TSTC Pharmacy Technicians Have Local Job Opportunities

(WACO) – Before Courtney Balzadua, 27, of Waco became a pharmacy technician at the Family Health Center, she balanced working as a waitress and being the mother of a small child.

She knew she needed to make a career change.

“I wanted to be in the medical field in some way,” said Balzadua, a 2015 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Pharmacy Technician program.

The need for pharmacy technicians is projected to grow nationally to more than 450,000 jobs by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency credits the job increase to a rising need for prescription medicines. Pharmacy technicians must learn the general uses of medical drugs but cannot legally counsel patients.

TSTC’s three-semester program includes classes in Drug Classification and Pharmaceutical Mathematics and an on-site clinical at a hospital, pharmacy or other medical facility like the Family Health Center.

TSTC caps each semester’s Pharmacy Technician cohort at 25 students, said Colby Walters, a program instructor. She said students who enter the program need strong mathematics and memorization skills.

Program graduates can work under pharmacy training licenses for two years, Walters said. During this time, the graduates get three chances to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s licensing test to continue working in the field. The graduates also undergo a background check by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.

A public perception survey conducted by the PTCB in 2016 indicated that 85 percent of people said it was very important for people preparing prescriptions to be certified, and 74 percent of people believed pharmacies should only hire certified pharmacy technicians.

Traci Crain is a staff pharmacist at the Family Health Center’s pharmacy on Providence Drive in Waco. She said she can tell within a month which pharmacy interns can adapt to the job. Some of the qualities she looks for include being able to work with others, handle criticism from customers and exhibit a solid work ethic.

The Family Health Center typically hires two interns each semester. Crain said interns start out sacking prescriptions for customers. She said interacting with the staff enables the students to understand the pharmacy language. Eventually interns can advance to working on registers and helping customers.

“It’s not uncommon to get hired before they graduate,” Walters said.

Jennifer Herrera, 34, of Waco graduated in 2005 from TSTC’s Pharmacy Technician program and has been working at the Family Health Center since she was an intern.

“This is in a low-income area,” she said. “I don’t see myself as different from any of our patients. I fell in love with the environment.”

Herrera often works with clients in both Spanish and English.

“You do have to be careful because certain words can mean different things,” she said.

The Family Health Center has 16 locations in Bell and McLennan counties. There are about 20 employees who work at the pharmacy from Monday to Friday. Overall, the Waco location fills an average of 700 prescriptions per day.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

Student Success Profile – Jonathan Collins

Johnathan Collins

Jonathan Collins is an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student at Texas State Technical College.

The 30-year-old spent five years in the Marines, with a deployment to Afghanistan before returning home to Harlingen.

The father of two expects to earn his associate degree this semester and is active on campus, serving as president of his program’s club and volunteering with TSTC’s Veterans Center.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate, my family and I will be moving to Fort Worth; it’s a popular market for drafters and engineers. I will also look into enrolling at TSTC in North Texas to pursue an associate degree in Precision Machining Technology.

What’s your dream job?

With the degree I’m about to earn, there are so many career paths I can choose. Right now I’m interested in working in the Geographic Information System (GIS) path, but ultimately I hope to become a civil or mechanical engineer.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment is being this close to finishing and finally earning my degree. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that there is always room for improvement. I left the military with so much knowledge, but coming back to school has helped me realize that there’s still so much to learn.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

All of my instructors have influenced my success. They all have industry experience and share that with us so we learn all aspects of the field. It’s encouraging to see how much they truly want us to succeed.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is immerse yourself in your chosen field and career path. Get involved in learning it outside of the classroom by job shadowing or completing internships; it’s a game changer.

TSTC agricultural program introduces drone technology

(HARLINGEN) – Drone technology is revolutionizing the field of agriculture, and to ensure that students’ skills meet industry standards, Texas State Technical College’s Agricultural Technology program recently implemented drone training into its curriculum.

“Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are transforming the way work gets done out in the field,” said TSTC Agricultural Technology instructor Sheren Farag. “And it’s important that our students are introduced and trained to this technology because it’s the present and the future.”

When she joined the instructional team in Fall 2018, Farag was able to offer extensive drone-related experience and qualifications that helped the program realize a longtime goal of incorporating the study of drones into its curriculum.

Agricultural Technology department chair and instructor Sammy Gavito said exploring new technological advances used in different phases of agriculture is something he wants his students to be exposed to.

