Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC’s EMS Program Turns Experience Into College Credit

Time for an upgrade? The Emergency Medical Services program at Texas State Technical College in Abilene recently created a program that brings more opportunity to current and future students.

The EMS program now gives certified paramedics and emergency medical technicians college credit for some certifications they already have. The certifications are transferred toward earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Emergency Medical Services Paramedic to becoming licensed paramedics.

“We are offering an opportunity for students who already have some experience,” said Ronnie Pitts, an EMS instructor and the college’s statewide department chair. “We evaluate the certifications they have already obtained, and they can transfer those certifications toward our degree plan here at TSTC.”

To take advantage of the program’s credit by certification, a student must already be a certified EMT or paramedic.

“When these students graduate, they will have a college degree on top of all the previous certifications they already obtained to work in the field to be more marketable in their job hunt. It helps our students save time and money, and to increase their growth in the field,” Pitts said.

Pitts stated that students can save time because instead of having to retake the basic courses to be admitted into a paramedic program, TSTC will accept the Texas Department of State Health Services certifications as college credit after a student credit evaluation is completed along with a $25 fee per course that is transferred. Students are only required to take 15 hours, or 20 percent, of the degree plan at TSTC to earn the associate degree.

Randall Noe, a firefighter/paramedic with the Mineral Wells Fire Department, earned his certifications through another institution and was able to transfer all of his credits to TSTC.

“I want the degree because it can further your career,” Noe said. “I’m able to earn it online, so it doesn’t interfere with my work schedule much.”

This will be Noe’s first degree. He is expected to graduate in summer of 2019.

Zachary Henderson, a firefighter/paramedic with the Baytown Fire Department, earned his EMT basic certification at TSTC but his paramedic certification through a third party.

“My time at TSTC really helped me in the long run because it laid the foundation for other training,” Henderson said. “My goal is to become a teacher, and the degree is important to have because it gives me that option and the opportunity to go even further with my degree and get a bachelor’s.”

Henderson chose the program with TSTC because he can complete it online while still working in the Houston area. Henderson is expected to graduate with his associate degree in spring of 2019.  

Once a student graduates from the program and passes the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians exam, he or she can work with emergency medical services, schools, hospitals or as safety officers.

TSTC’s EMS program is always accepting applications and hosts an information session every Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Industrial Technology Center at 2082 Quantum Loop in Abilene.

For more information on TSTC, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC in Abilene is offering state certified paramedics and ETMs the opportunity to earn an Associate degree and work toward becoming a licensed paramedic.

TSTC Nursing Student Prepares for Three-peat at SkillsUSA

(SWEETWATER) – Winning is so nice, she did it twice. Now Kacee Merrifield wants it again, and so does one of her classmates.

Merrifield is a nursing student enrolled in the associate degree program at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater. She has competed at SkillsUSA two years in a row, winning state both times and placing nationally.

“It’s a very validating feeling when you get to test your skills against others in your industry, but it’s so much more than just winning a medal,” Merrifield said.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. In 2017 Merrifield placed first in state for Health Knowledge Bowl, continuing on to win fourth at nationals. In 2018 she won first in state for Nurse Assisting and sixth at nationals. She will compete in Practical Nursing this year.

“I love that SkillsUSA offers a platform to meet other professionals. You meet so many people and make friends and get to travel. I really enjoyed what Skills has done for me,” Merrifield said.

Hoping to win his second first-place title is fellow nursing student Corbin Calsoncin. Calsoncin and Merrifield both graduated from TSTC in Breckenridge with a certificate of completion in Vocational Nursing in 2018. Calsoncin is also currently enrolled in the nursing program at TSTC in Sweetwater.

“I was nervous my first couple times I competed, but I feel better now and am more prepared,” Calsoncin said.

Calsoncin placed second at state in Medical Math in 2017, but placed first in Math in 2018 and went on to place ninth at nationals. Calsoncin will compete in Medical Math again this year.

Not only do Merrifield and Calsoncin compete in SkillsUSA at the collegiate level, but they also judge the high school level.

