Author Archives: Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

TSTC Welding grad has a bright future in the industry

(FORT BEND) – Cheyenne Kuta was only 16-years-old when she purchased her first $5,600 welding machine, she knew at the time that this would be a great investment toward her future.

Fast forward to December 2018, she is now a graduate from Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County.

“I’m so excited to finally be celebrating this milestone,” said Kuta. “I’m excited to begin working and looking forward to a successful career in welding.”

The Plantersville native walked across the stage Monday night at the Stafford Centre in Stafford, Texas as an honors graduate with a grade-point average of 3.75 and received two certificates and an associate degree from TSTC.

She joined close to 60 other graduates from TSTC in Fort Bend County who also earned certificates and associate degrees.

“We are so proud of our daughter,” said Kuta’s mother Sandra Kuta. “She has achieved so much at the young age of 19. She’s goal-oriented, driven and determined. All of this has carried her to the top.”Cheyenne Kuta TSTC Welding Grad

Kuta was exposed to the field of welding at an early age by her grandfather and uncle. She eventually began her own welding journey in high school.

She quickly rose to the top, beating a lot of the boys in her class and earning two “Top 10 Awards” in the high school’s welding department.

“I really got into welding. I loved it and I was good at it,” said Kuta. “I had a lot of support and a great mentor.”

That mentor was Don Tullos, president of Texas Boiler Makers in Kuta’s hometown. Kuta said he took her under his wing and always encouraged her to continue in the field no matter what the men said.

“There came a point where I was going to Don’s shop every day to practice my welding,” said Kuta. “Then one day he told me, ‘You’re really great at this. You could make this a career.’ And it all changed for me.”

Tullos was also the person who introduced Kuta to TSTC. She toured both the Waco and Fort Bend County campuses, and although further from home, TSTC in Fort Bend County was the perfect fit for her.

“It was a new campus with new labs and equipment. I couldn’t wait to start,” she said. “There were also still smaller class sizes so that meant more one-on-one time with instructors.”

It was August 2017, when Kuta enrolled at TSTC, set up a trailer at a local RV park, where she stayed during the week; and sped up her program completion by testing out of Welding Technology introduction courses because of the welding experience she brought from high school.

Kuta was even inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

“TSTC was a really great experience for me. It was a great place to kick-off my welding career,” she said. “And I was fortunate enough to have instructors who believed me, supported me and pushed me to be the best welder I could be.”

TSTC Welding Instructor David Torres called Kuta a great welding student who is goal driven.

“Cheyenne is very dedicated and you can see that dedication in her welding abilities,” said Torres. She’s always lending a helping hand and coming in early and staying late to build her skills. She will go far in this industry; I know she’ll make it because she has all of the skills. Her future is bright.”

Kuta also said the best thing, for her, about graduating from TSTC, is that she is leaving debt free because of a collection of scholarships she received in high school, financial aid and non-traditional students scholarships from TSTC and other welding industry organizations.

Her advice for other students, “Always put yourself out there. Apply for scholarships, you just never know. This is a possibility for everyone,” she said.

She also wants other girls and women to know that there is no need to feel intimidated about entering into a male-dominated career.

“Don’t be scared. If you have a passion for something and you want to do it, do it,” Kuta said.

“We can do the job just as good, if not better, than the men. Let’s show them what we got.”

So what’s in Kuta’s future?

She has already begun the job application process. She has interviewed with several oil field companies such as National Oilwell, Conroe and Baker Hughes.

“The oilfield is where the jobs are at and I can’t wait to get started,” she said.

Kuta also hopes to become a Certified Welding Inspector and a Certified Welding Instructor in the coming years.

For more information on Welding Technology, visit

TSTC hosts an out-of-this-world experience for the community

(HARLINGEN) – Katlyn Nuncio mixed baking soda, salt and water to watch her rocket launch during “Journey to Mars,” a first-of-its-kind event hosted by the Texas State Technical College Challenger Learning Center.

