Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC Spring 2017 Commencement to Be Held Friday

Marlensm(BROWNWOOD) – You can do anything you set your mind to. That is what Marlen Longoria, who will graduate from Texas State Technical College on Friday, believes. The Santa Anna, Texas, resident grew up in Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico, and moved to Texas in 2009.

“Two or three years ago, I got my GED, thanks to my mother-in-law,” Longoria said. “She always encouraged me to start again, to get my driver’s license first and then to get my GED. She said, ‘Well, you have a brain. You can go to college.’”

Longoria did some research, found TSTC online and visited the campus. She chose to study TSTC’s Software & Business Management Accounting.

“One day we came here to look for information,” she said. “I took two years of accounting in Mexico, and that’s why I decided to study it here. I like it.”

Longoria served as vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs, and was a member of the Student Government Association. She will graduate with a 4.0 GPA. While she was part of the SGA, the group established a food and clothing pantry on campus to help other students.

“We always try to do community service,” Longoria said. “This year we have more members and we’re really active.”

Longoria will join nearly 150 other students from TSTC’s West Texas campuses in walking the stage at the spring commencement ceremony, which will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the Abilene Civic Center.

After graduating, Longoria plans to attend Howard Payne University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She chose one word to describe her experience at TSTC: awesome.

“It’s so much more than I expected,” she said. “The people here are great. They always have a smile on their faces and they always made me feel a part of it. My English isn’t great — it’s not my first language — but they always made me feel comfortable. The instructors have always been patient with me. It’s been a great experience, and they gave me the confidence to continue my education!”

Longoria offered some words of advice to TSTC students and those considering TSTC.

“Never give up,” Longoria said. “There’s no problem that is bigger than your dreams.”

TSTC in Brownwood is currently enrolling for all programs, including Chemical Dependency Counseling, Computer Aided Drafting & Design, Computer Networking & Systems Administration, Database & Web Programming, Emergency Medical Services, LVN-RN Transition, Medical Office Specialist, Software Accounting & Management and Welding. Summer registration continues through May 1. Fall registration ends Aug. 21.

For more information on TSTC and programs available, visit

TSTC Breaks Ground on New Abilene Campus

groundbreaking(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College officials and community leaders broke ground on the college’s newest venture in Abilene on Thursday, April 20. The ceremony, held at 1717 Navajo Trail, marked the start of construction on a 56,000-square-foot Industrial Technology Center that will be the first of a multibuilding campus.

The college is excited for the opportunity to better serve the community with access to advanced technical education that can lead to great career opportunities.

“Our campus expansion in Abilene will support industry growth and expand the city’s economy while reducing the ever-widening midlevel skills gap,” said Rick Denbow, senior field development officer at TSTC. “This groundbreaking marks a new era for TSTC in Abilene and in West Texas.”

The Development Corporation of Abilene, Dodge Jones Foundation, Dian Graves Owen Foundation, Shelton Family Foundation, City of Abilene and community leaders have invested $6 million toward the project, which will allow TSTC to add programs in Industrial Maintenance, Welding, and Electrical Power & Controls and will house its growing Emergency Medical Services program.

“These programs were chosen from analyzing data from the Rick Perryman study where we looked at economic growth across the state and what the needs were in those particular areas,” said TSTC Executive Vice Chancellor and COO Elton Stuckly Jr. “We also did some research of our own and selected the programs based on the needs of the community and this region.”

Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald, a longtime supporter of TSTC, was quick to jump on the opportunity for a new TSTC.

“Who are the winners in all of this?” Archibald asked the crowd at the event. “First of all, construction jobs will be made. People that live in our community will be out here working. That’s good. Students will come to this campus and learn skills and go out and get a job that they can be proud of. They’re one of the winners. The workforce helps bring in businesses that think, ‘I’m thinking of coming to Abilene. Do you have the workers I need to make this business work?’ The answer will be yes.”

The Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) was among the first to invest in the new campus.

“The DCOA went through an extensive strategic planning process and identified 10 goals we want to focus on,” DCOA Chairman Dave Copeland said. “One of those goals was to build a more highly skilled workforce. Another was to support our existing businesses’ growth and prosperity. The businesses in this town are closely linked to the workforce. We feel that this new facility takes us a long way toward those goals.”

Stuckly stressed the importance of building relationships.

“TSTC is known for providing a skilled workforce for Texas, but of course everything you do takes money,” he said. “Without the support of the county, the city, the DCOA, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Denbow shared the same sentiments.

“TSTC has a reputation of doing great things,” said Denbow, “Growing businesses, growing the economy, transforming lives — but we can’t do any of that without you.”

The new building is expected to open in the summer of 2018. For more information on Texas State Technical College and the programs currently offered, visit


TSTC Hosts First Auto Tech Day

(SWEETWATER) – Local high school students had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology students during the college’s first Auto Tech Day.

The event was focused on recruiting students to TSTC’s Automotive Maintenance and Repair dual enrollment pathway – an educational initiative that allows high school students to take college courses.

“We want to make sure students are aware of the college opportunities available to them while still in high school,” said TSTC Manager of Dual Enrollment for West Texas Rene Rolston.

Students at the event were treated to breakfast and got to hear from TSTC West Texas Campus Provost Eliska Smith, TSTC Automotive Instructor Henry Ortega, TSTC Automotive Division Director Mark Koslan and TSTC Automotive Advisory Board member and owner of J&M Automotive in SweetwaterTSTC Auto Tech Day Josh Waldon.

After presentations, the high school students were paired with TSTC students to get hands-on experience in areas such as air conditioning, diagnostics, brake repair and engine maintenance and repair.

“When choosing a career path it’s important to know what you’re getting into,” said Rolston. “And there’s no better way than having an event dedicated to exposing students to a field and giving them an opportunity to experience it hands on.”

Rolston said she hopes this event will encourage students to pursue this pathway because there are benefits to enrolling in dual enrollment courses.

“When a student enrolls in dual enrollment they are saving themselves time and money in the future,” she said. “When they complete the pathway they have one semester under their belt.”

TSTC currently has 43 school districts that are utilizing the dual enrollment pathway for its junior and senior high school students in Sweetwater and surrounding counties, including nine online pathways for those who are too far to travel to campus.

Dual enrollment classes are typically offered Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the TSTC campus.

“We have students as far as 250 miles away taking dual enrollment courses through TSTC,” said Rolston. “So our online pathways make dual enrollment a reality with us when students live too far but want to take advantage of this great partnership.”

For more information on the dual enrollment Automotive Technology pathway call 325-235-7319 or go online at

TSTC Reduces Housing Costs to Help New, Current Students

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College Housing student Zachary Reece will be having a little extra money in his pocket beginning Fall 2017.

TSTC has announced it will reduce the cost of living on campus between $130 and $140 to assist students in lowering their expenses.

Reece, a Diesel Equipment Technology student pursuing a certificate, says that being a full-time student means living on a tight budget. .

“I think what TSTC is doing is a really good idea,” said Reece. “This helps me lower my spending and any bit of money saved goes aTSTC Housing Reduces Costs long way when you’re a college student.”

The Olney native has lived in a dorm at TSTC since January and said he is glad the college is doing something extra to help its students.

“We know that college is a big investment,” said TSTC West Texas Housing Director Jose Navarrette. “And we believe this change will help students save some money and focus more on school.”

Like Reece there are another 216 students living on TSTC’s Sweetwater campus working toward the same goal: finishing college.

“Our goal as a college is to graduate students and get them good paying jobs,” said Navarrette. “We feel that by alleviating some of the financial stress, they’ll fulfill their goals and that of the college.”

