim situation with the whole language. It was really, really, really tough for those first 6 months.”

Suedmeier soon found her place at school with other students who relocated from all over the world, she said.

She became immersed in the culture and quickly learned the language, she said.

“There was this one point where me and my mom were staying in a hotel, and I talk in my sleep sometimes,” she said. “And it was probably three months after we moved to Italy, and I was talking in my sleep in Italian.”

Despite having a difficult time adjusting to Italian culture, Suedmeier said it was more of a culture shock coming back to the United States.

“It felt like I was supposed to be coming home to something that was familiar, but it felt like everything had changed beneath my feet,” she said. “And I was a different person at that point. I didn’t feel like I quite fit in anymore.”

She still keeps in touch with her Italian friends and tries to visit them when she can, she said.

She felt like a different person when she returned home because of everything she learned, she said.

“I felt like my mind had been opened,” she said.

Mario Montalvo

Eric Londono

SE student Eric Londono is in the small percentile of 22-year-olds who are working for the company they hope to stay at until they retire.

“[Dispatchers] are very similar to air traffic control. They and the pilots are directly responsible for the aircraft when it’s in flight,” Londono said.

Londono has been at Southwest Airlines for four months as an appearance technician. He will be leaving TCC after this spring semester and going to dispatch school for five weeks.

Though he has always wanted to be an airplane mechanic like his father, a full-time dispatcher at their top pay make 20,000 more than a mechanic. Londono said he would rather do the less strenuous job on the body for the bigger pay.

“Basically, I check weather. I tell them what flight path they are taking to ensure the aircraft gets to where it needs to go without bad weather. Because if there is bad weather, the plane normally has to be redirected,” he said. “Also, based on what the weather is like, I will tell them what runway they are taking off of because if there’s a southbound wind they’ll have to take off to the south because their minimum takeoff speed will be lower.”

He hopes to eventually have both licenses.

Kelli Henderson

Haley Harvey

 Haley Harvey has taken college life to the next level. She recently moved out on her own for the first time.

“I’m excited but nervous because it’s hard going to school and working two jobs,” she said. “I don’t want to quit my other job because I’m afraid there won’t be enough [money] for bills and what I like to spend my money on.”

She is enjoying the freedom that comes with living in your own place but giggles at the thought of her boyfriend restricting her on purchasing things. The NW student has been known to be a frequent shopper.

Harvey is studying dental hygiene. Like a majority of college students, she has had trouble in the past picking the right major that fits her. But she is still learning. One of her jobs is opening her eyes to the real world.

She is the youngest server at a breakfast restaurant. She said she sees many older co-workers complain about having to work so much but they can’t afford to quit.

“I don’t want to be like that. I think that’s what is pushing me a little bit because at Willy’s they are all my age or younger, they’re going to school, high school still. But then I can see reality more into [my other job] because these people are having kids, are on food stamps. If their kids are sick, what are they going to do, bring their kids to work with them? They’re waitresses so they can’t just call off,” she said.

-Kelli Henderson

Carmen Londono

 SE student Carmen Londono is always on the lookout for a great deal. Though the fine arts major likes the normal girlie things like clothes, shoes and accessories, her favorite finds are tableware, wall hangings or anything to fill her apartment she will have someday.

See, the 21-year-old still lives at home, but she’s been collecting dishes, glasses and silverware since she was 16. She keeps them in what she calls a hope chest.

“When I first got a job, I started buying cups for my apartment one day,” she said. “My mom was like, ‘So you can hope to get out of the house one day? You can have a hope chest?’ So that’s where the name came from.”

Because she started when she was 16, her collection has gotten big. Londono said she has filled two Rubbermaid totes, and they have been moved to a storage unit.

“The first thing I bought for the hope chest were these cups from Target … I loved them. They are like this brown see-through color,” she said. “They looked old school, like something they’d have in a restaurant. So I got a set of four, and from there, I kind of just went crazy.”

Her eclectic collection consists of plastic plates, glass dishes and cups, knives and pictures and paintings. She said her ultimate goal is to have the little things taken care of when she moves out so all she will have to worry about are the big furniture items.

-Kelli Henderson

Samuel Villarreal

NW student Samuel Villarreal is studying exercise sports science.

“I’m very mechanically inclined, and I’m interested in how the body works,” Villarreal said.

He said he played football in his younger days and was an outside linebacker.

“I enjoy anything fun, fit and active,” he said.

He recently converted his garage into a sports lounge with multiple screens.

“On Saturday and Sunday, I don’t move from the couch much except for to cook out,” he said. “But I’m a little sore because I went wakeboarding in 52-degree water last weekend.”

The frigid temperatures don’t bother him.

“I’ll be out there again,” he said. “I have a wet suit.”

— Shirlett Warren

Chad Laster

NW student Chad Laster gets up at 3 a.m. and starts work at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday for a mobile home manufacturing plant.

“I’m a utility guy, a supervisor,” Laster said. “It’s a very labor intensive job, but I enjoy the work.”

He clocks out at 7:30 a.m. to go to school, goes back to work at 9:30 a.m., works until 1:30 p.m. and comes back to school at 2 p.m. for his Algebra class.

“It helps that my job is close to school,” he said.

He worked four and a half years to help his wife go to school full-time, and now he plans to finish his degree and get licensed to be a physical therapist.

“She got a degree in general education and currently works with special needs children in elementary school,” he said. “Now I’m in school full-time.”

He said he prefers to take things slowly, especially when it comes to technology.

“I’m a dinosaur in a young man’s body. I don’t text,” he said with a playful smile. “I’d rather talk, and I’d like to continue to spell well.”

— Shirlett Warren

Sarah Abbey

NW student Sarah Abbey loves reading articles on because she likes to be informed.

“I guess I’m nosy,” she said.

She’s currently pursuing her associate degree in early childhood education and enjoys her classes because she likes children.

Abbey is a single parent and says juggling school and parenting isn’t too hard for her. She’s taking 12 hours this semester, but all her classes are during the same time her children are in school.

She plans to work for a school district teaching pre-K students.

“I love the kiddos,” she said. “It’s easy for me to relate to them.”

— Shirlett Warren

Blog at