“It was so cool watching how the mixture reacted and how high my rocket went,” said the 9-year-old fourth grader from Ed Downs Elementary School in San Benito. “The event was great. I love science and I hope to become an engineer when I grow up.”

The half-day event, which was free and open to the public, was attended by more than 200 people.

TSTC Journey to Mars

It was organized in partnership with NASA to celebrate the center’s 5th and NASA’s 6th anniversaries.

“We’re are so excited with the response we received from the school districts and community,” said Yvette Mendoza, TSTC College Readiness coordinator. “The number of families who attended this event surpassed all of our expectations. This event was a definite success.”

The event included hands-on activities for all ages from space crafting and gravity affects to Mars rover building and Mars habitat creating.

Every booth was divided into phases, and resembled a space mission set up. Planetarium shows were also available throughout the morning.

For 11-year-old Aiden Barrera from San Benito, “Journey to Mars” was a great way to celebrate his birthday.

“I’m into science and engineering, but my favorite subject is math so this event was so much fun for me,” said Barrera. “It was a great way to spend my birthday weekend.”

The fifth grader said he had the most fun creating a home for a Mars extraterrestrial creature using paper plates, paper cups, paint and glue.

TSTC Journey to Mars“This was truly a team effort. We really wanted this event to introduce children of all ages, from toddler to high school, to the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) fields,” said Mendoza. “It’s important to plant the seed at a young age, especially because STEM is a huge priority for our school districts and our state.”

“Journey to Mars” was a result of a signed NASA Cooperative Agreement that was introduced to the TSTC Challenger Learning Center by the National Challenger Center.

Through this agreement, TSTC’s center will receive upgraded hardware and software to add new missions to its lineup.

“Our goal with this is to be able to offer new, educational and exciting opportunities for the students who visit us,” said Mendoza. “All that matters is that they are learning while having fun.”

Under this cooperative, Mendoza said the TSTC Challenger Learning Center introduced its new mission “Expedition to Mars” this year and will introduce “Lunar Quest” in 2019 and “Operation Comet in 2020.”

Mendoza also said the community can expect to see more free, community events that provide educational opportunities in the near future.

For more information on TSTC’s Challenger Learning Center or to book a mission, call 956-364-4517.

TSTC online classes help local man pursue a career change

(HARLINGEN) – At a crossroads in his life, Robert Ahrens decided to enroll at Texas State Technical College, opting for an online program so he could continue supporting his family.

“With a family it’s not all about me,” said the 37-year-old. “I still need to make a decent paycheck, so online classes have been the most convenient for me.”

The La Feria native is enrolled in Business Management Technology, one of four programs with degrees that are offered entirely online.

The other TSTC programs with online degree tracks are Digital Media Design, Architectural Design & Engineering Graphics and Health Information Technology. These are among the many other hybrid programs available, which offer lectures and labs both on campus and online.

“With these programs there really is no excuse for not going to school anymore,” said Ahrens. “What matters is the discipline and hard work you’re willing to put in. It’s so flexible anyone can do it.”Robert Ahrens TSTC online student

A retired police officer of nearly a decade, and now a full-time truck driver with Spirit Truck Lines in Pharr, Ahrens said he has exceeded his own expectations.

Ahrens, who expects to earn his associate degree in Summer 2020, boasts a 3.9 grade-point average, is on the dean’s list and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in 2016 for his high marks.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge,” said Ahrens. “I’m traveling out in the middle of nowhere and finding internet isn’t always easy, but I manage. It’s possible.”

Ahrens is also a recipient of the Lozano Long Promise Opportunity Scholarship, Shell National Merit Scholarship and Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (T-STEM) grant.

“Just because I’m in school doesn’t mean the bills stop and I found myself in a bind,” he said. “But TSTC has helped me fund my education. It has been a tremendous help and motivation to keep going.”

The full-time worker and full-time student said he’s only home 34 hours a week, the rest of his time is spent transporting goods across the country, finding hotspots or truck stops with internet. He also said even his laptop has seen better days, but he’s not letting anything stop him.

