TSTC Student Back in Class after Two Decades

(HARLINGEN) – The last time Patricia Aranda was in a classroom was nearly two decades ago, but she is back at Texas State Technical College to start her new career in the Medical Information Transcription field.

The Harlingen native will be graduating with her certificate during TSTC’s commencement ceremony later this month.

“I’m so excited to put on that cap and gown,” she said. “I’ve truly found my passion.”

The 45-year-old’s love for the health profession has grown through the years beginning in 1996 when she earned her certificate in Emergency Medical Services as an intermediate emergency medical technician.

“I’ve always had a love for the medical field,” said Aranda. “And now that my kids are grown it was time to pursue a new career.”

Aranda was a stay-at-home mom for the first years of her children’s lives until she walked the halls with them at a local elementary school as a paraprofessional, only holding a couple of secretarial jobs before that.Patricia Aranda

Most recently, she was her granddaughter’s primary caretaker.

“Because I had to learn so much about my granddaughter’s health, my passion for the medical field was reborn after several years away,” she said. “And TSTC makes it easy for someone like me to get an education and find a new career.”

The mother of four and grandmother of eight said she has had the greatest experience coming back to school. She added that she loves her classes, instructors, labs and practicum site: Golden Palms Retirement Center and Healthcare in Harlingen.

“Everything we learned in the classroom went hand-in-hand with what we did in the field,” said Aranda. “I was able to use everything taught to me in the classroom to be successful during my practicum.”

She credits TSTC’s Medical Information Transcription Department Chair Debbie Woods and program instructor Jenny Delgado with having a large influence on her success.

“They’re both great instructors and motivators,” she said. “They give us a chance to learn and be somebody by supporting us the entire way.”

It is both their teaching that Aranda said she aspires to someday. She hopes she can be a medical and health information instructor in the future to help others like her. In the meantime, she will be returning to TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Health Information Technology and returning to the medical office setting.

Students like Aranda who enroll in Medical Information Transcription can earn their certificate in three semesters and after successfully completing their practicum course.

Graduates of this program are trained in numerous positions such as assembly clerk, outpatient coder, processing specialist, medical receptionist, billing specialist and medical transcriptionist.

Woods said that the demand for skilled workers in this field is high and the need keeps growing.

“We have a 90 to 100 percent placement rate in our program,” said Woods. “Many of our students are placed in good-paying jobs and have the opportunity to grow within the field.”

There are many career opportunities available for graduates from this program. They can work in hospitals, physician offices, long-term care facilities, behavioral health facilities, schools, insurance companies and even from home.

Woods said they encourage students who are interested in this field to begin in Medical Information Transcription to build a strong foundation before pursuing Health Information Technology, which focuses more on the managerial side of the medical office industry.

“Most of our students come back to health information,” said Woods. “But because they are graduates from our medical information program they have their foot in the door and a better understanding of what is needed and trending in the field.”

To register or for more information on Medical Information Transcription visit tstc.edu. The last day to register is August 21.

TSTC Surgical Tech Students Celebrate Success

(HARLINGEN) – It was already a big night for Itati Fernandez who was celebrating the completion of the Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology program with her 12 other peers. But it became a night to remember when she was unexpectedly named program valedictorian because of her 3.6 GPA.

“I didn’t even know valedictorian was a thing in college,” Fernandez said with a laugh. “I was so surprised. It was a very emotional time for me. I couldn’t be happier.”

With tear-filled eyes Fernandez stood in front of a full auditorium to thank her instructors, classmates and family for the support she got throughout the program.

“There were many occasions where I wanted to give up. It was so hard,” she said. “But everyone kept me motivated and didn’t let me give up. This is the first of many more accomplishments.”

The 22-year-old has a job offer at Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen as a surgical technologist pending a passing score on her certifying exam.

She will also be continuing her education at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology with the goal of being accepted into the university’s physician assistant master’s program.

Nancy Garcia, Fernandez’s mother, said she couldn’t be prouder of her daughter’s accomplishments and drive to succeed.

“I call this her short-term goal and I knew she could reach it,” said Garcia. “I’m so happy right now and so proud of my daughter. I know this is only the beginning.”

TSTC Surgical Technology lead instructor Anna San Pedro called this an impressive achievement considering the intensity and difficulty of the surgical technology curriculum.

“The work ethic and discipline that she displayed while in the program was the winning formula to her success,” said San Pedro. “The faculty and I are confident that she will continue to find success in all future endeavors and will be an asset to the industry of Surgical Technology.”

