“I never thought I could even go to college. Now I have two associate degrees and a bachelor’s degree. Going to El Centro taught me discipline and how to completely restructure my life as to what was most important. It taught me how to study. I had never been more than a B student, but I graduated from the Cardiac Sonography program Phi Theta Kappa [the academic honor society for two-year colleges].
“Then I thought, if I can earn an associate degree, why not keep going? So I earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences from the University of North Texas and graduated cum laude. Parkland Hospital, where I currently work, has a tuition reimbursement program that helped pay for my education. My ultimate goal is to one day be in management, so I completed a second associate degree in Business Administration from Mountain View College.
“I was raised by my grandmother, poor as a person can be. I’m the first one in my family to go to college. I knew the light at the end of the tunnel would make it all worthwhile, and I’m so blessed now, it’s incredible. Just having the first associate degree, I was already making double the money that some people earn with bachelor’s degrees.
“I love doing sonograms. I have to see if I can figure out what’s wrong with a person’s heart. You’ve got to have intelligence to do this job, but you also have to have personality. I’ve trained some sonographers who are as smart as everything, but they don’t know how to work with the person lying on that bed. You have to ease their fears, put yourself in their position, and sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.
“The quality of instruction in El Centro’s program was excellent because it was so hands-on. The program is hard to get into — they only take 10 students each year — but it has to be done that way to really get the training you need. It’s intense, but it prepares you for the real job.
“Sometimes I hear people say, ‘Oh, you don’t know what it’s like where I come from.’ But I do know. I’ve been there, and I never want to go back. And now that I have an education, I’ll never have to.”
John Salinas earned an associate degree in Cardiac Sonography from El Centro College in June 2003, a bachelor’s degree from UNT in December 2007 and a second associate degree in Business Administration from Mountain View College in August 2008. He currently serves as a cardiac sonographer III at Parkland Hospital and is a registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer.