TSTC counselor not letting pandemic keep her from helping students

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The current global pandemic has brought frustration for many, including Texas State Technical College students. TSTC is currently utilizing advancements in technology to continue its mission to help students through their time in college, even if things look a little different.

“Counseling services continue to be offered remotely,” said licensed professional counselor Angela Dunn, who works at both the Harlingen and Fort Bend County TSTC campuses. “Counseling services are available to any student who is currently enrolled and are free of charge. The services are provided via video, chat, or phone.”

Social distancing has brought many changes, and feelings of exhaustion and isolation can come into factor because of it. However, Dunn assured that students who feel this way are not alone, she even offered some advice on how to combat it.

“Many people are feeling very similar feelings right now,” she said. “One way to manage and cope with those feelings is to create a go-to distraction list. Individuals can create a list of enjoyable activities they normally do in their spare time. The more distracted we are, the less likely our minds will have time to think negatively.”

Dunn reiterated that we must also be kind to ourselves when we begin to feel anxious.

“Engage in positive self-talk. We tend to be very critical of ourselves and it’s important to remember that you are human and trying to do your best,” she said. “Create a list of realistic self-affirmations or positive characteristics about yourself. Reading this list every day to yourself, you can increase your self-esteem and mood.”

Individual care is vital through this time, as is asking for help when you need it.

“If you find that you are struggling most days with anxiety, depression or feeling overwhelmed then you should definitely reach out to the counseling center,” she said. “We as humans have an innate need for connection. Without connection many people feel lonely and lost. Going to counseling will give you that opportunity to connect with another human being that can provide an outside perspective. Sometimes it makes all the difference to be able to talk to someone.”

Student Counseling at TSTC is hosting a mental health awareness art contest, which will run through the end of June. The theme for the contest is Mental Health Awareness and Self-Care During COVID-19 and is open to all currently enrolled TSTC students. Submissions include short stories, photography, digital art and essays. Gift cards will be awarded to selected winners. TSTC students are encouraged to visit TSTC Harlingen’s Facebook page for information to enter.

For more information about Student Counseling at TSTC, visit tstc.edu/student_life/counseling2.


Agriculture inspires TSTC student to study culinary arts

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The curiosity to expand her knowledge in the food industry led Carolina Selvera to pursue an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts degree at Texas State Technical College. The 19-year-old Brownsville native dreams of owning a restaurant of her own one day, and hopes to utilize her culinary skills and background in agriculture to create a farm-to-table experience for customers.

What motivated you to choose TSTC?

A family friend who works at TSTC told me about the programs that are available, and as soon as she mentioned the Culinary Arts program, I was sold. I knew then that this is where I wanted to continue my education. Plus, it’s close to home.

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

Everyone I’ve met has had a great impact on me. One person who pushes me to become better is my friend, Kimberly. We challenge and encourage each other to be the best at what we do.

What are your goals for life after TSTC?

A long-term goal of mine is to open a restaurant in which everything is locally grown to support local farmers and ranchers.

What advice would you give to future TSTC students?

Just go for it! Don’t be scared, because in the end, it will all be worth it.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC instructor determined to see students succeed

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s commitment to student success starts at the beginning of each individual’s academic journey. The promise of a hands-on education comes to fruition because of faculty who are ready to make a difference. Claudia Arnold is dedicated to fulfilling that promise. As a lead instructor for TSTC’s First Year Seminar, she has one goal in mind: serve students better.

While the semester-long class is not required for students who have transferred with more than 24 credit hours, the benefits of enrolling provide an advantage that students would not have otherwise.

“We strongly recommend the seminar for all of our students,” said Arnold. “It’s beneficial because they’ll learn how to navigate the platform that we use for coursework, we go over the importance of networking, and also discuss the free resources offered by TSTC.”

With 15 years of experience at TSTC under her belt, Arnold’s call to education came when she saw the real impact she could have on a student.

“I grew an interest in education when I found out that a student I had been tutoring passed the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) math test,” she said. “His passing confirmed to me that I was able to get the subject matter across to students.”

Arnold’s determination to stand by her students has followed her into her career, in fact, it’s why she finds the First Year Seminar to be so important.