The pinning ceremony also included the presentation of pins and Surgical Technology graduates taking the Surgical Technologist Pledge, the presentation of the Preceptor of the Year award to Gina Tijerina from McAllen Medical Center and a message from guest speaker, pharmacist and TSTC alumnus Michael Muniz.

Muniz graduated from Surgical Technology in 2004 also top of his class and is a now a pharmacist at family-owned Muniz Rio Grande Pharmacy in Harlingen. He said TSTC will always have a special place in heart.

“TSTC gave me the foundation I needed and it’s great to be back as a speaker and I hope I can become a mentor for these students and future generations of surgical technologists,” said Muniz. “And my hope for these students is that they continue learning and stay goal-oriented.”

Robert Sanchez, TSTC Surgical Technology program director, left his graduates with one final note at the end of the event.

“Your future will be determined by the opportunities that you encounter and how you are able to embrace them,” he said. “You have your career in your hands, how you work with it and pursue your dream is up to you.”

“Congratulations,” he added. “Be the best technologist you can be and always be a patient advocate.”

For more information on Surgical Technology or to register visit tstc.edu. The last to day to register is August 21.

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Nicholas “Nick” Trevino is an Aviation Maintenance major at Texas State Technical College. He will receive his associate degree in Aviation Maintenance-Airframe in December 2017 and will return to pursue a second associate degree in Aviation Maintenance-Powerplant.Nicholas Trevino

The Kingsville native currently boasts a 3.7 grade-point average and is employed as a works study with the Talent Management and Career Services office.

The 22-year-old said after nearly four years in the oil and gas industry it feels good to be back in school following a career path and added that it was his uncle, also a TSTC alumnus, whose advice played a huge part in his return.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I hope to start my career at L3 Technologies in Kingsville, a contractor in aerospace systems, security and detection systems and pilot training used by military, homeland security and comer platforms. I also plan on returning to TSTC to pursue an associate degree in Welding Technology.

What’s your dream job?                           

My dream job is to work with L3. In addition to its great benefits, the company offers travel opportunities with its locations spanning across the United States and internationally. There is also room to grow my career and grow as a professional within the company.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment at TSTC has been finding my path, establishing career goals and maintaining my grades. It’s makes me proud knowing I can call my mom at any time and share my test scores and grades with her and know that I make her proud too.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned that while we can make plans, life will always throw a curve ball and nothing will go as planned. So I’ve learned to go with the flow and learn from my mistakes and experiences.

Who at TSTC has had a large influence on your success?

The people who have had the largest influence on my success are my peers, the people I’ve met in class. We all have a group chat going and remind each other about homework, due dates, tests and form study groups. Not only do we get our work done, but we also have fun outside of the classroom as friends.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

I advise students to always go for the goal. If you have a dream, like I did about coming back to school, but it seems impossible, try it anyways. And remember, everything is possible because the people here at TSTC are always willing to help you and they want to see you succeed.

Manufacturing Consortium Partners with TSTC for $293,211 Job-Training Grant

(TEMPLE) — Texas State Technical College has partnered with a manufacturing consortium including The Butler Weldments Corp., Reynolds Consumer Products LLC and Temple Bottling Co. to train 130 new and incumbent workers using a $293,211 Skills Development Fund grant.

Texas Workforce Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez presented the check to officials from TSTC, Butler Weldments, Reynolds Consumer Products and Temple Bottling Co. at an 11 a.m. ceremony today at the Temple Economic Development Corporation’s Board Room.

Steven Dobos, president of Butler Weldments, said the company is excited to get more training for employees.

“It’s a win-win for everybody involved,” Dobos said. “Skilled labor has been very difficult to find lately. What better way to bring about a solution for us than customized in-house training for our employees. It’s a phenomenal thing to do.”

Kyle Butler, plant operations manager at Temple Bottling Co., agreed.

“Our employees are primarily unskilled and this is going to go a long way,” he said.

Rick Villa, plant manager of Reynolds Consumer Products, said they’ve tried several other training programs, but they didn’t work for the company.

“This is the first program that we’ve really been able to lock our teeth into,” Villa said. “We’re training our operators to become mechanics, our mechanics to become electricians, and taking our electrical skills up in the plant. You need to bring those skills along if you want to be successful.”

Commissioner Alvarez said the training provided is necessary with changing technology.

“Each person that spoke today mentioned that skills have changed,” Alvarez said. “The face of manufacturing has changed. We’re talking about technology and terminology that didn’t exist before. It’s changed. Times have changed and the folks on the receiving end of this grant know that the change is coming. And so, the fact that they’re talking about keeping up their skills and keeping up with today’s technology says a lot.”

