Author Archives: Daniel Perry

Del Rio Students Find Their Place at TSTC

(WACO) – The tradition of Del Rio High School graduates traveling more than five hours north to attend Texas State Technical College in Waco continues to grow.

“We’re especially proud that the Del Rio community values the work that we do and entrusts their students to us,” said TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison. “It’s a relationship that we intend to keep strong for many years to come.”

Brenden Paradis, 19, is one of at least 15 Del Rio students who were enrolled during the fall semester in TSTC in Waco’s Welding Technology program. He just finished his third semester in the program.

“The reason so many come here is because our (Del Rio High School) welding instructor, Tod Townsend, pushes us beyond high school and to get a college education,” Paradis said.

Knowing that many of Del Rio’s welding students have enrolled at TSTC since the late 1990s, as estimated by TSTC faculty members, made going to college easier for Paradis.

“All of the guys, at first, room together, but after the first year a lot tend to go out on their own,” he said.

Paradis became interested in welding after attending a job fair during his freshman year of high school. He was impressed with sculptures on display that were made by welders.

“I would tell (other) students to really think about their future before their senior year comes up,” Paradis said. “If you haven’t decided on something, it makes it difficult to pick a path to go down.”

After graduating in 2019 from TSTC, Paradis plans to take a summer advanced pipe course on campus and then work in custom fabrication.

Roger Gonzalez, director of career and technical education for the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District, said district staff looks at job opportunities in the area and reviews Texas Workforce Commission data to adapt classes for students. Some of the school district’s most popular career and technical education (CTE) courses are in aircraft technology, health sciences, law enforcement and welding.

“We want our students to graduate with more than a high school diploma and be future-ready,” Gonzalez said. “The school district continues to invest and expand the CTE program with the use of technology and industry equipment to better prepare our future graduates with expansion of industry certifications and dual-credit opportunities.”

Gonzalez said the students in Del Rio’s welding program build strong relationships with one another, making the transition to college a little easier.

“It seems TSTC is the destination for most of our welding students due to its excellent reputation within the welding community,” he said. “Our welding students never leave us, at least not entirely. Every chance they get, they come to our welding class and share their positive college experience with our current high school students. I believe the reputation and the bridge established between TSTC and our welding program is evidence of our current and future success.”

One Del Rio resident has started what he hopes is a new tradition for Val Verde County students attending TSTC.

Andres Hernandez, 19, of Del Rio finished his first semester in the Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization program. He is among the first generation in his family to go to college.

Hernandez said he has enjoyed the different teaching styles he encounters at TSTC and knowing more about automotive electrical systems.

Hernandez became interested in automobiles when he was a child because of his father, a mechanic. He learned about TSTC when a recruiter visited his high school when he was a sophomore.

“I knew most of the welding students go here (to TSTC),” Hernandez said. “It helped me because I would know some people here.”

Hernandez said he misses his family occasionally but enjoys living on campus. When he is home for visits, he gets work experience as a lube technician at Toyota of Del Rio. He said he also works on tire rotations and other routine maintenance.

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TSTC in West Texas Holds Fall 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 140 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 10, at the Abilene Convention Center. Graduates from TSTC’s four West Texas campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater were recognized.

For Ronnie Pitts, an instructor and statewide department head in the Emergency Medical Services program at Abilene, watching his students achieve their educational goals does not get tiring. It was especially significant when one student bestowed upon him an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole as a thank-you.

“This is the event that makes everything we do as instructors worthwhile,” Pitts said. “Being able to watch our students succeed is what we live for. But, to be given this honor on top of it all is a special recognition that I greatly appreciate.”


Students could be found thanking their instructors and excitedly talking about having accepted job offers.

Chris Russell, an Army veteran and member of Phi Theta Kappa, received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology Compliance. He started working full time last Monday at Clean Harbors.

“I worked in the oil field after the Army and saw that there was a way to make good money while staying clean and dry,” Russell said. “So now I get to do what I enjoy and be comfortable.”

During the commencement ceremony, Julian Alvarez III, the commissioner representing labor with the Texas Workforce Commission, encouraged students to be humble in their success and spend time with successful people.

“You will face careers, not jobs, the rest of your life,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is a first-generation college graduate. He said that, just like TSTC did for him when he was a student, the graduates have received the tools needed to think for themselves.

“You are ready to meet those challenges you will face in the workplace,” Alvarez said.

Many of Monday’s graduates were inspired and led to success by family members.

Mary Mares of Brownwood, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing from Sweetwater, said it was her son who inspired her to pursue her degree.

“My son was born with craniosynostosis, and it was his birth that motivated me to get this degree so I can help him and others to the best of my ability,” Mares said.

