TSTC student follows family tradition of entering medical field

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Seth Johnston is following other members of his family’s career path into the medical field.

The 18-year-old is a first-year student in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services program. Johnston plans to join his mother, who is a registered nurse, father, a computerized tomography technician, and brother, an X-ray technician, in the field of medicine.

“I decided to follow in their footsteps,” he said. “They were really excited for me when I told them I was going to go to school.”

He chose the EMS route after a family member was injured.

“I decided on EMS because my cousin was in a car accident after football practice and they transported him to the hospital,” Johnston said. “I really caught on to what they were doing to help him and decided I wanted to do the same for others.”

He plans to further his education at TSTC by completing the paramedic program after the emergency medical technician certification.

Johnston admitted he did not know what to expect when beginning classes this fall.

“I was in awe when I saw the ambulance simulator,” he said. “I am ready to train in the simulator.”

Johnston said he is looking forward to the portion of the program where he will ride with paramedics in the field.

“I know there will be some anxiety and scary parts to see,” he said. “But it will be interesting to see how things are done in the field.”

Johnston said the hands-on approach is the best way he can take in information.

“I like to see something get done, and then I can get with it,” he said.

Being the youngest member of the class does not stop him from doing his best.

“It is a great environment to work in. My classmates pick me up when they see I am having a bad day,” Johnston said. “I feel included in everything we do. When someone else is down, I am right there to pick them up. Everyone in our class is a team.”

Johnston also said the instructors play an important role in the learning environment.

“They push all of us to do our best. They are always by your side, making sure you know what to do,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Aims to Guide Johnson County Graduates Into Technical Careers

(RED OAK, Texas) – Some Johnson County college students are looking to Texas State Technical College to shape their futures. During the fall semester, more than 60 county residents are attending TSTC’s campuses in North Texas, Marshall, Sweetwater and Waco.

“The hiring potential in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Ellis County and Johnson County areas is increasing as the economy opens back up,” said Lyle Guinn, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program at the North Texas campus. “The older generation is retiring, and companies are looking for competent, qualified people to fill the void left by those retirements.”

TSTC is viewed as an asset for Cleburne’s economic development. 

“It certainly helps as a recruiting tool when we recruit a new manufacturing or industrial business in Cleburne that is looking for a highly skilled workforce,” said Grady Easdon, the city of Cleburne’s economic development manager. “It is an outstanding recruiting tool for us.”

Triangle Pump Components Inc. in Cleburne gets less than three-quarters of its business from petroleum-based customers. The majority of the company’s employees are machinists, said Sam Kelton, Triangle’s vice president and general manager.

“Machinists with the skill set and experience we look for were more difficult to find before the pandemic,” Kelton said. “Since the pandemic started, many DFW-area companies that employ machinists have experienced layoffs.”

Kelton said machinists need good computer programming, mathematics and spatial reasoning skills.

“The job is both challenging and interesting,” he said. “Machinists are usually very intelligent and creative thinkers. Machining work will hold one’s interest and be motivating at the same time, while being hands-on at the same time.”

Kelton said he is confident the demand for future machinists will grow in the future but more people need to pursue the industry.

“Our business is structured to withstand the volatile swings in the oil industry,” he said. “The pandemic added an additional challenge we have not seen before. Businesses must be more creative and adaptable now than anytime I have seen in over 40 years of management.”

Sachem Inc., which is headquartered in Austin and has a facility in Cleburne, is a private chemical science company specializing in high-performance and high-purity products and services for the agrochemical, biotechnology, oil field and pharmaceutical industries.

Katie Cash, the company’s senior human resources manager in Austin, said the company frequently hires chemical operators on a temp-to-hire basis.

“We are a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week facility, and the production department where this role is works on a rotating swing shift, which is a mix of days and nights,” Cash said. “It can be a challenge to find individuals who can work this type of schedule. Some love it because it affords a string of days off on a regular basis. The operator, who technically starts as a packager, is involved in filling totes of product, monitoring tanks and processes, and preparing the product for shipping.”

Cash said the company also occasionally has maintenance and shipping jobs to fill.

“We tend to hire applicants who have some work experience in manufacturing environments. Some have forklift experience but are willing to train if not, and all have energy, drive and motivation and are reliable to come to work on time,” she said.

For Cleburne to have the workers for the future, students need to be inspired now.

Eighth grade students in the Cleburne Independent School District take a college and career readiness course in which they build a personal graduation plan for high school.

“The sooner we can get laser-focused toward a pathway, it shows graduation rates are higher and dropout rates are lower,” said Mark McClure, the Cleburne school district’s career and technical education director. 

