• April 5, 2024

STC nursing students make history with unique candy store

STC nursing students make history with unique candy store
South Texas College students Dinah and Sarai Sanchez, have not only innovated the Rio Grande Valley with their freeze-dried products but are also gearing up to become vocational nurses this summer.

What started as a simple idea to cover tuition costs has now transformed into a thriving business for South Texas College students and sisters Dinah and Sarai Sanchez, who have not only managed to bring innovative freeze-dried food products to the Rio Grande Valley, but are also gearing up to become vocational nurses this summer.

“We’re the first ones to bring this type of candy to the RGV,” explained Dinah, the mastermind behind the venture. “What truly excited us was the opportunity to infuse our Hispanic heritage into our business and offer snacks that we know our community likes. I had seen this type of candy upstate, but it was mainly taffy.”

With a 10-year age gap, the Sanchez sisters found their paths aligning two years ago when Dinah, 19, graduated from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) Early College High School, while Sarai, 29, made a bold change from teaching to nursing.

Dinah’s increasing curiosity for freeze-fried candy, which she bought online, led them to buy a freeze dryer and start experimenting with different types of food.

“We both decided to go into the Vocational Nursing program at STC together and while we were doing our prerequisites, Dinah suggested the idea,” Sarai said. “We also wanted to add a special touch by focusing on our favorite snacks from childhood. We thought this could be an easy and fun way to pay for school. However, it was definitely not easy; it was a journey of trial and error.”

She explained that the freeze-drying process is typically used by astronauts or the military to preserve food for extended periods, up to 25 years. This method eliminates moisture while retaining flavor, resulting in what they describe as an “interesting and unusual texture.”

Located in Donna, the “RGV Sweets N Treats” store recently celebrated its first anniversary, but the journey for these Alamo natives began a year prior.

“We started out selling at local community markets, then transitioned to selling from our home before finally opening an online and brick and mortar shop,” she added proudly. “Now, we ship our products throughout the United States and have a huge following on social media. We’ve even received orders from as far as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.”

With an extensive selection of freeze-dried snacks, ranging from spicy to sweet, their lineup includes popular and unique treats such as paleta de mango enchilada, or a spicy mango lollipop, cotton candy, and a wide variety of chocolates.

“I think it’s our diverse range of Mexican snacks that sets us apart and makes us special,” added Sarai. “I think it’s amazing to think that candy is paying for my school.”

Sarai, who has a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M University spent five years working as a teacher for the PSJA Independent School District, before realizing her future might lay elsewhere.

“I’ve always had a passion for science, and I had always been interested in health care, so it was a natural transition. I feel like there’s many similarities,” she explained. “Making the switch from teaching to nursing was challenging, but with the guidance of our exceptional instructors, the hands-on skills training and experience we’ve acquired and an amazing support system, I was able to navigate through it successfully.”

They’re grateful for their mother, Juanita, who bravely embraced the challenge of learning every aspect of the business.

From mastering computer skills to managing orders, shipping, packaging and maintaining the store, she took on these responsibilities selflessly, allowing her daughters to pursue their demanding nursing careers.

“We also share the store with our older sister, who owns a music school and guided us into the business world,” added Dinah. “It’s been a supportive environment all around. At times, managing everything, from exams and clinical rotations to making candy, can feel overwhelming and be hectic, but we’re incredibly grateful for our support system.”

Expected to graduate this summer, the sisters are eagerly anticipating the next phase of their journey at STC, pursuing both an associate and bachelor’s degree in Nursing over the next few years.

“The college has been incredibly helpful in helping me cover some of my tuition and book expenses through grants and scholarships. We basically only worry about my tuition, and Dinah is part of the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement (VIDA) and (Providing Academic Support to Students (P.A.S.S.) program, which covers her tuition and other expenses,” said Sarai. ‘With all these opportunities available to us, how could we not seize the chance to study together? We’re in this together.”

As future health care professionals, one of their next goals is to expand their offerings to include sugar-free candy options.

“We’re grateful to have each other for support and assistance. Nursing brings us immense joy because it aligns with who we are, making a positive impact on others, bringing smiles, and brightening someone’s day,” said Sarai. “Whether it’s through nursing or providing something we know people enjoy, we want to make a difference.”

For more information about STC’s Nursing and Allied Health programs, visit nah.southtexascollege.edu/ or call 956-872-3100.

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