“I strongly believe students need to know that they are not alone in figuring out how to survive college,” she said. “They need to be introduced to all the amazing resources TSTC offers. They need to learn that instructors and staff are here to help them through their journey.”

Her past experiences are also why she is vocal with new TSTC students.

“I always tell them that back when I attended college, no one told me about the free resources.” she said.

The course may only last one semester, but the changes that Arnold sees in her students as they progress are vast and rewarding.

“As a team, we always get emails through the years of students thanking us because they learned so many things,” she said. “We make sure our students know who their advisor is so that they feel comfortable talking to them. We make it known that they are here to help them with anything they need.”

Encouragement is also something she very strongly reiterates to students on their academic journeys.

“I always tell them that once they start something, they need to finish it,” she said. “There is nothing more satisfying than accomplishing a long-term goal that you have set for yourself.”

TSTC fall registration is currently open. For more information, or to apply, visit tstc.edu/admissions/firststeps.


TSTC instructor says welders are always in demand

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Welders are always needed, no matter the economic situation.

Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor Robert Whitley knows his students will likely find a job soon after completing the program. In West Texas, welders are needed not only in the oil field, but also at other sites, he said.

“Other (businesses) are not hurting as bad as the oil field right now,” Whitley said. “A lot of our guys are noticing that welding is definitely a reliable source of income.”

Whitley said many welders are self-employed, while others like the structure of working for a company. No matter what, he said, welders usually can find work.

“Some of the guys like to venture out to the bigger cities for work. They go out several different directions to find a job,” he said.

With oil prices beginning to rebound, Whitley said he expects to see more students enrolled in the program, which is offered at each of TSTC’s 10 campuses. The college offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology, and certifications in structural welding and structural/pipe welding.

“Hopefully everything in the oil field will be going the right way. When that happens, we will probably pick up another boom (of students),” he said.

Whitley said his main goal is to see students employed.

“I like to see them succeed. The best thing for me is to send kids out and see them be able to provide for their family,” he said.

With social distancing being the new normal in business, Whitley said lab sessions have been set up to state standards. He said that social distancing is nothing new to welders.

“Many of them will not be near anyone when they are working,” he said. 

During lab sessions, Whitley said students have worked within the guidelines.

“It has kept our guys on their toes. It is teaching them to prepare for the unexpected,” he said.

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

TSTC’s Workforce Training Office Partners to Offer Specialized Medical Coding and Billing Training

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s statewide Workforce Training office is offering an 11-hour online Telehealth and COVID-19 bundle aimed at providing guidance to people working in medical coding and billing.

Participants who register for the training can take the 10 sessions through the Practice Management Institute at their own pace, but there is a time limit to complete the work. Topics include billing, cybersecurity, telehealth reimbursement and COVID-19’s impact on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  The sessions have been created using federal public health guidelines.

The American Medical Association and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued this year new procedure codes to use for COVID-19 laboratory testing and billing for non-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory testing for the virus, according to the Texas Medical Association.

“Medical billing and coding is ever changing, so it is always important for us to keep up with the most current guidelines,” said Carra Benson, a TMA practice management associate. “I feel the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge reminder of that.”

The training is open to Texas residents, no matter their proximity to a TSTC campus. Participants need access to a computer and internet to take the courses. Those completing lessons will receive certification from PMI, and if they are registered with TSTC’s Workforce Training office, they can receive continuing education hours.

Medical facilities who have staff that can benefit from the lessons can contact TSTC’s Workforce Training office, which can apply for Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development Fund money to cover the training cost.

“That is why a lot of businesses, organizations and vendors work with us because the (TWC) funds have to be filtered through a college,” said Cindy Brunett, a TSTC Workforce Training project manager.

To learn more about TWC funding and register for the training, go to tstc.edu/workforce/onlinelearningcovid-19.

TSTC alumnus finds job stability in medical records field

(ABILENE, Texas) – Like most people, Sarah Johnson was looking for job stability.

After graduating from Texas State Technical College in November 2019 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology, she found that stability. Johnson credits TSTC for helping her find a job as a medical coder at Hendrick Health System.

“At one point, it was difficult for me to find work,” she said. “Once I started in the medical field, I loved it and would make it a career.”