Phillip Cruz of Sweetwater received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He said his 6-year-old daughter was his inspiration for pursuing his studies.

“It’s a second career,” Cruz said. “I used to be a police officer. The country is changing to green energy. I figured I would help the country move forward.”

Cruz is considering job offers at energy companies in Michigan and Texas.

Earlier in the day, the Nursing programs held pinning ceremonies for graduates in Abilene and Sweetwater.

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TSTC in Marshall Holds Fall 2018 Commencement

(MARSHALL) – More than 60 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College in Marshall’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 7, at the Marshall Convention Center.

Students from different backgrounds and all walks of life gathered to celebrate their accomplishments with family and loved ones. Associate Provost Nathan Cleveland always takes a minute to appreciate the success of his students.

“This is why I got involved in education,” Cleveland said. “To watch our students, who range from the first member in a family to attend a postsecondary education institute to a second- or third-generation student, succeed, inspire others and thank their support systems — it’s what it’s all about.”

Several of Friday’s graduates boasted academic honors, including five Board of Regents recipients. Board of Regents recipients must complete their degree program with a 4.0 GPA.

Tyra Levine of Beaumont was displaced after Hurricane Harvey destroyed her home. She relocated to Marshall to live near her family and decided to complete her education. Working two jobs to support her family while battling health issues, Levine still maintained a 4.0 GPA to graduate with her Associate of Applied Science degree in Process Operations.   

“I just made sure I was at class every day and I was in contact with my teachers whenever I needed help or had questions,” Levine said. “My whole experience really has been a testimony, and I am so thankful to be here.”

Several graduates are leaving with jobs already lined up, while others are still considering their options.

Zachary Garner of Forney was a Phi Theta Kappa graduate who received his third degree from TSTC. Garner earned associate degrees in Cyber Security and Network Administration, then changed course to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology.

“It took me a minute to figure out what I wanted. But I love working with my hands, and I’m really excited with my options,” Garner said. “I’ve interviewed with a couple companies in the area, and things are looking good.”

The evening was two times as special for the parents of brothers Calvin and Quenton Rowe. The brothers both earned certificates of completion in Structural Welding.

“It was awesome to see them accomplish these goals they set for themselves and their focus to get it done,” Latarsha Rowe, mom, said. “I am just immensely proud.”

For Shaquilyn Peoples, a Precision Machining Technology graduate, today was the validation she had been working toward.

“As a girl in PMT, it can be intimidating, but it feels so good to say I did it and that I get to do something different,” Peoples said. “I hope I can encourage other girls to get involved.

This was the 69th commencement ceremony for TSTC in Marshall.

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TSTC in Waco Holds Fall Commencement

(WACO) – More than 350 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 7, at the Waco Convention Center.

TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison started the ceremony with a moment of silence for Curt Persilver, former coordinator of student services, who died in October.

Many of the graduates already have jobs.

Jansice Baesler-Ridge, 21, of Waco graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Visual Communication Technology. She began working this summer as a designer at American Domino Co. in Lacy Lakeview.

“I’ve always loved art, and I have wanted to do art that is applicable,” Baesler-Ridge said. “Visual communication technology is the art of the future.”

Garrett Selby, 19, of Pleasanton graduated with an associate degree in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. He already has a job at Kirby-Smith Machinery in Abilene.

“It feels pretty nice,” he said.

Selby said he will miss the instructors giving their knowledge and the camaraderie with his classmates.

Some of the graduates will continue job hunting.

Cory Hoover, 23, of Burnet was the only graduate in Waco receiving an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electronic Communication Technology. He wants to look in the Austin area for a job.

“I enjoyed my time here and made a lot of good friends,” Hoover said. “I was able to have a close relationship with all the instructors because of the small classes.”

Anderson Merchant, 27, of Bryan received an associate degree and certificate from the Auto Collision and Management Technology program. He said he enjoyed learning about the painting and airbrushing processes during his studies.

“I’m really excited and nervous — and really curious what I will do after I graduate,” Merchant said. “It’s exciting to see my hard work recognized and translate that into true work skills.”

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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TSTC in Williamson County Holds Fall Commencement

(HUTTO) – Fifty graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 7, at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

Former Texas Rep. Larry Gonzales was the guest speaker and talked about the graduates’ decision to pursue a technical education and their importance to the Texas economy.

Many of the graduates already have jobs.

Stuart G. McLennan IV, 38, of Georgetown received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cyber Security and began work earlier this year as a TSTC instructor. Although still a student,  McLennan taught some of the same cyber security classes he had already taken.

“It will be nice to be done with the student side and done with exams and instead give them,” he said.