“Judging is a chance for them to give back and share their experiences with others,” Marchelle Taylor, TSTC nursing instructor and West Texas SkillsUSA coordinator, said. “Skills allows them to interact with other students and industry around the state and nation.”

Merrifield and Calsoncin will compete at the SkillsUSA 2019 Leadership and Skills Conference on April 12-14 at TSTC in Waco.

Both students encourage anyone interested in nursing to visit TSTC and take advantage of the opportunities available with SkillsUSA.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater nursing students Corbin Calsoncin, left, and Kacee Merrifield, right, prepare to compete at SkillsUSA in April. 

TSTC Program Partners with Walker Sayle Unit to Combat Substance Abuse

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Walker Sayle Unit, a substance abuse felony punishment facility, are working together to change lives and fill a need in the Texas workforce.

A report filed by the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to the 86th Legislature showed that 1.6 million adult Texans suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, Texas has only about 17 SUD care providers per 1,000 of these adults, the third lowest in the nation.

To help combat this crisis, students enrolled in TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program can work as interns and later be considered for employment at the Sayle Unit.

“It’s hard to find staff in this industry because you have to have a passion for it and it’s a lot of work,” Kemberlee Lively, program director at the Sayle Unit, said. “About 90 percent of our staff comes from TSTC because they have a hands-on knowledge base and are open to our input. These students come here and do exactly what we need them to do.”

The TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program allows students to earn a certificate of completion or an Associate of Applied Science degree to become licensed chemical dependency counselor interns. This provides a career pathway to become licensed chemical dependency counselors.

“There is an opportunity to help those individuals who this may be their last chance for recovery,” Patty Bundick, TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program chair and senior instructor, said. “Many students are people in recovery or have a family member who suffered from an addiction and see it as a chance to give back to society and now want to help someone else in their recovery.”

For Sayle Unit Assistant Program Director Shana Vandergriff, TSTC offered her the chance for a career and to help others.

“I recommend TSTC, for sure, because I went there. I know what the students are learning, and TSTC helped me,” Vandergriff said. “(TSTC) made it easy for me as a single mom … in recovery to get enrolled. They still are like my family to this day when I go visit,” Vandergriff said.

Vandergriff graduated in 2011 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling. She did her practicum as a student at the Sayle Unit.

Vandergriff encourages anyone who feels a calling and enjoys helping others succeed to consider the field.

“There is a huge need for people in this industry, and we are almost always hiring,” she said.

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

TSTC in Breckenridge Chemical Dependency Counseling students work with Walker Sayle to combat substance abuse.

Brownwood Firefighters Further Education in TSTC EMS Program

(BROWNWOOD) – Not all heroes wear capes, but some do arrive in big red fire trucks.

Three Brownwood firefighters, Ron Groom, John Hendrix and Justin Prince, volunteered to further their education and attend the Texas State Technical College Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program in Brownwood to become paramedics. It almost requires superhuman strength for them to maintain a full-time class schedule while being ready to fight fires and help save lives in their community.

“Any higher level of skill we can have is a benefit to the community. We usually are the first on scene, not always, but a majority of the time. So anything we can do to help is a benefit to everyone,” Groom, captain of the Brownwood Fire Department, said.

Firefighters in Texas are required to have training as basic emergency medical technicians. This is the first group from the Brownwood Fire Department to pursue paramedic licenses, the highest level for EMS responders.

“I, personally, and most firefighters want to be the best firefighters we can be. With our call volume being a majority of EMS, it’s essential that we have that training to be the best on those calls,” said Hendrix, who is a driver for the Brownwood Fire Department and a part-time firefighter with the Early Fire Department.

Besides providing a higher level of service for the community, becoming a paramedic offers an opportunity for promotion within a fire station and is a bonus when applying with other stations.

“For anyone in this field today, education is extremely important, whether it’s as a firefighter or in EMS,” Groom said. “To be in those higher-up or leadership roles, they’re asking for more education on top of having that paramedic license. So it’s important if you want to pursue that.”

According to projections by O*Net Online, Texas can expect increases in emergency medical technician and paramedic jobs of 20 percent and municipal firefighter jobs of 17 percent by 2026.