After being employed in customer service for 20 years, Johnson worked in the outpatient unit at Brownwood Regional Medical Center. She decided to complete TSTC’s Health Information Technology program to further her career. It was a decision she has not regretted.

Since February, Johnson has worked as a coder at Hendrick Medical Center. Coders are health information professionals who analyze medical records and assign codes using a classification system. 

“If I would have known about the HIT program first, I would have done it,” she said. “I am glad I was able to graduate and get a job I love.”

Johnson said the instructors were instrumental in helping her during school and finding a job.

“I was overwhelmed with work and school. My instructors were always supportive,” she said. “They would always tell me and other students, ‘You can do this.’ They really took an interest in how we were doing and wanted us to succeed.”

Sarah Brooks, TSTC’s Health Information Technology program chair, said Johnson “defined what makes a student successful in the online learning environment.”

“She was self-motivated and self-disciplined,” Brooks said. “Sarah was open-minded in sharing her work, life and educational experiences with others through the learning process.”

Johnson, who codes emergency room records at Hendrick, said no two days are the same and credits TSTC’s instructors for preparing her for the daily challenge.

“I see a variety of charts,” she said. “My main focus is to make sure the information is coded correctly.”

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

Eight area TSTC students place at virtual SkillsUSA contest

(ABILENE, Texas) – Eight students from Texas State Technical College representing its West Texas campuses won medals at the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

The students earned five gold medals, one silver medal and four bronze medals. 

William Hancock earned gold medals in two events, Information Technology Services and Telecommunications Cabling. Victoria Jones earned a silver medal in Medical Math and a bronze in Medical Terminology.

Also earning gold medals were Rachel Bradshaw in First Aid/CPR, April Clark in Nurse Assisting, and Jerrod Doss in Internetworking. Bronze medals were awarded to Ashley Turnbow in Medical Math, Kerrie Helmuth in Nurse Assisting and Kaitlyn Mitchell in Job Interview.

Marchelle Taylor, TSTC’s West Texas SkillsUSA coordinator, said the students faced more of a challenge this year because of campuses being closed and the district conference being held virtually.

“It took flexibility on their part and extra work to prepare for the entire contest,” she said. “I am glad to have students at TSTC that worked together to continue to excel and participate in this excellent program.”

Bradshaw said competing online was “nerve-wracking.”

“I was more comfortable being able to do the written test from my home,” she said. “I hope the next time I compete it will be in person so we can show the judges what we know. It is always better to show your skills.”

Bradshaw, who is studying Nursing at the Breckenridge campus, said the competition will help her when she completes college.

“SkillsUSA will help you become a better employee and adult in general,” she said. “It has helped me to study more for my classes.”

Turnbow said knowing the contest would be online was not thrilling, but when it started, she changed her mind.

“It was both shocking and exciting,” she said of placing third. “Once I started taking the online test, it was an easy process.”

Turnbow, a Nursing student, said she plans to recommend that other students compete in SkillsUSA next year.

“This is a good program that will help you in your career. It is really good for resume building,” she said.

Helmuth was encouraged to participate by classmates and did not regret her decision. Even the online experience was beneficial.

“Once you completed the orientation, it was simple. I would do this again, but in person, preferably,” she said.

Helmuth, who is also a Nursing student, said competing taught her something she will carry over to her everyday life.

“I learned that no matter what the scenario is, I need to take the time to slow down and not hurry, no matter if it is at school, work or life,” she said.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.

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

Texas State Technical College student Ashley Turnbow won a bronze medal in Medical Math during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

Texas State Technical College student Kerrie Helmuth won a bronze medal in Nurse Assisting during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

Texas State Technical College student Rachel Bradshaw won a gold medal in First Aid/CPR during the 2020 SkillsUSA virtual conference meet.

TSTC Alumnus Strives for Excellence at Austin Company

(WACO, Texas) – Emory Sutton of Pflugerville took his appreciation for the environment and turned it into a satisfying career. 

Sutton is a safety and loss control specialist at Professional Contract Services Inc. in Austin. He began working at the nonprofit company in August 2018 during the same week he graduated from Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus.

His work involves making sure clients are meeting environmental and safety regulations.

Sutton’s work involves traveling a week each month to visit contractors’ clients. On some days he completes reports after making site visits, while other days are spent working on gathering bids for contracts.