“All the technology of today makes it easy to navigate TSTC’s online programs, communicating with instructors and keeping in contact with my family,” he said. “I know someday all this  sacrifice will be worth it.”

TSTC Campus Lead for Business Management Technology Edna Claus said Ahrens has done exceptionally well despite the fact he is on the road most of the time and cannot depend on constant or reliable access to his courses.

“Robert has done well. His persistence is one that can be modeled by all of our students,” she said.

Ahrens is registered and ready to begin his Spring 2019 semester.

“TSTC has made me a well-rounded student and I know whether I stay at Spirit or end up somewhere else I will find success,” he said.

For more information about online programs at TSTC, visit


Student Success Profile – Jennifer Atkinson

(HARLINGEN) – Jennifer Atkinson is an Agricultural Technology major at Texas State Technical College and boasts a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.Jennifer Atkinson

The Rio Hondo native expects to earn her associate degree in Spring 2019, and when the 23-year-old is not in the classroom or out in the field she is busying doing community service with the TSTC Agriculture Club.

What are your plans after you graduate?

After I graduate I plan on transferring to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Science with a teaching certificate.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to have a successful career in agriculture with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far has been making it on the Chancellor’s List and maintaining my honor roll worthy grades. I never used to be an “A” student so this has helped motivate to continue and appreciate school even more.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned in life is that everything happens for a reason and in God’s perfect timing.

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

All of my instructors and my classmates have had a great influence on my success. First, my instructors have been a blessing. They genuinely care about us, are easy to talk to and take every step necessary to ensure we succeed. Last but not least, my classmates. They have become lifelong friends and an extension of my family.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to work hard because nothing in life is handed to us on a silver platter.


TSTC provides grad with second chance at a career

(FORT BEND) – With a bachelor’s degree, but ready for a career change and a new challenge, 58-year-old Joel Staner enrolled in Diesel Equipment Technology-Heavy Truck Specialization at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County two years ago.

And on Monday, Staner will graduate with an associate degree and as a Board of Regent honors graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

“TSTC has been such a great experience for me,” said Staner. “I was a little intimidated coming back to school at my age, but I think that also gave me an advantage because I knew the kind of dedication and commitment it would take to successfully finish.”

Staner said when he first received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and general business in 1993 he was young and only took this path because it was the only opportunity available to him at the time.

“I never used my degree,” said the Sheridan native. “I took advantage of the educational opportunity, but these fields were never truly my passion.”

Leading up to his time at TSTC, Staner worked as a car salesman, a hardware customer service and sales specialist and as a general manager for an animal rescue shelter in his hometown.Joel Staner TSTC Grad

For the man who owns acreage with horses, chickens and at least a dozen dogs and cats, the animal shelter gig was his favorite.

“For the last nine years I have worked at an animal shelter and it’s been the greatest,” said Staner. “But I needed a change, a career of my own; one that I was passionate about.”

With the exception of minor repair and maintenance on heavy farm equipment such as tractors, the diesel equipment field was new to Staner.

“After touring the campus and visiting with advisors, Diesel Equipment Technology seemed like the best fit for me,” said Staner. “And honestly the hands-on approach TSTC takes in its teaching is what got me.”

Staner said what made all of the difference during his time at TSTC was the genuine care faculty has for their students and their willingness to answer questions and ensure that students understand the material.

He credits not only his hard work, but also the faculty for his success because not only was he inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for his grades, but he accepted a job offer and started his career before earning his degree.

“This college offers its students so many opportunities to network with industry recruiters and professionals,” said Staner. “It was during one of these events that I was offered a job.”

Staner is now a diesel technician with Travel Centers of America, where he has been working full-time since May.

“The pay is great, the benefits are excellent and they worked with my school schedule,” said Staner. “Going to school and working full-time has been no easy feat.”

Unfortunately, for Staner, he will be traveling to Ohio for job training on the day of TSTC in Fort Bend County’s commencement, so he will be unable to walk the stage in his cap and gown.

“Sure, I’ll miss the commencement experience, but it’s worth it,” he said. “This is the career that will sustain me for the next 15 years or so. So I’m excited to be done and focusing on a new career.”