Cleburne’s high school students in the health science pathway have the opportunity to earn pharmacy technician or registered dental assistant certifications, while students in the diesel technician program do internships at local businesses before they graduate.

“What we are doing is forecasting future jobs,” McClure said. “They say about 75 percent of the jobs today’s third graders will have haven’t even been invented yet.”

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

Red Oak IDC provides scholarship opportunity to TSTC

(RED OAK, Texas) – A new scholarship is available for students living in Red Oak and who are planning to attend Texas State Technical College’s North Texas campus.

The Red Oak Industrial Development Corp. board of directors recently approved a resolution donating funds to TSTC’s Red Oak IDC scholarship. Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded to students.

“The Red Oak IDC Scholarship available at TSTC will provide financial assistance to our students for attaining upward mobility and improve the quality of life for our students and their families,” said Lee McCleary, economic development director for the city of Red Oak. 

“In addition, the TSTC North Texas campus provides our students the opportunity to receive state-of-the-art higher education technical and vocational workforce training in Red Oak so they may be better prepared for success well into the future,” he said.

Rusty Hicks, TSTC’s corporate development officer, said the gift will help Red Oak’s workforce.

“We are excited to receive this type of commitment,” he said. “Not only will we have students coming to our North Texas campus, but it will get them back into the Red Oak workforce.”

The scholarship will be available to students living within Red Oak’s city limits and may be used for TSTC school-related expenses. Recipients must attend the North Texas campus to be eligible.

Recipients may be traditional or nontraditional students and attend school on a full-time or part-time basis. The scholarship is open to new and current students, and all students must be in good academic and behavioral standing to be eligible.

The college’s staff will award the scholarship, which may be presented to recipients in multiple semesters. 

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

City of Red Oak and TSTC officials signed an agreement to provide scholarship opportunities to Red Oak residents. Pictured from left to right are Rusty Hicks, TSTC’s corporate development officer; Lee McCleary, Red Oak’s director of economic development; Ben Goodwyn, president of the Red Oak Industrial Development Corp. board; Jessica Toney, chair of The TSTC Foundation board; Beth Wooten, CEO of The TSTC Foundation; Dr. Mark Stanfill, Red Oak’s mayor; and Marcus Balch, provost of TSTC’s North Texas campus. (Photo: TSTC)

TSTC student not letting setback stand in his way

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Like many people, Wesley Kite did not let a work layoff stand in his way.

Kite enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program this fall to increase his “workmanship.” The Brownwood native has stayed in touch with his former employer, saying his prospects of being rehired after completing the program are “looking good.”

“I was originally a machinist, but with COVID, I was laid off,” he said. “I always wanted to do some welding. I am working toward improving my workmanship for possible jobs.”

He has continued to talk to his former employer, specifically to tell them he is in school broadening his resume.

“They like that I am in school right now,” he said, adding he was let go because production slowed at his former company.

Kite said he enrolled in TSTC 10 years ago, studying Mechatronics Technology. Even though he did not finish the program, he knew the college had a respected welding program that provided hands-on learning.

“The hands-on approach is great. I learn better by doing things,” he said of the three days students are able to spend socially distanced in the lab.

He credits new instructor Daniel Aguirre with helping him and other students learn proper welding techniques.

“He will sit right there and tell you how you are doing things wrong,” Kite said. “He is good about letting you know how to do things.”

Kite said he is working on obtaining a certificate in the program, but is leaving his options open.

“I may look to come back and finish the associate program,” he said. “I know TSTC offers a good education, and it is here in my hometown.”

With experience in machinery, Kite said welding could become a new career opportunity.

“This is something I like to do. I can see myself doing this for a long time,” he said.

He recommends that people look at the different programs offered by TSTC.

“This is a really good college and offers a lot of options for people,” he said. “I like it so much I keep coming back.”

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

Longtime employee knows importance of TSTC

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Joni Coons knows how important Texas State Technical College is to West Texas and beyond.

Coons was recently honored for 30 years of service to TSTC, but her time with the college goes back even further.

While serving as a secretary for an ambulance company in Ballinger, Coons was asked to help on a call.

“I knew after that first ambulance run I wanted to do this for a living,” she said.

In order to become a paramedic, Coons knew that college would be in her future. She enrolled in the Emergency Medical Services program that was offered at TSTC in Sweetwater. She served as a lab assistant, and after graduating she became an instructor in the program. 

She later served as the EMS program chair for the West Texas campuses, and when the program transitioned to Abilene, Coons worked as the Sweetwater campus nurse.

Eventually Coons became coordinator of intramural programs at TSTC’s Student Center.