Charley Ayres, vice president of the Temple Economic Development Corporation, said the grant speaks to the sense of community in the area.

“It’s exciting to know that this grant doesn’t just involve Temple companies, it also involves our neighbors in Cameron,” Ayres said. “We work together very closely to try to make our businesses more successful. We understand that what happens in Cameron makes Temple better. That workforce makes us all stronger in our region.

The Skills Development Fund is one of the state’s premier job-training programs, keeping Texas competitive with a skilled workforce. Commissioner Alvarez said the grant would have an overall impact of $4 million.

Workers trained will include 35 new hires, and 95 jobs will be upgraded. Workers will be from Temple-area plants and will be trained in the areas of production, maintenance, mechanical and support occupations. Trainees will include machinists, maintenance technicians and production workers, and training will be provided by TSTC instructors. After completing the training, workers will receive an average hourly wage of $20.90.

For more information on TSTC’s workforce training, visit tstc.edu.

New Online Bookstore Debuts at TSTC’s Campuses in North Texas and Fort Bend County

(RED OAK) – A new online bookstore for Texas State Technical College’s North Texas and Fort Bend County campuses opened earlier this month.

This marks the first time students will have direct access to buy textbooks and not have to order from other campuses.

“This is huge for us,” said Stephen Pape, director of student learning at TSTC in North Texas. “It enables the students to get their books early so they don’t have to wait. The online bookstore gives them a choice of shipping to their home or to the campus where they can be picked up.”

Current and newly registered students can access the bookstore through the technical college’s internal portal. The first visit will enable the student to input their identification number and create a password for later visits.

“The bookstore will recognize them as students and check their schedule for the classes they signed up for,” said Pape. “The bookstore will know what books they need when they log in. The students can order books or they can check the prices for books.”

The online bookstore will give students information on how much of their financial aid money is available to spend on textbooks and automatically deduct it.

Students at the Fort Bend County campus will follow the same steps to access and purchase from the online bookstore. Arturo Solano, bookstore manager at TSTC in Harlingen, worked on planning Fort Bend County’s online offering and said the technical college is adapting to the latest trends in providing sourced materials for students.

“TSTC partnered with Ambassador Education Solutions, which will be distributing all the required course materials straight from their warehouse while at the same time providing students with a custom website tailored to their campus,” Solano said.

Planning for the new initiative began a year ago with financial aid, bookstore, information technology and student learning staff on multiple campuses working together.

“The major reason for the online store was to provide better service to the students,” said Greg Guercio, vice president of retail operations at TSTC in Waco.

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


Area Technology Consortium Gives to TSTC Scholarship

(WACO) – The Central Texas Education Network, a regional technology consortium that included school districts, hospitals, libraries and Texas State Technical College, recently donated $93,000 to the Lynn R. Francis Memorial Scholarship.

CTEN, which was created in 1994, is disbanding and used remaining operating funds to make the gift to the longtime TSTC scholarship.

“Connectivity could not have helped without TSTC and Lynn,” said Marlene Zipperlen, CTEN’s chairwoman. “It was a collaboration when there weren’t a lot of collaborations going on.”

The scholarship honors the life of Lynn R. Francis, TSTC’s director of network services, who died in a motorcycle accident on Feb. 25, 2001. The scholarship will be available for awarding in fall 2018 for graduating high school seniors in the Axtell, Bruceville-Eddy, Cameron, China Spring, Gholson, Itasca, Mexia and West school districts planning to attend TSTC in Waco, said Karen Beach, director of donor retention for The TSTC Foundation. Students whose parents work for the Hillcrest Baylor Scott and White Hospital, Falls Community Hospital, the Waco-McLennan County Library and the Hillsboro City Library are also eligible, according to information from The TSTC Foundation.

Francis was instrumental in developing the technical college’s networks for interactive video, telephones and fiber-optic campus data.

“In the early ‘90s, then-president Don Goodwin called on Lynn Francis, the CMT (Computer Maintenance Technology) graduate and instructor, to develop the TSTC computer network to create a unified system to replace the piecemeal chaos that separated campus PCs,” according to the March 15, 2001 edition of the Tech Times.

Francis grew up during TSTC’s early days as the James Connally Technical Institute as his parents were part of the faculty. He received an associate degree in computer maintenance technology from Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC) in 1987.

Francis was an avid motorcyclist.

“From bikes to bikers, and everyone in between, the people who will miss the soft-spoken, Harley-riding TSTC instructor and director spread from Waco to Denver, Little Rock to San Francisco … and beyond,” according to the Tech Times.