Associate Vice Chancellor of Auxiliary Administration Kevin Dorton said the initiative of reducing housing costs began about a year ago as a way to spur enrollment.

“This is a cost-savings solution for our incoming and current students,” said Dorton. “Our goal is to offer our students affordable housing options. In return, we believe this will increase our enrollment and the number of students living on campus.”

Students in Sweetwater have housing options: a dorm room and student apartments such as Bluebonnet Inn, all of which are shared with other students. Those living on campus also have a meal plan included in their rental package. Internet, cable and utilities are also included.

“Our goal is give our students a comfortable place to call home,” said Navarrette. “We want them to be relaxed and have food on their tables so they can enjoy college.”

Dorton said the housing cost reduction is isolated to West Texas at the moment, but there are studies and research being done for the college’s other campuses.

For more information on TSTC Housing call 325-235-7368.

Registration for Summer and Fall 2017 is already in progress. For more information on TSTC programs offered near you go online at

TSTC Student Q&A with Mercedes Burkhart of Stamford

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Mercedes Burkhart, 23, of Stamford is studying Vocational Nursing at Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge and is scheduled to graduate with a certificate in December. She is a 2012 graduate of Stamford High School in Jones County.

Is helping people in their times of need instilled in your family? “I’ve always been in health care. I watched my mother, who was a social worker, work with her cases. Nobody in my family is a nurse, but I knew I wanted to help people.”

How did you learn about TSTC in Breckenridge? “I’m already a certified nursing assistant and I work at Hendrick Health System in Abilene. After years of schooling, I decided to complete something. I wanted to get some type of certificate. My fiance’s stepmother works at the campus in recruiting. She talked to me about TSTC and the Vocational Nursing program in general. I heard more by word of mouth and applied. When I turned my packet in, that’s when I saw the campus for the first time.”

What is a typical week like for you? “We wear scrubs to clinicals. I work Sunday nights and have class at 1 p.m. on Mondays. Tuesdays are all-day classes until 4 p.m. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I do clinicals at Cisco Nursing and Rehabilitation (in Eastland County), so I have to wake up at 4 a.m. and drive from Abilene to Cisco. On Fridays we do not have classes, so I catch up on homework and then go back to work on the weekends.I also do a lot of volunteer work.”

Did you participate in SkillsUSA Texas’ state contests held in late March at TSTC in Waco? “I gave a prepared speech in which I picked three topics and combined them into a five- to seven-minute speech. I did Family, Career and Community Leaders of America in high school, which was a lot like this. I was the first person from Stamford to go to FCCLA’s national competition twice.”

What advice would you give to high school students thinking about college and careers? “I wish someone had told me about technical schools instead of four-year universities. Coming from a smaller town to a large university was a culture shock. You should actually look into your options and don’t let someone push you where they need you to go. Go where you feel comfortable.”

Texas had more than 78,000 licensed practical and vocational nurses in spring 2016, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Woodlands-Houston-Sugar Land area had the largest concentration of vocational and practical nurses in the state, with more than 12,800 employed.

There were more than 70 full-time licensed vocational nurses in Stephens County as of September 2016, according to the most recent information from the Texas Board of Nursing. Most of the county’s licensed vocational nurses worked in general practices, geriatrics, surgical areas and home health. Jones County had more than 130 full-time licensed vocational nurses as of September 2016, according to the state board of nursing.

For more information on TSTC’s Vocational Nursing or other technical programs, go to

Breckenridge Vocational Nursing Mercedes Burkhart April 3, 2017

TSTC Student Q&A with Devin Klar

(SWEETWATER) – Devin Klar, 20, of San Antonio is a Wind Energy Technology student at Texas State Technical College. Klar, a 2015 alumnus of Judson High School in Converse, is scheduled to graduate in May with an associate degree.

How did you pick your major? “I grew up going back and forth to the coast and saw the turbines. I jumped on the computer and started looking at schools to go to that offered classes. I started doing some digging around. My father was in Abilene for work, and he talked to some guys who worked for a wind company and they mentioned Texas State Technical College.”