“Technology is constantly evolving, and we need to keep up with it and continue moving forward so that our students remain employable,” said Gavito. “Drones are changing the methods of agriculture operations, and this training will diversify our students’ opportunities.”

Students in the program have access to six industry-standard drones: five DJI Phantom 4 Pros and one multispectral drone.

The drones have already been introduced in several courses, including Crop Science, Horticultural Food Crops, Agricultural Records Management, and Forage and Pasture Management.

Students learn how to manually fly the drones and perform simple equipment maintenance, calibration and camera repairs. They also learn how to use the drone software and phone applications, and how to interpret data and map coordinates.  

Two new drone-focused classes will be introduced in coming semesters. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be available in Fall 2019, followed by GIS Applications in Spring 2020.

The drone training that students receive at TSTC prepares them to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate through the Federal Aviation Administration after graduation.

“Learning this technology now is essential and crucial to these students’ finding high-paying jobs when they graduate,” said Farag. “This training will open doors for them and make them more marketable in the agriculture field.”

Students are learning that drone technology is an efficient way to improve production in the agriculture industry.  

Drones help map and survey land, prepare for future growing and harvest seasons, identity crop issues, manage irrigation, dust and spray crops, and monitor livestock.

Information gathered from done photos and videos can be used to save time and money, and produce higher crop yields.

Wally Santamaria, an Agricultural Technology student who plans to graduate with an associate degree this semester, said he is glad that drone technology was introduced in the program because it has created more opportunities for him.

“Before last semester, I had heard about drones but had never used one before. It’s safe to say it’s been pretty exciting,” said Santamaria. “And with the training I have received, I now have a leg up over other students in other programs who have not received this type of opportunity.”

The 20-year-old added that learning the benefits of using technology in agriculture has changed his perspective.

“Now that I’ve used drones to get research and analysis done, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back,” he said with a laugh. “This will definitely be beneficial to my future.”

Farag and Gavito agree that studying drone technology makes for well-rounded graduates.

“If our students don’t learn this technology now, they won’t be able to work in the field. This is the future,” said Farag. “This training will allow our graduates to work anywhere.”

For more information on Agricultural Technology, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC alum brews her way to success

(HARLINGEN) – From serving as president of the Texas State Technical College Student Government Association to being president and chief executive officer of her own coffee and food catering business, Café Canasto, Johanna Lozano has come a long way.

Lozano recently catered the SGA Open House for TSTC’s Spring 2019 Welcome Week and provided specialty Colombian coffees, hot chocolate and cuisine to the delight of visitors, students, faculty and staff.

“It feels so surreal being back as a business owner,” said Lozano. “All my dreams are coming true, and I credit the education I got at TSTC for a large part of my accomplishments.”

The 33-year-old, with a background in bilingual education, came to the United States from Colombia and settled in Massachusetts in 2004.

Johanna Lozano, owner of Cafe Canasto

With an entrepreneurial spirit and a dream, Lozano earned an associate degree in marketing and business analytics from Johnson & Wales University in 2012.

“A coffee shop is something I’ve always wanted,” said Lozano. “Management and business for me is a passion.”

Having grown up in Colombia on a coffee farm, opening a specialty coffee shop just made sense to Lozano.

When she and her husband relocated to Harlingen, Lozano enrolled in TSTC’s Business Management Technology program. She ended up getting a lot more than she bargained for.

“TSTC not only taught me business, but also leadership,” she said. “I was given so many opportunities to get involved on campus and in my community that it all laid a foundation for what I’m doing now.”

As a student at TSTC, Lozano served as secretary and president of the SGA; served in the TSTC Service Squad, earning a President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 500 hours of community service; and served in the TSTC Leadership Academy and in Leadership Harlingen.

“I am so grateful for the support I continue to receive from TSTC,” she said. “All of these experiences allowed me to meet new people and make new friends. It has all opened so many doors for me.”

Lozano graduated from TSTC with an associate degree in 2015, and because of her leadership roles on campus, she had the opportunity to sit on the boards of Keep Harlingen Beautiful and the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation.

Shortly after graduating and saving up some money, Lozano took her education and leadership experience to begin the planning phase of opening Café Canasto with the help of the Women’s Business Center in Brownsville, the Small Business Administration in Harlingen, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Adopt a Startup program.

“It still feels like I’m dreaming,” said Lozano. “All of the research, planning, every business trip to Colombia, and blood, sweat and tears are beginning to pay off.”