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

Detention Training Officer Follows Technology Curiosity to Pursue TSTC Degree

(RED OAK) – April Smith of Wylie credits actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie for inspiring her to study cyber security.

Smith said as a teenager she watched “Hackers,” a 1995 movie starring Jolie in which the main characters create a technological virus and hack into computer systems.

“I chose cyber security because I have always been intrigued by the ability of technology,” said Smith, 36. “I was in awe of the movie. Computers, video games and art are all of my passions and technology rolls them all into one.”

Smith took her passion and used it to work toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cyber Security at Texas State Technical College in North Texas in Red Oak. She is a candidate to receive the degree at TSTC’s Summer 2017 Commencement on Aug. 18 in Waco.

“In some of my classes I was the only female, but that didn’t prevent the camaraderie of us pulling together and learning,” Smith said.

Smith’s academic work also earned her the Provost’s Award.

“I was blown away and felt so much gratitude,” she said. “I was floored really and so happy that I could share the surprise with my family, who have supported me throughout it all. My hard work and dedication paid off and I am still in the clouds about it all.”

TSTC Provost Marcus Balch said he selected Smith because she attended classes and works at the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department as a detention training officer. She has been at the sheriff’s department for a decade.

“Her job doesn’t provide a lot of flexibility, yet she has overcome the odds,” Balch said. “She also has a positive outlook and is excited about the possibilities that the future holds for her. She is just a good solid example of a hard-working TSTC student.”

Besides her work schedule and balancing her study and family time, Smith said her other challenges involved her parents each dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

“It was difficult not knowing the outcome of their situations while attending classes,” she said. “Thankfully, they were stronger than the disease and are here with me now to celebrate.”

Smith recommended that females interested in technology pursue cyber security.

“Allow your dreams to become reality and make a mark on the world,” she said. “Explore all possibilities and interests. Everyone has something to offer, and that one thing may change everything about technology.”

Smith grew up in Wilmot, Arkansas, and graduated in 1999 from Hamburg High School in Hamburg, Arkansas.

She was in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Mississippi and Germany.

Smith plans to study information technology after graduating from TSTC.

“I hope my career in information technology allows me to find a great company to work for so that I can grow as an individual and a colleague,” she said.

TSTC’s Summer 2017 Commencement will include graduates from the North Texas, Waco and Williamson County campuses. The ceremony will be at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18 at the Waco Convention Center at 100 Washington Ave.

For more information about TSTC’s statewide commencement ceremonies, go to tstc.edu/about/graduation.

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

Student Success Profile – Ivette Cruz

(HARLINGEN) – Ivette CruzIvette Cruz is a biology student at Texas State Technical College and expects to complete her courses in Fall 2017.

When the Texas transplant from Brooklyn, New York, is not busy studying and maintaining her 3.7 grade-point average, she is volunteering with the TSTC Veteran Students Alliance Club and spending time with her six-year-old son.

The 24-year-old said it has been seven years since she graduated from high school, but she decided there was no time better than the present to return to college and begin working on a degree to give her son a more stable life and herself a secure career.

What are your plans after graduation?

After completing my biology courses, I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue vocational and registered nursing. I then hope to get a position at a local hospital while pursuing my bachelor’s degree in nursing at a local university.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to work in obstetrics as a nurse practitioner or become a midwife. I’m intrigued with pregnancy and babies, and I feel this is my calling.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

I’m a first-generation college student, so just returning is an accomplishment in itself. Also, getting a 4.0 my first semester and maintaining a good GPA so far is great. My boyfriend and family have a lot to do with this success. They continually push me to keep going and help me with my son.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned that everything is possible as long as you set your mind to it. I also always remember never to settle, always make new goals and pursue them until you reach them. TSTC is helping me achieve that right now.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

I would have to say that the Veteran Center and all of my classmates have had a huge influence on my success. They’re always there when I need help or need a friend to talk to.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

Cliche I know, but never give up, strive for success and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

TSTC Instructor by Day, Nurse by Night for 35 Years

(HARLINGEN) – Over the past 35 years, Surgical Technology Program Director Robert Sanchez has inspired learning and growth among his students and colleagues at Texas State Technical College.

It is for this devotion and dedication that he was recently given a Service Award during TSTC’s Employee Appreciation Day.

“My time at TSTC has been excellent,” he said. “I love seeing young adults find success and grow within the medical profession.”

With nearly 50 years of experience in his field, the Rio Grande City native has enjoyed sharing his know-how with his students since 1981.

But before this, Sanchez was a student himself. He graduated in 1969 from one of only two surgical technology classes hosted by Valley Baptist Medical Center and became a certified surgical technologist in 1970.