“Every day is different,” he said. “It’s how I can assist my department in succeeding.”

Sutton said his motivation lies in his desire to be good at what he does.

“I like the feeling of succeeding,” he said. “I think of little things as succeeding. I like to get things done, doing a good job for the company and proving that I can do it.”

Sutton grew up in Granger and is a graduate of Granger High School. He attended a four-year university to study education to become a teacher, but he said after three-and-a-half years, he concluded the field was not for him.

Sutton has an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology from TSTC. He said Lester Bowers, an instructor in TSTC’s Environmental Technology program, influenced him to pick up the second associate degree.

“He was a very good student and always added relevant materials into class discussions,” Bowers said.

Sutton said TSTC provided him with a solid education because of its emphasis on hands-on learning.

“I preach technical schools since I have been at TSTC,” he said. “We need people to fill technical jobs in the nation.”

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

Army veteran aims to serve other veterans through education

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Former military intelligence analyst Vincent Rapp spent five years serving his country in the U.S. Army. The drive to continue giving back has never left him.

The Weatherford native is still serving, only in a different capacity. The 27-year-old is now a director in the Veteran Recruiting department at TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus. His mission these days may look a little different, inside an office, but the goal is still the same: have the backs of his fellow veterans.

“It’s my responsibility to help veterans come to TSTC in order to obtain a better life through education and career placement,” Rapp said.

While helping TSTC recruit more veterans is important, it is the success of students he sees on the job that is most fulfilling for him.

“I really enjoy seeing our students succeed,” he said. “I love seeing their hard work pay off, and I love being part of that process.”

The location of TSTC’s newest campus is also beneficial for prospective students.

“The rapid growth of the Fort Bend County campus and the community here make it a great place to get an education,” Rapp said. “Houston is one of the largest areas that has a high demand for technically and vocationally trained skill sets. The job demand for students who meet these requirements is bigger.”

TSTC is making use of social media’s popularity. Recently Rapp helped with a virtual visit that highlighted veteran resources available at the Fort Bend County campus. The visit can be seen on TSTC’s statewide Facebook page.

“We hope to use the virtual visits to attract more veterans and help them see that TSTC truly is a college with a student-first mindset.”

Despite having already created an impact through his time in the military, Rapp also aspires to make a difference at TSTC.

“I hope to bring a greater veteran presence,” he said. “I hope that I have a lasting impact with the students that I talk to, and I want to help this college be successful.”

To learn more about veteran resources provided at TSTC, visit tstc.edu/veterans. To watch the Facebook virtual visit, visit facebook.com/TSTCproud.


TSTC welding alum shares expertise with students

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Having earned his Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology and a certificate in Structural and Pipe Welding from Texas State Technical College in 2018, Juan Avila is now back at his alma mater, imparting his wisdom and expertise to the current cohort of welding students as a lab assistant.

“When I was younger, I didn’t know much about welding at all,” the San Benito native said. “As I got older, I knew that I wanted to learn a trade that will always be in high demand.”

It only took one visit to campus to convince Avila that TSTC was where he belonged.

“I decided to take a tour of the welding facility at TSTC and was immediately hooked,” he said. “As soon as the tour was over, I registered for classes.”

Earlier this month, a small number of students were able to return to TSTC, in accordance with Gov. Abbott’s executive order and authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, to finish lab hours required prior to graduation, something that Avila said students welcomed.

“Our students were so excited when they were contacted about their return to campus,” Avila said. “Being able to get them back in the (welding) booths and back to work is essential for their educational training.”

Aside from the hands-on learning environment, one of Avila’s favorite things about working as a lab assistant is seeing the progression in knowledge that welding students learn from beginning to end.

“Being able to see the progress that they make throughout their time in the program is something I really enjoy,” he said. “Comparing how they first start off, to them being well-rounded welders as they get further into the program, is great.”

Avila stressed that TSTC’s goal is to prepare students for rewarding careers.

“We guide our students to become well-rounded in their craft,” he said. “Welding is a great career and will continue to be in high demand. I believe this trade is going to be around for a very long while. We’re building America one weld at a time.”

To learn more about TSTC’s Welding Technology program, visit tstc.edu/programs/WeldingTechnology.