Lozano said she is proud of her Colombian heritage, which is the reason her business is named Café Canasto.

“Canasto is the basket the coffee farmers put the coffee beans in when they’re picked. And since I’m importing my coffee from Colombia, I want my business to pay homage to their hard work,” said Lozano.

Lozano’s catering business is gaining popularity among folks in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.

Besides the specialty coffees Lozano serves, she also has a menu of Colombian cuisine consisting of chicken and beef empanadas, chorizo and beef arepas, and desserts.  

“We want to offer our customers more than just a menu — we want to offer them a Colombian experience,” said Lozano. “We want them to feel, if even just for a moment, like they’re in Colombia.”

Although starting a business hasn’t been without its challenges, Lozano said it is her support system that keeps her going.

“I have received so much support from my community, family and husband in this endeavor that even when I come upon challenges, they’re not so bad because of the people I have by my side,” said Lozano. “And I hope to continue catering at TSTC because I’m so proud that it’s my alma mater, and I hope that my story can help other students.”

McGregor Students Find Their Passion for Learning at TSTC

(WACO) – Christina Pace is elevating her creativity through digital art.

Pace, 23, of McGregor designs fliers for Texas State Technical College in Waco’s Visual Art Society, which includes other TSTC Visual Communication Technology majors. It is practice for her future career in graphic design.

As she pursues her endeavors and studies, Pace finds motivation from others.

“It’s being able to be creative and work on my assignments and be surrounded by those who do the same,” she said.

Pace graduated in 2014 from McGregor High School and went on to earn an associate degree in art in 2016 from Temple College. At the time, she said she knew she needed to earn another degree.

Pace began classes in fall 2017 at TSTC. She said her art classes have helped her be a better artist as she uses concepts for space and composition and learns about Adobe’s creative platforms.

Pace is among more than 25 students from McGregor currently taking classes at TSTC in Waco.

Meanwhile, many students attending McGregor High School are partaking in career and technical education offerings that can lead to fruitful careers. The Texas Education Agency’s Texas Academic Performance Report for 2017-18 indicated that the McGregor Independent School District had more than 370 students in the program.

“We have made a big push in the last few years to expand our career and technical education programs,” said Seth Fortenberry, principal of McGregor High School. “We have a very strong construction and welding program at the high school where students have the opportunity to earn certifications prior to graduation.”

Fortenberry said the robotics program combines design, electronics and engineering for students to ultimately launch their own two rockets at the end of the school year.

“One rocket is built to carry a 1-pound payload one mile high, and the other is built to break the sound barrier,” he said.

Fortenberry said more courses could be added in the future for students to study drones and automotives.

“Two-year colleges are definitely an option for students,” he said. “We push them very hard to continue on into postsecondary education no matter the length, and many do end up choosing TSTC.”

Adrian Siller, 28, of Waco did not attend high school in McGregor but calls it home. He has traded in the study of sciences for suspensions.

Siller is working toward an Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization certificate at TSTC and is scheduled to graduate in summer 2020.

“I have always liked automobiles,” he said. “I did research on manufacturers and learned about Toyota.”

Siller shifted into studying the automotive field after earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 2014 from Texas A&M University. He said understanding the lectures and research processes during his first time in college has helped him at TSTC.

Siller has enjoyed the hands-on work on vehicles in the Transportation Technology Center’s T-TEN lab. His favorite lessons so far have dealt with testing and diagnosing electrical system problems.

Siller said his goal is to graduate from TSTC and then pursue a physics or mathematics degree. He wants to apply the technical and academic combination either to work in the automotive industry or to teach.

“This career will definitely take me to opportunities in a big city,” Siller said. “Right now I am eyeballing Austin.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

Student Success Profile – Jennie Remington

(HARLINGEN) – Jennie Remington is an Education and Training student at Texas State Technical College. She expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2020.

The 28-year-old is a student volunteer for TSTC Student Life and Engagement and is the TSTC Leadership Academy lead for 2019.

When the Harlingen native is not on campus, she can be found volunteering with her church as the youth leader mentoring girls and women and at the Harlingen Community Theater acting and helping with play productions.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I will transfer to Texas A&M-Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Early Education. I will then return to the University of North Texas (UNT) to complete what I started there – my bachelor’s degree in Theater.

What’s your dream job?