“There’s a huge need for first responders. Paramedics, especially in the Brownwood area, are in large demand. These guys are helping to fill a need in the community,” Stephanie Young, EMS instructor at TSTC, said.

Working in a smaller department has benefits because firefighters train in a variety of fields, but it also offers challenges.

“Just because it says ‘fire department’ doesn’t mean it’s just fire,” Prince, lieutenant with the Brownwood Fire Department, said. “We’re considered a jack-of-all-trades, so if they don’t know who to call, they call us. We need to be prepared.”

The Brownwood Fire Department encourages anyone interested in becoming a firefighter or entering an EMS field to visit the station or TSTC and ask questions.

Groom, Hendrix and Prince are expected to graduate in spring 2020. For more information on

Texas State Technical College, log on to tstc.edu.


Three Brownwood firefighters, pictured left to right, John Hendrix, Ron Groom and Justin Prince, are working toward their paramedic associate degrees at TSTC in Brownwood.

TSTC Student Veteran Uses Education to Fuel Future

(Sweetwater) – How would you define a hero? As a parent? As a soldier? Texas State Technical College student Roy Banda is all of that and more.

Banda, 32, is a former Marine now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology at TSTC in Sweetwater while fostering five children at home in Brownwood.

“I was working in a factory, with no way to move up anymore. So I talked to my wife, and now I’m using my GI Bill to create a career,” Banda said.

Banda served four years in the Marine Corps as a rifleman between 2007 and 2011, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My time in the Marines helped me a lot with discipline, obedience and work ethic in everyday actions and now school,” Banda said.

One example of Banda’s self-discipline is his dedication to be early for class each day, despite an almost two-hour commute.

“I drive half the distance Roy does every day, and he still manages to get here before me,” Mark Koslan, master instructor for DET, said. “He is dedicated, he’s a family man, he’s a veteran, and I have a lot of respect for him and his initiative to find a career path.”

Even though Banda attends school full time, he and his wife have a houseful of six kids, five of whom are foster children they plan to adopt.

“We decided to foster just to help out, then fell in love with them,” Banda said.

Banda will compete in Diesel Equipment Technology at the SkillsUSA 2019 Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference on April 12-14 at TSTC in Waco.

“I was nervous when I first agreed because I hadn’t really had any mechanical training before TSTC. But, just in the couple semesters I’ve been here I feel much more confident,” Banda said.  “One of the Marine Corps’ mottos is to adapt and overcome, so I’ll use that.”

Banda is expected to graduate in spring 2020 and plans to build a positive reputation so he can open a shop of his own.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater Diesel Equipment Technology student, veteran and parent Roy Banda, will compete at SkillsUSA in April. 

TSTC Student Exemplifies Dual Enrollment Success

(Brownwood) – Education means opportunity, and no one values that more than Alan Acosta, a Welding Technology student at Texas State Technical College in Brownwood.  

Acosta plans to be the first member of his immediate family, who immigrated from Mexico when he was 6, to earn a college degree. He started working on that goal while still a Brownwood High School student, earning college credit through TSTC’s dual enrollment program in welding.

After graduating high school in May 2018, Acosta became a full-time TSTC student working toward a structural welding certificate.

“I first tried welding in middle school and was fascinated by it, but I was pretty horrible,” Acosta said. “But after the classes in high school, I felt a lot more confident, and I’m learning faster now in college.”

The partnership between TSTC and Brownwood High School allows high school students to experience college courses before committing as a full-time traditional student.

“Dual enrollment students become much more experienced in college coursework than other students entering college having never attended a college class, not knowing what to expect,” Rene Ralston, TSTC director of dual enrollment, said. “Brownwood High School is in TSTC’s backyard, so it makes sense to partner with the school.”

TSTC welding instructor Stephen Hope believes that dual enrollment allows students the chance to figure out what they want to do in life and learn what opportunities are available.

“Alan is a determined young man, and he works so hard because he knows that there are so many job opportunities waiting for him,” Hope said. “He will go far because of his determination, and I’m proud of him.”

Acosta encourages anyone interested in getting a well-paying job to pursue their education. “If you have the ambition, you can do it. It may be hard, but you will learn it,” Acosta said. “And the people at TSTC are so helpful and willing to be there for you.”