Staner also said there may be management opportunities with Travel Centers of America in the future, so just maybe he’ll get to use his general business degree after all.

“I changed directions in my life and TSTC was the vehicle that enabled me to change careers,” said Staner.

Staner is one of close to 1,000 TSTC students earning a certificate or associate degree statewide and will join an alumni network of more than 100,000 TSTC graduates.

TSTC in Fort Bend County will host its commencement ceremony on Monday, December 10 at the Stafford Centre in Stafford, Texas at 6 p.m.

For more information on Diesel Equipment Technology, visit

TSTC implements mixed reality into curriculum, a first for the college

(HARLINGEN)  – Bringing emerging technology into the hands of its students, Texas State Technical College will be implementing HoloLens Mixed Reality into its curriculum as early as next year.

The first programs to introduce the Microsoft application, in partnership with Pearson Education, are Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, Vocational and Registered Nursing and Chemical Technology.

Students strap on a Microsoft HoloLens, similar to virtual reality gaming headsets, to see 3D computer graphics shown on top of the real-world classroom environment.

“There is nothing as powerful as using HoloLens for educating our students,” said TSTC Senior Vice President of Student Learning Hector Yanez. “This is a unique tool for explaining lessons in-depth, beyond a traditional lecture. Students can feel the knowledge.”

With a number of virtual reality and augmented reality applications being utilized in higher education, mixed reality brings a different approach to the already popular technology.

Unlike its counterparts that set a user in a virtual, or digital landscape, mixed reality blends the person’s real-world and digital world, and introduces a hologram that the user can interact with.

It is a three-dimensional immersive learning experience that can be used anywhere or anytime.TSTC Nursing uses mixed reality

“Mixed reality applications have been around for only a few years,” said TSTC Executive Director of Instructional Support Orlando Penuelas. “So there was a lot of research that went into this decision making; this is a great investment for our students and institution.”

A pair of HoloLens applications: HoloPatient and HoloChemistry, were among the first to be demonstrated to TSTC students recently.

TSTC Vocational Nursing students Ana Decuesta and Celina Romo were first to use HoloPatient to interact with holographic medical scenarios.

“I’ve only seen this type of technology on TV. So being able to actually touch it and use it is exciting,” said Romo, the 39-year-old Raymondville native. “At first I was intimated; it’s cutting edge technology, but it turned out to be very user friendly and I can’t wait until it’s fully implemented into our program.”

Decuesta shared the same sentiment. She said she is happy that this type of technology is now available to her and her peers.

“This type of technology is usually found in big universities, so TSTC giving us this opportunity is invaluable to our training,” said 19-year-old Decuesta. “This will allow us to build on our confidence, which is key in our field, before beginning our clinical rotations and beginning our careers.”

Yanez said the goal of the applications is to bridge a gap between understanding and visualization, which will lead to student retention and placing more Texans into good paying jobs.

“HoloLens gives TSTC and our students a competitive edge,” said Yanez. “We are just seeing the start of the endless possibilities that these tools can offer our students.”

Penuelas agrees that with industry increasingly using mixed reality for their daily processes, training students in the software and how to use HoloLens correctly will make them more marketable when looking to start their careers.

Large organizations such as Chevron and NASA are using HoloLens to provide visual aids and remote assistance for their employees.

“HoloLens is the golden standard for mixed reality and our students have it at their fingertips,” said Penuelas. “This will definitely give them a leg up.”

TSTC in Harlingen will kick off the pilot program in the coming year and will eventually be implemented at the college’s 10 other campuses across the state.

“Our goal is to implement HoloLens statewide once we completely understand how to implement the system and its applications,” said Yanez. “Every TSTC campus will have access to this advanced technology sooner rather than later.”

Registration for Spring 2019 is underway. The last day to register is Jan. 2.

