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VC grad overcame numerous obstacles to get degree

Roger Razo 1 Rogelio Razo, center, is shown in this 2018 photo with fellow students of Victoria College’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program.

Rogelio Razo was not the only student in his home trying to get through the Spring 2020 semester.

As the COVID-19 pandemic closed Victoria College and all Victoria ISD campuses, Razo, a student in VC’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program, found himself scrambling to finish the semester at home along with four of his children.

“Our children couldn’t go to school, either, so my wife and I had to homeschool them,” said Razo, who has five children – Serenity, 20; Taylor, 17; Alyssa, 15; Roman, 8; and Sebastian, 5. “I also had to deal with taking online classes, so it was a real balancing act.”

With help from his instructors and Victoria College’s KEY Center, Razo completed his final classes in the PTA Program and will take his state board exam in July.

“I had constant communication with my professors and the KEY Center,” the 41-year-old Razo said. “They were there if I had any questions. We didn’t know from one day to another what was going to happen, but VC was always there for support.”

Razo also benefitted from the support of another Victoria College graduate - his wife, Ashley.

“She was the breadwinner of the family while I was going to school,” Razo said. “There would have been no way I could have gone back to school without her.”

Razo worked a combined 18 years at two industrial plants before he was laid off in 2016. An experience he had while working at Alcoa inspired him to back to school.

“I was always into the first-aid responding and rescuing,” Razo said. “I had an opportunity to perform CPR and resuscitate somebody. That had so much of an impact on me. I wanted to make a difference and go into the medical field.”

Razo had taken classes at Victoria College in 1997-98. When he returned to the VC campus in 2017, he quickly realized things had changed a lot in 20 years.

“I didn’t know how to use a flash drive,” Razo said. “A lot of our work had to be uploaded. We didn’t have computers when I first went to VC. I had to catch up technology wise.”

Razo’s anxieties to adjust were eased after he sought help at the KEY Center, a TRiO Student Support Services program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that assists up to 165 VC students with an academically enriching and supportive environment.

“The KEY Center provides such a good support system,” Razo said. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it without it. The people at the KEY Center are always there for you. It’s almost like a homeroom. You are surrounded by people who want you to get an education and it was like my second home. Words can’t describe how much of a role the KEY Center played.”

Razo said the KEY Center provided him the confidence he needed to finish.

“The Physical Therapist Assistant Program is one of the most rigorous programs at VC,” Razo said. “The standards are so high. The KEY Center is like having a mom next to you. Everyone there makes sure you’re doing OK on a daily basis. They have a Timeout Tuesday when everybody can go and talk about their problems and how they’re doing financially or if they’re stressed out. It just reminds you that you’re not the only one going through this process.”

“Rogelio was such a hard worker and dedicated to his goal of becoming a PTA,” said Victoria College Physical Therapist Assistant Program Chair Dr. Laura Crandall. “Any feedback we gave him to improve he would take graciously and implement with his greatest effort.”

Razo, who recently received his Associate of Applied Science degree, said he was also encouraged by Victoria College’s hometown feel.

“You’re not just another number at VC,” Razo said. “The instructors there know you by your name. They take an interest in you and want to know where you’re at in the process. Thankfully, I never really struggled with my grades. But if I did, I would know somebody would be there to pick me up.”