How have you enjoyed attending TSTC? “It’s more than what I expected. It’s a lot of hands-on work with great information that I have learned. It’s been a great time going to school here.”

Have you worked through college? “I started working at the Nolan County Coliseum Complex in Sweetwater in the fall. I wait for people to come in and open up stalls for their animals. I make sure the stalls have the amount of shavings they ordered and make sure the visitors are happy with what they got. I have a pretty good work schedule. I have a son back in San Antonio and go back and forth every other weekend. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’ve been very blessed to have what has been given to me here.”

What are you looking forward to in working in the wind energy field? “The future that it has, the large growth that it is capable of producing with renewable energy. It is the ability to travel, too, and lots of hands-on work.”

Texas had the most wind turbine service technicians in the nation in 2015 with more than 1,200 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. West Texas and The Woodlands-Sugar Land-Houston area have the largest concentrations of wind energy workers in the state.

Wind Energy Technology is offered at TSTC’s campuses in Harlingen and Sweetwater. For more information, go to

Sweetwater Q&A Devin Klar


TSTC Students Look to Sweetwater Events Center as Source for Jobs

(SWEETWATER) – The Nolan County Coliseum Complex is giving Texas State Technical College students the opportunity to attend classes and learn about work quality and responsibility.

The multi-structure events venue on Coliseum Drive in Sweetwater has at least 12 TSTC students working varying hours depending on scheduled events. Some of March’s activities include a 4-H Club quilting show, a quinceanera, team roping competitions and a 4-H horse contest.

“They want gas money, they want food money, they want money for their education,” said Terry Locklar, the coliseum’s general manager, about his student workers. “These are the guys and females that have a goal in mind and know what it takes to achieve that goal. It’s been a great asset for us as far as having people you can count on and have that customer relations experience and that mindset of the harder work you do, the more you achieve.”

The students and more than 10 full-time and permanent part-time staff have been transforming the coliseum area this week from hosting junior high school and high school rodeos to getting ready for rattlesnakes. The Sweetwater Jaycees’ annual World’s Largest Rattlesnake Roundup will host more than 25,000 visitors from across Texas and the nation from Friday, March 10, to Sunday, March 12. The event, which has at least an $8 million annual economic impact on Nolan County, includes the Miss Snake Charmer Pageant, a flea market, a gun and knife show, roping contests and a carnival.

Saul Biscaino, 20, of Pleasanton and a fall 2016 Welding Technology graduate taking an extra welding class to learn more techniques this semester at TSTC, is looking forward to his first rattlesnake event. He works at least 30 hours a week and has been employed at the complex since last summer.

“It’s been a real good experience,” Biscaino said about his work. “When they have the rodeos, I am responsible for the financial paperwork and making sure everything that needs to be paid for is, and everything put out in the stalls gets put out.”

Biscaino has also done welded panels on livestock stalls and built countertops for sinks in new restrooms in the complex’s annex.

“I’m very fortunate,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the coliseum staff that gave me the opportunity to continue my classes and work here and get as many hours as I can.”

One of Biscaino’s co-workers, 20-year-old Devin Klar of San Antonio, has been working at the complex since the fall. Klar is a Wind Energy Technology major and is scheduled to graduate in May from TSTC.

This weekend, Klar will make sure trash is picked up and help out where needed on the grounds during the rattlesnake event.

“Working at the coliseum has taught me a lot,” he said. “It’s given me a lot of integrity, and we are given a lot of responsibility here. It is given to us with trust, and we get that trust very quickly. I am able to follow through and make decisions.”

Sweetwater Nolan County Coliseum March 9, 2017


TSTC Culinary Art Graduate Finds His Passion in the Kitchen

(ABILENE) – Sweetwater native Marc Silvas went off to Texas Tech University to study to be a pharmacist but soon realized he was on the wrong career track.