Acosta’s younger brother, Domingo, is following in his footsteps and is currently enrolled in the welding dual enrollment program at Brownwood High.

Alan Acosta plans to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at TSTC in Abilene and hopes to graduate in April 2020.

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

TSTC in Brownwood student Alan Acosta is working on a structural welding certificate after completing the welding dual credit program with TSTC and Brownwood High School.

TSTC Alumnus Boosts Wind Energy Production

(Sweetwater) – There is change in the air: a change toward renewable energy. And Texas State Technical College alumnus John Nichols is a driving force behind that change.

Nichols graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater in 2010.

He is now employed by North Dakota-based Wanzek Construction. He served as the company’s vice president of renewable energy from 2016 to 2018 and is now its senior director of business development.

Nichols credits his time at TSTC, coupled with hard work, for his success in helping to lead the charge for wind energy. He encourages others to take advantage of the rewarding industry.

“Wind energy is something exciting to be part of, and there is no better time than now to be part of the renewable energy revolution,” Nichols said.

Nichols was a nontraditional student who sold his successful real estate business in 2007 to pursue his passion for renewable energy.

“I remember John very well,” Rick Denbow, TSTC in West Texas provost, said. “Wind energy was an emerging industry at the time in far West Texas, but John saw how a technical degree from TSTC could prepare him for a great-paying career in the wind industry. I am not surprised by his success.”

After graduating from TSTC, Nichols worked for Siemens Gamesa, where he was promoted five times in six years, eventually becoming field engineering manager.

“I got to travel the world while moving up in the company,” Nichols said. “I spent 18 months in Brazil, Chile, Peru and other parts of Latin America working on wind energy projects.”

At Wanzek Construction, Nichols plays an active role in identifying new and creative ways to keep wind competitive in the renewable energy market.

“With new technology coming and the offshore market growing, we’re seeing a decrease in cost for wind energy, which makes it even more competitive with fossil fuels,” Nichols said.

In Texas, wind energy makes up 14.89 percent of energy produced statewide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“It’s an industry on the upswing, and it’s an industry people from all walks of life can be successful in,” Billie Jones, TSTC Wind Energy Technology statewide department chair, said.

Part of Nichols’ success, and what he looks for when recruiting new talent, is common sense and life experience.

“It’s important to have a passion and interest for this field. But also to be a good technician you have to have some common sense and be comfortable around machinery. You need to be reliable and be willing to do the work,” said Nichols.

Nichols hopes others will recognize the potential available to them in wind energy.

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

TSTC in Sweetwater alumnus John Nichols helps to lead the charge for wind energy. 

TSTC in Sweetwater Partners With Local High Schools

(Sweetwater) – It’s time to start the engines and drive toward the future for many area high school students.Thanks to a partnership between their schools and Texas State Technical College, students can earn early college credit.

TSTC established a dual enrollment Automotive Technology program for Brownwood and Snyder high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in the fall of 2018, at no cost to the students themselves.

Those students can earn up to 12 college credit hours toward a certificate or an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automotive Technology and work at a local internship.  

“I feel it’s important for schools to show every viable option to our students and give them a heads-up,” Lindsay Smith, assistant principal at Brownwood High School, said.  “Our long-term hope is that we can get these students internships at facilities in Brownwood and eventually fill a need for auto techs in the community.”

Students attend class at their high school facilities but follow a carefully structured curriculum created by Rudy Cervantez, the statewide department chair for TSTC Automotive Technology.

The curriculum follows the Automotive Service Excellence Educational Foundation Alliance for Maintenance and Light Repair Standards. Students spend their sophomore and junior years working on the curriculum and their senior year working at an internship.  

“Since these schools already offer shop class, why not jump-start these students and have something to show their families that they’re working toward their futures?” Cervantez asked.

TSTC works with the instructors to ensure that they are Automotive Service Excellence-certifiedand the facilities have the right equipment.

“This is great for the students because it allows them to start early and complete early, and start earning money early,” Brian Lee, automotive instructor at Brownwood High School, said. “They can find their niche and know they’ve got a lot of jobs waiting on them because there is a huge need for technicians.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas is the second-leading state employing automotive service technicians and mechanics.