McLennan earned a bachelor’s degree in computer programming several years ago but had difficulty finding work in the Killeen area. He decided to go back to college to expand his knowledge.

“I have always been interested in the computer area,” he said.

Some graduates are continuing their job search.

Joseph Hartman, 20, of Jarrell received a certificate in Cyber Security. He said he was inspired to study the field after doing research while a student at Jarrell High School, where he graduated in 2017.

“Coming here was a lot cheaper than going to a big university,” he said.

His future plans are to pursue an associate degree, earn industry certifications and look for jobs in the Austin area.

“I really want to start making money,” he said.

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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TSTC Student Finds Passion in Building Construction Technology

(WACO) – Mariano Perez of Waco learned early on about the meaning of work.

Perez, 19, began working at 13 with his father in the family’s residential concrete business. He spent many holiday breaks, weekends and sizzling days helping to pour concrete driveways, patios and sidewalks in McLennan County.

“It all started off with respecting the guys pushing the shovel all day long,” Perez said. “I learned the value of a dollar. I learned the general skills. I learned how to measure with the tape, how to hit a nail, how to use a sledgehammer.”

The knowledge Perez gained launched him into the Building Construction Technology program at Texas State Technical College. He is a candidate for graduation with an associate degree at TSTC’s Fall 2018 Commencement at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Waco Convention Center.

“Mariano is a very hard worker and dedicated to everything he puts his hands on,” said Herschel Miller, a TSTC Building Construction Technology instructor.

Perez will start work on Monday, Dec. 10, at Big Creek Construction Ltd. in Lorena, where he will be trained on project scheduling.

Wade Miller, Big Creek’s assistant director, said Perez is the first graduate to be hired directly out of TSTC. The company currently employs several TSTC alumni.

“We are excited to have Mariano coming aboard,” Miller said. “He’s a very impressive young man, and we expect him to do well at our company.”

The company is a heavy-highway contractor working on Texas Department of Transportation road and bridge projects and occasional projects for the city of Waco.

Miller said TxDOT’s increase in spending on projects due to state propositions being passed by voters means more road and bridge improvements will be made in the next decade.

“This equates to roughly 70,000 employees needed to build this work,” Miller said. “The workforce across our industry and state is aging. We are running out of people to do this work. For this reason, programs by TSTC make sense to contractors like us.”

Perez’s goal is one day to own his own concrete business.

Perez graduated in 2017 from West High School where he took dual enrollment classes in general academics and automotive technology. He decided to pursue construction during his senior year.

“Honestly, I never gave up until I found my passion,” Perez said. “It is difficult to be successful if you don’t know what to do.”

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Thrall Resident Overcomes Challenges En Route to TSTC Associate Degree

(HUTTO) – Jonathan Flores of Thrall was working in construction in 2014 when he was involved in an automobile accident in Williamson County.

Flores was thrown out of the vehicle he was in and found out soon afterward that he was paralyzed from the chest down. At the time, he said he did not think much about college. But while recovering and adjusting to his life’s changes, he said he knew he needed to further his education.

“If you want to do something, no matter what you want to do, you can do it,” Flores said.

Flores, 24, is a candidate for graduation with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College in Williamson County’s Fall 2018 Commencement at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center at 1600 Innovation Blvd. in Hutto.

“I got interested in welding because I like to build stuff,” Flores said. “After my accident, I couldn’t do much work.”

With some minor adapting, Flores is able to weld in EWCHEC’s first-floor labs. He enjoys fabricating the most.

“It was hard at first,” Flores said. “The instructors would tell you (to do it) a certain way, and sometimes I could not do it and I had to figure out a different way.”

Samara Flener, lead instructor of TSTC’s Welding Technology program, said she and faculty members admire Flores’ work ethic, attitude and determination.

“My priority became making sure he had access when he was in the booth and that he was as comfortable as all of the other students,” Flener said. “We will take 20 more of him.”

When he is not studying or working, Flores likes to play wheelchair basketball in Austin. He said it is good exercise and a way to connect with others.

Flores graduated in 2012 from Taylor High School, where he played soccer and took graphic design and engineering classes.

“I would see people weld and it looked cool,” he said.

His goal after graduation is to pursue a job in a fabrication shop in the Austin area.

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TSTC Computer Programming Technology Encourages Women to Code

(WACO) – Vicky Lackey, 60, of Teague first learned about programming languages, or coding, in the late 1970s on desktop computers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“I fell in love with computers,” she said. “I started playing around with them myself.”

Lackey’s inspirations for continuing her education last year at Texas State Technical College were the excitement of technology’s evolution and her children. When she enrolled to pursue the Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology, she learned a new set of programming languages like C# (C Sharp) and Java.