“I wasn’t enjoying it and I couldn’t see myself being a pharmacist for the rest of my life,” said Silvas.  “So I found myself back at home and working at my family’s restaurant thinking about my life and doing some soul searching.”

The 27-year-old’s family owns a Tex-Mex restaurant in Sweetwater called Casa Morales. It was originally opened by his grandfather in 1980 in Rotan, Texas. After retirement his family moved the business to Sweetwater in 1990, where they have served the community since.

“I was in the kitchen cooking when I realized, ‘Why not pursue a career in the culinary world?’” said Silvas. “I’m a restaurant kid, I’ve done this my whole life and I’m good at it.”

Silvas said that was the best decision he had ever made. After completing program prerequisites and applying for the culinary program, he got accepted. He graduated from the TSTC Culinary Arts progrExecutive Chef Marc Silvasam with an associate degree in 2011.

“My time at TSTC was great and it prepared me and paved my way for the job I have now,” he said.

Silvas currently works with Texas Tech’s hospitality services as an Executive Chef for Top Tier Catering, the university’s in-house catering company.

“Getting this job was definitely a whirlwind of emotions for me because I received the offer before even receiving my degree,” Silvas said. “It all happened so fast, but it’s like I say, you get what you put into something. And I gave everything to be successful in the culinary program.”

The executive chef said the education and training he received at TSTC is invaluable. He said the real-world experience of running a lunch and dinner service as a class for the college and community was instrumental in his success.

“During this time we would all shift restaurant roles,” he said. “So one day I was cooking, the next bussing tables and the next working as wait staff. It’s important to learn every role and TSTC provided that experience.”

Silvas credits much of his success to two of his instructors Chef Sandy Davis and Chef Coby Baumann.

“They invested so much of their energy and time in me and my success,” said Silvas. “It means a lot to me that they cared about my development and always pushed me to do my best.”

Ultimately, Silvas said he would like to teach others and also help them find success in the culinary industry in addition to someday owning his own butcher shop.

In the meantime, Silvas is preparing for his Certified Pastry Chef exam in July. He already holds two additional certifications: Certified Executive Chef and Chef de Cuisine.

David Deason, Silvas’ supervisor and associate managing director of Hospitality at Texas Tech said he was impressed with Silvas the first time he met him.

“Marc is so young, but so talented in the kitchen,” Deason said. “He has worked side by side with some of the best trained chefs from f the biggest culinary institutes and he is respected by all. He definitely has a bright future and a home here with us as long as he wants to stay.”

Silvas said he wants current or future TSTC students to always find networking opportunities.

“Get involved in your community, no matter your major,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about who you meet and know that will give you your break. I know it definitely made a difference for me when I met my current boss at an event I was cooking for.”

For more information on TSTC Culinary Arts call 325-670-9240.

TSTC Filling Nursing Needs in Stephens County

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College is helping to keep quality medical care available in Stephens County.

“The local Vocational Nursing program has been a tremendous asset to our field physicians in our hospitals, nursing homes and clinics,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation and a member of The TSTC Foundation Board of Directors. “It definitely helps fill a gap, and we are fortunate in Breckenridge that we have something like that available. Most rural communities do not.”

TSTC’s Breckenridge campus offers a certificate in Vocational Nursing and currently has 12 students in the program. Students take classes in basic nursing, pharmacology, medical terminology, medication administration and applied nursing skills. Some of the training is done on medical simulation dummies that can be programmed to mimic a range of health situations.

“The program covers a wide variety of skills,” said Trisha Otts, interim director of the Vocational Nursing program in West Texas, but who will become permanent director at the end of February. “We get a lot of the students straight out of high school. The main hurdle is getting clear background checks from the Texas Board of Nursing.”

There were more than 70 full-time licensed vocational nurses in Stephens County as of September 2016, according to the most recent information from the Texas Board of Nursing. Most of the county’s licensed vocational nurses worked in general practices, geriatrics, surgical areas and home health.