He went on to receive his associate degree in nursing from Texas Southmost College in 1978 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1989.Robert Sanchez

“The field has definitely changed and seen lots of advancements over the years,” said Sanchez. “I’ve had to adapt to be the best instructor I can be for each generation of students.”

Sanchez, who is also an Army Reserve veteran, has seen these changes firsthand as an operating room attendant, a surgical technologist, a registered nurse and an instructor.

For the last three and a half decades, Sanchez has been an instructor at TSTC by day and a nurse in the operating room by night at Valley Baptist Medical Center, where he is pro re nata or PRN, meaning he works as needed.

“The surgical environment is in my blood,” said Sanchez. “I love knowing that I can help make a difference in someone’s life and get them back on their feet and back to good health.”

So, as one can imagine, Sanchez was nervous making the transition to the classroom as an instructor. But according to one former student and current colleague, it was the best decision he could have made.

Former Surgical Technology student and TSTC Surgical Technology Senior Instructor Anna San Pedro said she calls Sanchez her teacher, boss and big brother. She also said she considers him one of her best friends.

“As an instructor, he was challenging and always demanded the best from me and my peers,” she recalled. “He always made sure that we were prepared and focused or we would be sent home until we were ready to learn.”

She added that it was his discipline and strict ways that influenced her success in a large way.

“He has been the greatest influence in my studies and profession. He sets the bar high for everybody,” said San Pedro. “It’s been great having a teacher and a boss who is engaging, makes work fun and allows me to grow. I tell him he can never retire.”

Sanchez said sooner or later he will retire to do some traveling and spend time with his children and grandkids, but he will take with him the most rewarding part of his job, and that is seeing his students, like San Pedro, succeed.

“TSTC is a great place to work. It has given me the opportunity to help shape lives,” he said. “From supportive administrators to colleagues that become family, it has all been possible and that’s because this was the best career move for me.”

TSTC Vocational Nursing Graduates Celebrated

(HARLINGEN) – Family and friends gathered at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center recently to honor and celebrate their loved ones’ success during the annual TSTC Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony.

“This is a special night full of tradition,” said Nicki Cone, TSTC vice president of Instructional Support. “I commend these students for choosing the profession of caring for others. And on behalf of the TSTC administration, we want to thank these students for everything they do and will do.”

The Vocational Nursing Pinning Ceremony is held twice a year during the fall and summer semesters and is described by TSTC Vocational Nursing Program Director Adriana Hinojosa-Vassberg as the rite of passage into the profession.

“Tonight we passed the light of knowledge to our graduate nurses,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “And we capped them and pinned them, which symbolizes the helmet and shield they need as they enter into a battle of fighting illness and caring for patients.”

This semester 16 graduate nurses were presented with their pins and caps. These same students will also graduate from TSTC later this month during the college’s commencement ceremony.

“We have endured and conquered the challenges of this program and of life,” said class valedictorian Sylvia Espinosa during her address. “Nursing is like riding a bike — except the bike and everything around you is on fire.”TSTC Vocational Nursing Graduates

Espinosa ended her speech with a huge thank you to her instructor, classmates, and friends and family.

“There’s a special bond that this class shares,” she said. “Along with the support from instructors and my family, this is what helped me get through nursing school.”

Salutatorian Miranda Rodriguez shared the same sentiment.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rodriguez. “But all of this was only achievable because of the support from my classmates, instructors and especially my family. This is as much your celebration as it is ours.”

For many, however, the light at the end of the tunnel is really a new beginning. When TSTC’s registered nursing program begins in the fall, some of the students will be returning to earn an associate degree in nursing, a path that is all too familiar to guest speaker, registered nurse and TSTC alumna Sarah Rodriguez.

“Welcome to the fellowship of nurses. We are an elite association who have and will dedicate our lives to others,” Rodriguez told the graduates. “But it’s also the time to become lifelong learners. Don’t let the momentum stop. Celebrate your achievement tonight, but expand your knowledge beginning tomorrow.”

Rodriguez is from the TSTC vocational nursing class of 2012. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2014 and currently is working on her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. She is employed with Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco.

The capping and pinning ceremony also included a candle lighting ceremony, the reading of the nursing Nightingale Pledge, a presentation of Vocational Nursing Club officer awards, and special recognitions for the class’ top students.

“I’m so proud of my students, and I’m honored to be celebrating them tonight,” said Hinojosa-Vassberg. “This is a challenging career, but they have all worked very hard to get to where they are today.”

For more information on TSTC’s Vocational and Registered Nursing programs, visit tstc.edu.