“Every one of my positions was a stepping stone to the next,” she said. “I knew I would do better in my next position.”

In addition to working at TSTC, Coons is an American Heart Association licensed first aid and CPR instructor.

Coons said her biggest accomplishment was helping TSTC become one of the first colleges to own a fully operational ambulance for the EMS department in the mid-1990s.

“Our program chair at the time, C.L. Meeks, told me to go for it. So I wrote up the proposal, and we got it,” she said.

Coons is most proud of her time as an instructor and helping students succeed.

“I am proud of what TSTC stands for and all of the students we have helped through the years,” she said.

She stays in contact with many of her former students, including a single mother who was in an abusive relationship.

“Everything was going against her. We got her into counseling and helped with expenses for child care,” Coons said. “We even helped her get food stamps.”

Coons said the student worked hard to achieve her goal of graduating and getting a job.

“She came in at the end of her final semester and said, ‘I have something for you,’” Coons said. “She slid her food stamp to me and said, ‘This is the last one of these I want to see.’ I still hear from her today, and she is a successful EMT.”

Coons said some TSTC students have played important roles outside of Texas. One of her former students helped victims at the Alfred P. Murrah Building explosion in Oklahoma City, and another graduate helped counsel people in New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We have had a nationwide impact with our students,” she said. “Watching the professionalism of our students and graduates gives me the greatest joy.”

 For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Alum’s Dream Lives on at TSTC

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College now has a tangible reminder of an alumnus, thanks to a generous gift.

 Rick Berry had a heart as big as the outdoors, where he loved to hunt and fish.

 The resident of Carthage, Texas, grew up traveling throughout Greece and the Middle East with his father, who was in the oil industry, and graduated from the American School in Aberdeen, Scotland.

 Eventually Berry found his way to TSTC’s Marshall campus, where in 2009 he earned associate degrees in Computer Aided Drafting and Computer Aided Manufacturing.

 Later he dreamed of opening his own firearms manufacturing facility. Among his purchases for the nascent business was a Gunsmithing Gearhead Lathe made by Grizzly Industrial Inc.

 But soon his dream began to fade.

 “Before he was able to start his business, he started getting sick,” said his wife, Sarah.

 Berry died in 2018 at just 51 years of age.

 Sarah Berry began looking for a new home for the lathe, which was valued at nearly $6,000 and still in its original carton.

 “After he passed away and we had to move, I had no place to put it,” she said.

 Her thoughts turned to TSTC. She worked with Blake Cox, The TSTC Foundation’s field development officer for East Texas, to donate the lathe to the college.

 “It is a huge help to the program in what we are doing and trying to be as safe as we can,” Cox said. “It is an extra piece of equipment that will serve a great purpose. We want to let (the Berry family) know we are very grateful for this.”

 Danny Nixon, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, taught Berry and admired his intellect.

 “He was a big guy, and he was a teddy bear when it came to getting to know him,” Nixon said. “He had a generous heart.”

 The program’s faculty will use the lathe in manual machining classes, Nixon said. He added that the lathe means more students can take classes.

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

Phillips 66 donation provides TSTC students with scholarship opportunities

(WACO, Texas) – Students from Texas State Technical College campuses across the state can take advantage of scholarship funds donated by energy company Phillips 66.

The TSTC Foundation was recently awarded $50,000 from Phillips 66 to assist students with scholarships and student aid funds. 

The Phillips 66 scholarship is an example of an ideal partnership with TSTC because it provides students with financial opportunities to lessen the financial burden of college tuition,” said Beth Wooten, chief executive officer of The TSTC Foundation. “Because of their investment in TSTC and our students, we are able to fulfill our promise to provide Texas with a highly skilled workforce. We are incredibly thankful to Phillips 66.”

Since 2018, more than 30 TSTC students have been awarded these scholarships.

“We recognize this is a trying time for our college partners, and Phillips 66 remains a proud and committed partner to TSTC,” said Leigh Harris, talent acquisition manager at Phillips 66. “We hope that our contribution for the 2020-21 academic year will continue supporting our shared vision of building an inclusive and diverse community that inspires innovation to provide energy and improve lives.”

The scholarships help students in programs that include Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, Industrial Systems, and Instrumentation Technology.

Diesel Equipment Technology is available at the Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses. Different educational opportunities are available to students and vary by campus. Students have access to labs to work on vehicles that will prepare them for the workforce.

The Electrical Power and Controls program is offered at the Abilene, Fort Bend County, North Texas and Waco campuses. It is the only two-year Associate of Applied Science degree program in Texas specifically focused on the many aspects of electrical power technology.

