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STC Graduates Celebrate More Than 20 Years Together

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As they prepare to celebrate their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary, South Texas College Physical Therapist Assistant graduates Marco and Michelle Saenz reflect on their love story and the remarkable growth of the program that brought them together. STC Image
As they prepare to celebrate their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary, South Texas College Physical Therapist Assistant graduates Marco and Michelle Saenz reflect on their love story and the remarkable growth of the program that brought them together. STC Image
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By Selene Rodriguez

When Marco and Michelle Saenz enrolled in South Texas College’s inaugural Physical Therapist Assistant class back in 1998, they had no idea that their journey would not only lead them to professional success, but also ignite the flame of a lifelong love story.

Today, as they prepare to celebrate their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary and their roles as parents to two children, the STC alumni reflect on their love story and the remarkable growth of the program that brought them together.

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“Our relationship started off as competitive. Physical Therapist Assistant is an intense program so we were always trying to outdo each other for the best grades,” recalled Michelle. “I remember being so jealous of his ability to effortlessly understand everything while I spent hours studying. Eventually, we realized we could achieve more by working together.”

Michelle, 47, an Ohio native with roots in the Rio Grande Valley, was encouraged by her coworkers at a physical therapy office to join the brand-new program at STC in 1998.

Meanwhile, in that same year, Marco, 50, had just completed a year in the Registered Nurse program at the former University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). 

However, he discovered his true passion lay elsewhere. 

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“At my clinicals, I noticed how the patients’ faces would light up whenever the physical therapists entered the room, sparking my interest in the profession,” he recalled. “Shortly after, I stumbled upon a full-page advertisement in the newspaper announcing the upcoming program. It felt like a sign, so I enrolled at STC.”

Marco and Michelle were among the fourteen students in the inaugural class, hosted in a small building down the road from the college’s Pecan campus, where they not only discovered a passion for their careers, but also for each other.

“For me, it was love at first sight,” Marco recalled. “When I saw her walk into the classroom, I noticed she was poised, beautiful and stunning. I found myself too intimidated to approach her, a feeling I had never experienced before. It took some time for us to get close; she was hesitant, but I was persistent.”

It was towards the end of the first year of their two-year program when Marco decided to make a bold move and challenge Michelle to a date.

“She excelled academically at everything, so I said to her, ‘If I manage to get a better grade than you in our final, let’s go out on a date.’ She laughed,” he said. “Long story short, I ended up with the highest grade and the rest is history.”

After dating for five years, the couple took the next step and got engaged, finally tying the knot in 2004. 

As graduates from STC in 2000, they also embarked together on their journey into the world of physical therapy.

“We were both fortunate to be hired right after graduation, and have since explored various aspects of physical therapy,” shared Michelle. “I began my journey in aquatics, but also gained experience with pediatric and orthopedic patients. Later on, I was blessed with the chance to design a pool specifically for aquatic therapy at the pediatric rehab company where I worked. 

Marco would later be recruited by the same company, spending eight years working side by side with the love of his life, solidifying their partnership both personally and professionally.

“We have a lot of respect for each other’s careers. Nobody would even know we were married,” said Marco with a chuckle. “It was amusing when our young patients would pick up on our chemistry or laugh at us sharing the same cup. It was an amazing experience.”

The couple made the decision to fully explore their professional lives before embracing another adventure: parenthood. In 2009, they welcomed their first child, Marco Sebastian, followed by the arrival of Seleste in 2012.

“Sebastian is currently enrolled in the early college program at Robert Vela High School,” Michelle proudly shared. “We’re so excited for him to graduate high school with an associate degree and become an STC alum, just like his mom and dad.”

As they continue their successful career working together for Total Rehab Kids, the couple continues to be a strong advocate for the profession, highlighting the extensive and prosperous journey they’ve both had since earning their associate degrees.

“In this field there are so many opportunities and paths you can take. Pediatrics was the last thing I thought I would pursue when I began, but I absolutely love my job,” said Marco. “Working with children teaches you invaluable lessons, and in this profession, there’s always something new, always a new challenge to tackle.”

Michelle echoed her husband’s sentiments, emphasizing how the education they received two decades ago has remained the foundation of their success. 

“It’s amazing the growth that STC has had in health care careers,” said Michelle. “This program was a need and I’m immensely grateful STC brought it to our region. STC has truly enriched the medical community.”

Marco emphasized the tremendous value of the program, expressing gratitude to STC for profoundly impacting their lives.

“The cost-benefit ratio of the program is exceptional. We owe a debt of gratitude to STC for changing our lives forever,” he said. “Therapists are in high demand, and while the financial rewards are significant, our priority is to help our community. That was our first lesson at STC, and it’s a principle we’ve carried with us ever since.”

For more information about the Physical Therapist Assistant program or other Nursing and Allied Health programs offered at STC, visit nah.southtexascollege.edu/ or call 956-872-3100.

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