I have a passion for children and for the theater, so my dream job is to become a theater teacher and introduce young children into the profession.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment is returning to school. After I moved back home from UNT, not sure about my future I had a lot of fear because I was getting older. But I didn’t let that get in the way, I married my two passions and here I am.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is to remember to give yourself grace. You’re never too old to learn, and we should never stop learning.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

The two people at TSTC who have had the most influence are Student Life Executive Director Adele Clinton and Student Life Coordinator Belinda Palomino. College can get stressful and the weight can get heavy, but these two ladies have been such a blessing and breath of fresh air for me. They are my safe place.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to take your time – college is not a race, ask plenty of questions and learn a lot – this is the place to make mistakes and if you do make mistakes remember that it’s not the end of the world.

TSTC welcomes in the New Year with a new police chief

(HARLINGEN) – Eduardo Patiño is starting the New Year with a new title after being promoted and recently named Texas State Technical College’s newest police chief.

Patiño, who will celebrate 10 years at TSTC in June, served as sergeant for the force for the past six years, and beat out a competitive group of applicants and a few law enforcement officials with supervisory experience in cities with more than 50,000 people during the national search and rigorous interview process.

“I found out right before Christmas. It was the greatest gift I could have received,” said the 34-year-old. “Never in a million years did I think I would be in this position.”

TSTC Police Commissioner Aurelio Torres said Patiño was one of six candidates selected and interviewed on competences identified as critical for a college police chief.

“Patiño has made an impact since day one,” said Torres. “His experience in college law enforcement and familiarity to unique college safety and security requirements set him apart from the rest.”

Torres added that Patiño has the ability to train and direct staff and ensure that they live up to TSTC’s core values of excellence, accountability, integrity and service.

Patiño, a San Benito native, was one of eight children and said it was his eldest brother who instilled a hard working nature in him after losing his mother at only 4-years-old.

“My brother took us all under his wing and made sure we didn’t take the wrong path,” he said. “He always stressed the importance of working hard and getting an education. He’s one of my greatest supporters.”

It was during Patiño’s time with Bekins Gulf Transport and Storage as a truck driver that he began to gain an interest in law enforcement.

“Truck drivers get stopped for random checks. So, I would get to talking to the police officer or state trooper and my interest for the field began to grow,” said Patiño. “After one of my trips I told my wife that I was thinking of pursuing law enforcement and she supported me wholeheartedly.”

In 2008 Patiño graduated from the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council Police Academy at TSTC second in his class for his academic achievement.

“This career has been so rewarding for me and my family,” he said. “It has been life changing and only possible thanks to the support from my wife, family, TSTC colleagues and leadership.”

After the police academy, Patiño went on to earn an associate degree from Texas Southmost College in Criminal Justice and will complete his bachelor’s degree in the same field this spring.

He has also completed professional training in leadership, criminal investigations, mental health, sexual assault, family violence, active shooter and FBI interview and interrogation.

Patiño said he has found a home at TSTC – a place he can see himself for the next 20 or more years.

“I’ve had so much opportunity and growth thanks to TSTC and my team,” said Patiño. “We all work hard to make sure that TSTC is not only a great place to work, but also a great place to study and a. A safe place.”

Patiño is known to be self-driven among colleagues for the short-term and long-term goals he sets for himself and the department, and he said it’ll be no different in his new leadership position.

“It’s these goals that allow me to continue pushing forward,” he said. “And I hope to not only continue serving and protecting our TSTC community, but to find new innovative technology that can help us do this.”

He added that he hopes to uphold the high standards of professionalism that Commissioner Torres held for his officers as chief.

“I’ve learned so much from him. He is a true leader, role model and a great supervisor. I have big shoes to fill,” said Patiño. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for me, our department and my colleagues. It’ll be hard work, but for now the best thing is knowing that my 6-year-old thinks I’m cool.”

TSTC welcomes counselor in his dream job

(HARLINGEN) – He started from the bottom, now he’s here at Texas State Technical College as the Harlingen campus’ newest counselor.

Alex Galan has already been at TSTC for about one month, but said it actually took him 18 years of hard work and perseverance to get to where he is today – at his dream job.

“College was never discussed in my family,” said the first-generation college graduate. “Graduating from high school was always enough, but I always felt like I wanted more.”

The 35-year-old grew up in Mercedes as a migrant worker traveling annually to Ohio with his parents to harvest cucumbers and drive tractors. They had moved to the U.S. from Mexico for a chance at a better education for their children.