“The logic is kind of the same,” Lackey said. “You just have to use the script and terminology with each language and then learn the code.”

Lackey’s goal after graduation is to work in computer programming and then be self-employed.

There are more than 77,100 women who are computer programmers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The number of men in the field is more than 370,000.

Texas had more than 20,800 computer programmers as of May 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas had an annual mean wage of $86,200, which is higher than its border states, according to the labor statistics agency.

“The industry looks for competent programmers,” said Casey Jones, a TSTC Computer Science instructor. “That comes down to those students who come in and work and grow with the complexity of coding.”

TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology pathway gets a variety of students who are interested in video games and those who are new to learning about coding and technology.

Some of TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology majors choose also to study Cloud and Data Center Management to broaden their job potential.

Jones pointed to the construction field as needing competent coders in the future, especially as 3D printing is adapted for projects.

“When you look at getting the jobs, it is how good a programmer you are,” Jones said.

TSTC’s instructors try to make the process of learning coding and solving problems as interactive as possible.

“You write a lot of dead code starting out,” Jones said. “You learn to modify and fix.”

Twenty-six percent of professional computing jobs in the United States were held by women in 2017, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Kaitlyn Lyons, 25, of Hillsboro had computer experience before attending TSTC, but learning the coding language was new to her. She said she gets tutoring when needed to better understand programming concepts.

After graduation next year, she wants to work for a company and return to college for a business degree.

“I think it’s encouraging to have more diversity in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” Lyons said. “A lot of them are male-oriented.”

Lyons’ advice to primary and secondary school girls is to pay attention to the classes they take.

“Do some more mathematics and logic-based classes,” she said. “The syntax is pretty easy, but the logic can be a little challenging. Pick up a coding book, and read it and research.”

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San Antonio Resident Electrifies His Goals at TSTC

(WACO) – After Esteban Hernandez graduated in 2012 from Louis D. Brandeis High School in San Antonio, his parents lobbied for him to attend Texas State Technical College because of family ties to Waco.

Instead Hernandez worked at a restaurant, a land-surveying business and a warehouse. He also dabbled in studying radiography.

“Wow, I wasted so many years,” he said.

Six years after his high school graduation, Hernandez is realizing his dream of being a college graduate with a transformed life.

He is a candidate for graduation with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Avionics Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the Waco Convention Center.

“Esteban is an amazing student,” said Marty Segraves, chair of the Avionics Department. “He is such an adept student that he has nearly maxed the program. His only B was in an electronics course. When he takes a test, I’m almost disappointed  if he doesn’t make a 100.”

Hernandez began working part time earlier this year at JAG Aviation in McGregor. He gets to work with employees on older and newer plane radio systems. He said the work is a way to use what he learns at TSTC.

Hernandez enrolled at TSTC in 2017 and moved in with his grandparents. His inspiration for studying aviation was his cousin’s husband who is employed at Southwest Airlines and his own fondness for hands-on work.

“I like the group we have in the program,” he said. “They are really fun and awesome. Learning how electronics work is really interesting.”

Hernandez will not wait long to pursue his next goal. In January, he will start taking classes in the Aviation Maintenance program at TSTC.

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TSTC and Colorado High School Work Together to Keep Students Moving

(SWEETWATER) — From horse-drawn carriages to vehicles that reach upwards of 160 mph, the transportation industry is constantly moving forward. To help students keep up with the evolving industry, Texas State Technical College hosted a program highlight day that allowed high school students from Colorado City to learn about transportation jobs in a hands-on environment.

“We’re trying to bring in the new age of mechanic-technicians and give them the skills they need to succeed,” Mike Myers, head automotive instructor at TSTC in Sweetwater, said.

The automotive industry employs over 749,900 technicians and mechanics nationally and is expected to grow to 795,800 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Automotive technicians are a dying breed,” Myers said. “We hope these students will stay in the program because it gives them an option to stay local and learn in a very strong program.”

For some students in attendance, the automotive industry runs in their family. Nathan Read, 17, a senior at Colorado High School, said his father has been a mechanic for over 20 years and he hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to build my own shop someday,” Read said. “This a great experience because I really enjoy the hands-on training TSTC has to offer, and I plan on coming here after graduating high school.”

Students had the chance to change headlights, clean parts and explore different job opportunities available in the industry.

“This was great because I wanted to learn how to replace a headlight and got to do it,” Brandon Myers, 18, a senior at Colorado High School, said. “I like TSTC, and love that the school sponsored us to visit. I’m planning on coming to the automotive program after I graduate.”

For those interested in the automotive industry, TSTC offers associate degrees and certificates of completion at campuses located in Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco.

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