For more information on the programs offered, to apply or register, visit

Student Success Profile – Ricardo Vasquez

(HARLINGEN) – Ricardo VasquezRicardo Vasquez is pursuing an associate degree in Agricultural Technology at Texas State Technical College. The Sebastian native holds a 3.6 grade-point average and expects to graduate in Summer 2019.

The 22-year-old said that by pursuing a career in agriculture he is following in his father’s footsteps and said his favorite part of the field has always been working with cattle.

What are your plans after graduation?

When I graduate I will transfer to Texas A&M Kingsville to pursue a bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work with either the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Agriculture or as a game warden.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far has been maintaining high grades and my GPA, but I’m looking forward to graduating, and that by far will be my greatest accomplishment.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that I must chase my dreams because I am in charge of my future.

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

All of my Agricultural Technology instructors have had a great influence on my success. They have all guided me and supported me on this journey. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is this: Do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There is always a way to make your dreams come true.


TSTC is hiring statewide, positions to be filled by the New Year

(STATEWIDE) – With Texas State Technical College rapidly growing and the demand for a skilled workforce increasing, TSTC is hiring to fill more than 200 positions by 2019.

“TSTC is expanding course offerings to meet employer demands within the state,” said TSTC Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Pamela Mayfield. “To do this, we need knowledgeable and passionate faculty and staff who are committed to high quality student achievement.”

The ideal candidate is someone looking for a career change or transition and will have a passion to share their technical and industrial field experience in the classroom.

“TSTC graduates are highly valued by business and industry for their work ethic, knowledge and workplace skills,” said Mayfield. “So we would expect the same attributes in our TSTC faculty and staff along with integrity, excellence, service and accountability.”

Depending on the position, the applicant will need to have one to five years of work experience in their industry, along with an associate degree or higher.

Some teaching or training experience is preferred, but not required.TSTC Instructor

“Being on the TSTC team is more than a job; it’s the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our students,” said Mayfield. “TSTC is the business of success and it takes a diverse team of dedicated, passionate and talented players working together to achieve goals.”

Faculty positions in high demand technical programs such as Welding Technology, Precision Machining Technology and HVAC Technology are needing to be filled.

There are also openings for staff in the areas of recruitment, information technology and the TSTC police department.

“Each TSTC team member possesses unique skill, perspective and style,” said Mayfield. “And when our employee and customer come together we grow stronger and change lives.”

A TSTC System employee is eligible to receive a competitive salary; benefits that include health, dental, vision, paid sick and vacation time; flexible spending accounts, retirement fund options, employee assistance programs and employee discounts, as well as a respect for employee work-life-balance.

“We have a rich diversity in our employees and customers across our 10 campuses that together gives us a unique advantage as we serve the state,” said Mayfield. “And we encourage people to explore TSTC and what it means to be on this team. TSTC prides itself on being a ‘Great Place to Work.’”

TSTC’s mission is to contribute to the educational and economic development of the state of Texas by offering technical programs and supported academic coursework.

TSTC is made up of 10 campuses across the state and has been training and placing Texans in great paying jobs for more than 50 years.

Employment applications are already being accepted with the interview process beginning immediately for many positions.

The positions are expected to be filled by January 2019.

For more information or to apply, visit or call 254-867-4810.

TSTC is hiring, hosts first Faculty Recruitment Fair

(FORT BEND) – Texas State Technical College is looking for faculty to join the family and, to that end, will be hosting a Faculty Recruitment Fair on Thursday, December 13.

The event, hosted at TSTC’s Brazos Center from 2 to 6:30 p.m., will offer those interested in bringing their talents to the classroom the opportunity to apply and complete an on-site interview with faculty and staff.

“We need additional faculty to support the growth the Fort Bend County campus is seeing. We’re growing rapidly,” said Toni Lerch, TSTC Human Resources manager. “We’re looking for people who are passionate about their professional field and are ready to share their technical knowledge, skills and abilities with the workforce of tomorrow.”TSTC Instructor

There are faculty openings in the high demand programs of Welding Technology, Precision Machining Technology, Diesel Equipment Technology, HVAC Technology, Cyber Security Technology and Electrical Power and Controls.