Industrial Systems is available at the Abilene, East Williamson County, Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, and Waco campuses. Students learn industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, and diagnostic techniques, and they work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers, and other equipment.

The Waco campus offers Instrumentation Technology. Students are trained on everything from basic electronics to programmable logic controllers.

 For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Industry Job Fair is going virtual

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students will meet potential employers virtually on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Due to COVID-19 recommendations covering social distancing, TSTC will host its annual Industry Job Fair virtually this year. More than 100 businesses will have representatives available to meet with TSTC students statewide.

Six West Texas companies are among those scheduled to have representatives available. They are Bruner Motors in Stephenville, Cogdell Memorial Hospital in Snyder, Eastland Memorial Hospital, Hendrick Health System in Abilene, Ludlum Measurements in Sweetwater and Mesa Springs Mental Health in Abilene.

Students will have access to a variety of companies, including health care, construction, engineering firms, public entities and utility companies.

With the job fair going virtual, West Texas students will have more opportunities to meet prospective employers, said Julia Humphrey, director of TSTC Career Services.

“One of our disadvantages in West Texas is we are so spread out. Being able to do our job fair virtually will eliminate that distance,” she said. 

In addition to Texas, companies from California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon will be available to speak with students.

Humphrey said current students are training on how to access the fair through their computers, as well as updating resumes. Career services representatives are also helping students with interview skills.

“We are getting the students ready to enter the workforce,” Humphrey said. “The companies are excited to be part of this virtual experience, and so are the students.”

This is the first time TSTC has held the event virtually. In the past, company officials set up booths in the Student Center on the Sweetwater campus. Humphrey said with the virtual event, students may visit with potential employers anytime during the fair.

“We want them to be successful with the process of talking to potential employers,” she said.

Students will have access to the fair through their hireTSTC accounts.

For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC alumna enjoys career as dental hygienist

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College alumna Maxene Prado completed the Dental Hygiene program in 2017. Now she is enjoying the perks of her career as a dental hygienist and credits the support system she had at TSTC for helping her succeed.

Why did you decide on a career in this field?

A representative from the Dental Hygiene program spoke to our (high school) class one day about career options, and I was intrigued. After more research, I decided dental hygiene was what I wanted to do.

How would you say that the Dental Hygiene program at TSTC prepared you for your career?

Completing the program is one of my greatest academic achievements, and it shaped me into the dental hygienist that I am today. The program was rigorous and prepared me to be a well-rounded clinician. This is largely attributed to my amazing instructors at TSTC who guided me and provided me with the knowledge and support that I needed to succeed along the way.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

It’s nice getting to wear comfy scrubs to work every day. Jokes aside, I enjoy the flexibility and job security that it provides me. I can choose to have a set schedule at one office or float through different offices. I live in Austin, and many areas have a large demand for dental hygienists.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start the program?

I cannot emphasize the importance of teamwork throughout the program enough. Collaboration and teamwork with my classmates were a large part of learning and succeeding. Be prepared to work hard and keep focused.

Dental hygienist careers are expected to continue to grow faster than average until 2029.

To learn more about TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program, visit https://www.tstc.edu/programs/DentalHygiene.


TSTC celebrates employees with drive-thru ceremony

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Honks and cheers were heard during a drive-thru ceremony at Texas State Technical College recently in celebration of the Employee Service Awards, which recognize TSTC employees for their years of service.

Employees were given a commemorative plaque and yard sign to thank them for their dedication to TSTC. Celebrated years ranged from five to 35, and 50 employees qualified for recognition.

TSTC Human Resources business partner Julie Gonzalez said that it is essential that employees know they are appreciated for their hard work.

“It is so important to celebrate every milestone we reach in our careers, especially at TSTC,” she said.

During the event, which followed TSTC’s strict coronavirus safety guidelines, employees were required to stay in their vehicles, and all accolades were given without physical contact.

Gonzalez said that those who have dedicated their time to TSTC play an important role in the ultimate purpose of the college: to help students succeed.

“Our employees with many years of service believe in the mission of TSTC,” she said. “It means that they are truly invested.”

Gonzalez, who is a recipient of an award for 15 years of service, thanked her colleagues for making the environment so special.

“Thank you for all you do to make TSTC a great place to work,” she said. “One thing that my co-worker, Melissa Aleman, and I talk about often is how TSTC and the employees we work with on the Harlingen campus are not just co-workers, they are family.”

Provost Cledia Hernandez reiterated that TSTC staff and faculty are pieces of the puzzle that help keep the campus running.

“Our employees are the essence of TSTC,” she said. “They are the driving force of accomplishing why we do what we do. We cannot do what we do without them.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.