“It allows us to promote different higher education and career opportunities to the students, which encourages them to do well in school now so they can pursue all the options available to them,” Janell Martin, principal at Snyder High School, said.

Students follow the same syllabi and curriculum as they would if they were in an actual classroom at TSTC.

Brownwood High School has 30 students in the program, while Snyder High School has nine.  

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

Snyder High School students enrolled in the Automotive dual credit program with TSTC in Sweetwater replace an old car battery. 

TSTC Alumnus Overcomes Obstacles to Pursue Teaching

(ABILENE) – Computers and water don’t mix. But water — too much of it — was what led Texas State Technical College alumnus Tony Torres to pursue his passion for computer programing.

“After my wife finished school, the plan was for me to go (to college). But the day she was supposed to start her new job, our house flooded,” Torres said. “It was a blessing in disguise because I couldn’t juggle fixing the house, going to school and working full time. So we decided that the house and (my) education was a priority.“

During the two years that Torres studied for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Database and Web Programing at TSTC in Abilene, he also repaired the couple’s home.

Then, in the last semester before his 2016 graduation, he caught pneumonia.

“My brother had to drive me to my final project because I was wheezing so bad that I couldn’t drive,” Torres said. “But my final project was something nobody in our class had done before, and I wanted to present.”

Torres’ final project, based on an idea from his wife, was an IOS grocery app that helps create recipes, keeps users on budget and sends reminders about potentially expired foods.

“I like to challenge myself, and this was a different type of computer language than what we had studied. But I know my craft and had the tools to do it,” Torres said.  

Despite multiple obstacles, Torres’ dedication made him stand out to his instructors, and he was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award and the Provost Award.

“Tony was an excellent student,” Julie Rhoades, Database and Web Programing master instructor, said. “He worked hard and if he started something, it got done.”

After graduation, Torres remained in contact with his instructors while honing his skills as a freelancer. When a position for a Database and Web Programing lab assistant opened up at TSTC in Abilene, he got the job. He is currently working on a bachelor’s degree to become an instructor.

“TSTC’s top priority is to recruit top talent — and Tony is top talent,” Rhoades said.

Torres said his instructors were an inspiration to him, and that’s what he hopes to be for his students.

“I love teaching,” he said. “I believe in what we do, and that’s changing lives.”

Torres encourages anyone interested in problem-solving to pursue the DWP program.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

Texas State Technical College in Abilene Alumnus Tony Torres teaches as a Lab Assistant for Database and Web Programming at Texas State Technical College in Abilene.

TSTC Provides Qualified Wedlers for Local Jobs

(BROWNWOOD) — The need for skilled welders is growing, and local businesses hope to remind welders of job opportunities close to home.

The Texas State Technical College welding program in Brownwood produces qualified welders ready for industry, and local companies hope to attract those interested in staying in the area.

“I worked in the oil field, and it’s good work, but it can be hard on families,” said Stephen Hope, a TSTC in Brownwood welding instructor. “So these local fabrication shops are great for those who want stability, and there’s a chance to make a career and move up.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026. A majority of those jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

One local business, Barr Fabrication, says it is interested in hiring area workers and supporting local businesses.

“It benefits the Brownwood community as a whole when we hire locally, and we’re very proud to be part of this community,” said Francie Clark, the public and employee relations representative for Barr Fabrication.  

For another company, Solaris Oilfield Infrastructure, creating a positive work-life balance for its employees is something it takes pride in.

“If we can hire welders of Brown County, it means they can make competitive pay without sacrificing time away from family,” said Amber Ray, a human resources representative with the company.

TSTC partners with industry leaders to ensure that graduates find the right company to match their professional and personal goals.

“We’ve got a great program here that lets us work with students one-on-one and provide specific instruction,” Hope said. “That, and our conversations with people in the industry locally and elsewhere, really helps us to make sure these students get where they want to be.”

TSTC in Brownwood offers a three-semester structural welding certificate that includes classes in blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

For more information on TSTC, log on to tstc.edu.