Lerch said ideal candidates should have at least three to five years experience in their industry expertise and an associate degree or higher.

Some teaching or training experience is preferred, but not required.

“We want people who can take what they have learned in the technical/industrial field and share it in the classroom,” said Lerch. “Teaching a trade can be such a rewarding career and they will be joining a wonderful family.”

TSTC offers competitive salaries; a state employee benefits package that includes health, dental and vision; and paid sick and vacation leave.

Lerch said she encourages everyone interested in applying to attend the recruiting event.

“This is not your typical event,” said Lerch. “We’ll be offering a glimpse inside one of the area’s newest campuses and showcasing our classrooms and labs. Not many people get to tour a place they’re applying to during a recruitment fair, so this is a great opportunity.”

TSTC Associate Provost Bryan Bowling said instructors play a critical and rewarding role in changing lives.

“There is a huge technical skills gap in Texas today and with the incredible growth we’re seeing in the state and at TSTC in Fort Bend County we need additional instructors so we can continue to meet the increasing demand for technically skilled graduates,” said Bowling. “Our instructors are the heart of our organization and we rely heavily on the breadth of their knowledge.”

TSTC prides itself on being a “great place to work” offering great benefits, employee development opportunities and state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

With more than 200 positions available statewide, applications are being accepted. Positions are scheduled to be filled by January. For more information or to apply, visit

TSTC helps students fight hunger

(FORT BEND) – Hunger and homelessness is widespread among college students and to help battle this issue Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County has set up a student food pantry.

TSTC Campus Enrollment Executive Georgeann Calzada said the mission of the pantry is to provide struggling students with meals.

“The goal with all of our support resources is to fill a gap for our students until we have a permanent solution and/or they are able to get back on their feet with the support of one of the many community organizations we work with,” said Calzada. “Food insecurities are great concern across college and university campuses.”

On average, the food pantry at TSTC will assist at least five students a week.

The pantry is filled with canned goods, cereals, soups, oatmeal, and toiletries such as shampoos, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“We realize our students enter college with outside factors that might impact their learning environment,” said Calzada. “Many of our students work paycheck-to-paycheck and try to make it with only five dollars in their pocket, so we want to help get them through this period in their life to get them on their way to a career.”  TSTC Student Food Pantry

Many of the items the pantry is stocked with are donations that come from TSTC staff and faculty and community businesses and neighbors.

The last large donation for the pantry came from Kroger’s, which donated $200 worth of food.

The pantry is primarily used for students, but when Hurricane Harvey hit, the outpouring of donations from TSTC campuses across the state and from the community allowed the pantry to be open  to faculty and staff in need as well during that period.

According to the recent study “Still Hungry and Homeless in College,” by researchers at Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Lab, 42 percent of community college students describe themselves as food insecure, with one third saying they have skipped meals or eaten smaller portions to cut costs.

TSTC Student Government Association president Rene Escobar works at the pantry part-time assisting with restocking and organizing and said he has seen firsthand how the pantry helps alleviate student stress.

“Having a food pantry on campus helps make students feel at home,” said Escobar. “Students know they are welcome to come by anytime and get what they need. In turn, this allows them to focus more on school.”

Escobar, who is also a Diesel Equipment Technology student at TSTC, said he encourages students to use the pantry.

“Students should not be embarrassed about using the pantry. Sometimes there’s a negative stigma that surrounds asking for help,” said he said. “But this pantry is here for them. To help them in their journey to success. They should take full advantage of the service, it’s okay to ask for help.”

Calzada said she wants students to be aware that TSTC is there to assist them through every challenge and obstacle they face during their time at the college.

“Our pantry has made the progress needed with the continued growth of our campus and we will continue to provide the needed services for our students,” said Calzada. “Since we’re a commuter campus, fuel is also a big issue for our students, so with the support of our provost we’ve set funds aside for gas cards.  As long as the student continues to do his/her part to attend and pass classes then we’ll do everything in our power to alleviate struggles.”

For more information on the student food pantry or to donate, call 346-239-3422.