For Estevan “Stevie” Espinoza, achieving an education and giving back to his community is what drives him to succeed. The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi junior, from Aransas Pass, is working towards receiving an accounting degree and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
“Aransas Pass is a small town by Redfish Bay. Everyone pretty much knows each other and there are a lot of familiar faces,” Espinoza shared. “If you walk into our H-E-B, you’re bound to find a good handful of people that you’ve already met.”
As one of 10 siblings, Espinoza knew that earning scholarships was essential to achieving his dreams and lessening the financial burden on his large family.
“I first started applying for scholarships during my high school senior year and then again when I first went to Del Mar College,” he explained. “The local scholarships from Aransas Pass, Del Mar and the University have been so helpful.”
With multiple scholarships in hand, the 2014 Aransas Pass graduate set off to Del Mar College, declared accounting as his major and quickly earned his associate’s degree in business administration.
“It took me a while to figure out exactly what my major was going to be while I was at Del Mar,” he said. “It wasn’t until I took my first accounting class over there that I realized it’s something I can really do and that I am good at.”
Graduating summa cum laude from Del Mar in 2016, Espinoza knew he wanted to stay close to home to pursue his bachelor’s degree. His cousin, Bobby Villarreal, suggested the Island University.
“Bobby came to the University one semester before me,” Espinoza said. “He was the one that helped me get acquainted with the University: how to apply, how to sign up for classes, what teachers he’s taken.”
Even with inside information from family members who had attended the University before him, Espinoza still remembers being nervous the first time he stepped on campus.
“I remember coming to campus the first time – it was a little bit overwhelming compared to Del Mar,” Espinoza said. “One thing that helped with the transition process was getting to meet Dr. Patricia Hill. She made me aware of the different scholarship opportunities here at the University as well as anything I might need before transferring.”
Dr. Patricia Hill, Director of Transfer Admission Services at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is also a proud alumna of both Del Mar and the Island University. She maintains an office on both campuses where she helps Del Mar students feel comfortable about their transition to the Island University.
“There is an assumption transfer students know everything and they’re not nervous because they come with a little experience under their belt, but they often tell me they feel apprehensive about attending the University,” said Hill. “It’s our job to settle those nerves and guide them through the paperwork. In that process of showing them our great services, we form relationships with these students that help them be successful.”
With Hill’s assistance, Espinoza successfully enrolled at A&M-Corpus Christi in fall 2016 with transfer scholarships from Phi Theta Kappa and became involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Through this program, he helped prepare federal income tax returns for low-income families and make valuable connections with the Corpus Christi business community.
“I would love to work in a small local firm when I graduate,” he said, “Small firms give you the opportunity to work with auditing and taxes. So it’s like a little buffet of different things to do!”
Once he completes the undergraduate accounting program, Espinoza has plans to ultimately work towards receiving his master’s degree by 2019 and then his CPA in the following years. With a bright future on the horizon, Espinoza says that Hill, and the staff at the Islander Welcome Center, were key to his successful transition to the Island University.
“Contacting the Islander Welcome Center is very important for students transferring to A&M-Corpus Christi,” he explained. “They make sure you have all the right forms and all the right transcripts. They are a lot of help!”
When thinking back on where he has been and where he is now Espinoza is filled with gratitude for everyone who helped him along the way.
“I really have to thank the people in my community for getting me here today, former teachers, family members, mom and dad especially for being so supportive with everything that I do,” said Espinosa. “My friends and pretty much anyone else that I’ve missed. If you’ve done something for me – thanks!”