“My dad always told us that if we didn’t get an education, then field work is what we would do for the rest of our lives,” said Galan. “But I didn’t want to do this the rest of my life, so I had to make the decision to leave home.”

Had Galan not left home, he would have to have continued working in the fields – house rule.

But by leaving, he was in for, what he calls, the adventure of a lifetime.

Galan began his college career at San Antonio College, where he earned an associate degree in sociology in 2003.

During this time he was a full-time student with a full-time job, not able to make ends meet.  

“I spent countless days and holidays alone in a dark apartment,” said Galan. “And only thanks to friends, I had food to eat. It was a difficult time, but I’m proud that I did it. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could go back. I have no regrets.”

Galan went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2005 from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling with a licensed professional counselor concentration in 2014 from the University of Texas-Pan American, now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

It was a job at  San Antonio College as a work study in the counseling center that kick started  his career path.

“It has definitely been quite a journey and as the only college student and graduate in my family, I was under a lot of pressure to prove that I could do it,” he said. “But it was these trials and tribulations that made me who I am today and it has made all of the difference in my life.”

Now almost two decades later, armed with extensive experience, Galan is at TSTC doing what he first set out to do.

For more than 10 years Galan has worked as a substance abuse, drug and alcohol counselor for the Valley AIDS Council, federal prisons, adult and juvenile detention centers, Cameron County boot camp for probation and parole facilities and as a support service coordinator for Mid Valley Academy.  

Currently, he also works as needed at Palms Behavioral Hospital in Harlingen as a clinical therapist.

“This was God’s journey for me and I feel that I have come full circle,” said Galan. “And because of the experience I have gained throughout my career I am ready to be the best counselor I can be for our TSTC students and better prepared to handle different situations.”

Galan said his goal is to help students toward a better life.

“Whether it’s helping students with mental illness or helping handle the everyday stresses of college and life, I hope that the help they receive will allow them to finish school and graduate,” said Galan.

He added that he is excited to be at TSTC and can’t wait for the start of the new semester.

“I know I finally reached my goal, but I know my journey doesn’t end here,” he said. “I started from the bottom, now I’m here, where I’m supposed to be.”  

TSTC, Cameron ISD Team Up for Dual Enrollment Classes

(HUTTO) – Students at C.H. Yoe High School in Cameron recently ended their first semester taking dual enrollment classes through Texas State Technical College.

Twelve students completed the Principles of Accounting I class as part of the Business Management Technology certificate. And, more than 30 students took the online Medical Terminology class under the Medical Office Specialist certificate. This is the first year that technical dual enrollment classes have been offered at the high school.

“We had always offered dual credit, but it was academic and not career and technical education dual credit,” said Kenneth Driska Jr., Cameron Independent School District’s career and technical education director.

Driska said a high school teacher was credentialed by TSTC in West Texas to teach the accounting classes.

The school district built on its existing medical career tracks to branch into offering medical office specialist classes.

“Health science has been something that kids in our district seem to show a lot of interest in,” Driska said. “Part of it is our proximity to Scott & White in Temple. It’s about a 30-minute drive. There is an opportunity there for jobs.”

Megan Redmond, a dual enrollment advisor at TSTC in Williamson County, worked with Cameron ISD to make the classes available.

“The counselors I work with are incredible,” Redmond said. “They are super responsive, and they get everything to me on time. Their students are very receptive. They get their forms turned in on time, and a lot of them are making A’s and B’s this semester.”

Students passing the courses are able to earn college credit hours and meet Texas high school diploma requirements. High school students taking certificate courses have the opportunity to earn up to 12 credit hours.

Driska said some of the school district’s college-going culture is driven by local scholarship opportunities from the Callaway Foundation and the Cameron ISD Foundation.

“We have high expectations for our kids in Cameron,” Driska said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

New Years Wishes

Ashley Perez

Ashley Perez, Career Services Associate – “My wish for the New Year is to receive my bachelor’s degree and begin working toward a master’s degree.”

Celina Escamilla

Celina Escamilla, Welding Technology and Precision Machining Technology Department Secretary – “I wish for joy in everyone’s lives.”

Mark Rosas

Mark Rosas, Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Lead Instructor – “I wish for a Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans super bowl; and that I would be there.”

Nancy Duran

Nancy Duran, Vocational Nursing Instructor – “Our classes are growing so I wish for larger labs and classrooms and for a Florence Nightingale statue for our nursing center.”