Chris Curtis, practice administrator at Breckenridge Medical Center, which is owned by Stephens Memorial Hospital, said a majority of the nurses are TSTC graduates.

“Without the nursing program, we would really struggle to find nurses,” Curtis said. “TSTC is where they all come from. They do their clinical sessions at the clinic and the hospital, and this gives them an idea of what they want to do in their careers.”

The technical college is a tool Moore uses to attract new companies to the county.

“Finding skilled labor is a big challenge,” Moore said. “The smaller the area you are talking about, the more of a challenge it is. A lot of times we rely on basically a promise that we are going to supply you with a skilled workforce, and you tell us the skills you need and we can train the people locally to fill those jobs. It’s worked out really well for us.”

Otts, a graduate of TSTC, said she envisions working with area school districts in the future to try to provide dual enrollment opportunities for high school students interested in nursing.

Open House will be held at TSTC in Breckenridge from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. For more information, go to

J5D_2497 breckenridge nursing resized

Home Grow ‘Em: Area Company Offers Apprenticeships for TSTC Students

_5D_9989(ABILENE) – A local company is offering students in the Aviation Maintenance programs at Texas State Technical College a chance for hands-on experience and, after graduation, a job.

TSTC has partnered with Eagle Aviation to form a job pipeline, Aviation Maintenance instructor Brian Hahn explained. While in school students participate in Eagle Aviation’s apprenticeship program and, after graduating and earning their Airframe and Powerplant license, are hired on full time as mechanics.

“The company has a number of slots dedicated for full-time employees,” Hahn said. “And some of those slots are to hire specifically from TSTC. The track gets them in while they’re still in school so they can become familiar with the aircraft.”

The program began about 3 1/2 years ago, and the students complete the apprenticeship on their own time.

“There is no class requirement,” Hahn said. “They work 25 to 30 hours a week depending on their schedule, getting paid at a non-licensed mechanic rate. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to get that real-life, hands-on experience on aircraft that are actually flying passengers.”

Rania Rollin, who graduated from the Aviation Maintenance program in the summer of 2015, completed her apprenticeship and was hired as an aircraft technician. She said the apprenticeship was a great opportunity for her.

“It’s so hard to get into the aviation industry without having somewhere to put your foot,” Rollin said. “We worked with a certified mechanic and we would basically learn everything we needed to do. If we had to change fluids, we would change fluids. If we had to fix sheet metal, we would take it out and shoot rivets. Pretty much anything a normal mechanic would do, we got the opportunity to do it.”

Rollin spent a year in the program and was relieved to have a post-graduation plan.

“It felt secure,” she said. “It’s a small area out here in Abilene, so not having to move to a bigger city was nice. I have my husband and we have a kid, so it was nice knowing that I could help support them.”

Harley Hall, managing director at Eagle Aviation, said the company usually has five to seven TSTC apprentices going through the program at one time. The program helps Eagle Aviation with employee turnover.

“We’ve had a large attrition rate over the years,” Hall said. “People coming from out of state want to move to be closer to their families; we can’t keep them. This kind of ‘Home Grow Em’ program helps because most of the TSTC students are from the Abilene area. Plus it gives them an avenue to know they have a job waiting for them at graduation.”

Hall said the rates of students becoming licensed and getting hired have been very high.

“Ninety to 100 percent of the students now are getting their A&P license and coming to work for us,” he said. “They’re definitely turning out to be some of our better workers.”

Rollin is grateful for her experience at Eagle Aviation.

“It’s a great learning experience,” she said. “The planes aren’t incredibly small, but not incredibly large either, so you have an opportunity to learn every part of the aircraft. I’ve learned a lot of different things.”

Eagle Aviation currently employs about 15 TSTC graduates as mechanics.

For more information on TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance programs, visit