Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC Student Receives Guitar Once Used by Famous Rock Band

(SWEETWATER) – In the wake of the Bluebonnet Inn dorm fire at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, one student had a special request. Isaiah Ornelaz, an Automotive Technology student and avid guitar player, just wanted his guitar replaced.

When TSTC employees heard of the request, Rene Ralston, TSTC’s director of Dual Enrollment programs, made a post on her personal Facebook page, asking if anyone might have a guitar they would be willing to donate. She soon had a response.

Maggie Dickey, owner of Sweetwater Performing Arts Center and wife of the late David Dickey, bassist of the band America, told Ralston she might have a guitar for Ornelaz.

“When we asked Maggie if she was sure she wanted to do this, her answer was, ‘electric or acoustic?,’” Ralston said. “Maggie took the guitar to Abilene on Saturday, had new strings put on it, had it tuned and bought Isaiah a new guitar case.”

Ornelaz said he mentioned the guitar in conversation with TSTC employees he talks to often.

“I talk to them a lot, so they knew I play the guitar,” he said. “When the fire happened, I was like, ‘Aw, I lost my guitar,’ and later they asked me if I had an electric or acoustic.”

The guitar was presented to Ornelaz on Monday at a gathering TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser held to speak to the students affected by the fire.

“I’m a guitar player, too, and I want you to know that if I lost one of my guitars in a fire, I would really be upset,” Reeser told Ornelaz. “I happened to hear this morning that there are some employees trying to make sure you get your guitar. I knew David Dickey, and he’s quite literally a rock star. He’s the real deal.”

Ornelaz was shocked to receive the gift.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “I just thought he knew I played guitar and was talking about it, and then they showed up with a guitar.”

He wasted no time in playing and even looked up music by America, whose music he hadn’t previously heard.

“I played it all last night. It’s awesome,” he said. “I looked up some songs [by America.] They’re pretty good. I’ll listen to them quite a bit now.”

David Dickey, a Sweetwater resident since 1996, joined America in 1972. The band produced hits like “A Horse with No Name,” “Ventura Highway,” “Hat Trick” and “Sister Golden Hair.”

In all, 28 students were left without their belongings because of the dorm fire. The college and the community have rallied together to recoup the students’ lost items and necessities like clothing and books.

Those interested in donating to the students can give to the Sweetwater Fire Emergency Relief Fund at

TSTC, Community Offer Support to TSTC Students Affected by Fire

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College Chancellor Mike Reeser met with students affected by the Feb. 7 Bluebonnet Inn dorm fire on the Sweetwater campus at a 2 p.m. gathering today.

Chancellor Reeser reiterated his support for the students.

“When you enroll in TSTC, you become family,” he told the students. “When tragedy happens, a family gathers together. This meeting is to continue that opportunity for you to know that we care. We’re here for you.”

Reeser said the college will do whatever it can to help students stay on track.

“We’re going to make sure that we do everything in our power to make sure you reach the goal you set — to be a technician in a high-paying field,” he said. “We’re going to do all that we can to make sure this tragedy doesn’t deter you, and the way we’re going to do that is with our support for you.”

While no one was injured in the fire, the dorm and the students’ belongings inside were a total loss. TSTC provided books and tools to the students affected, and elected officials, TSTC supporters, area colleges, businesses, churches and community members from the region have generously offered assistance.

At the meeting, the students were presented with gift cards from Trinity Baptist Church, 4th & Elm Church of Christ and Goodwill-West Texas’ Grounds Division to help replace lost possessions. EMA Electromechanics also made a donation to help the students.

“The community really responded,” said TSTC Provost Rick Denbow. “In less than a week’s time, we’ve had a lot of people reach out. We’re still getting calls asking how they can help the students.”

Rep. Stan Lambert​,​ District 71 (R-Abilene)​,​ also spoke to the students.

“We are concerned, and we’re trying to put ourselves in your shoes and understand what you’re going through right now — not just the loss of physical possessions, but some of the emotions and mental issues that you may be dealing with right now,” Lambert said. “The state of Texas is going to step up and do anything that we can to help you in this recovery effort.”

Lambert said he hopes to help ease the students’ hardship.

“I live in Abilene just east of here,” he said. “What I tell parents who send their children to colleges, and even the Dyess airmen, I tell them, ‘They’re ours now. We’ve adopted them.’ We’ve adopted you, because you’re part of the Big Country. You’re part of our family. I want you to know that we’re committed to do anything we possibly can to help you make this transition as soon as possible and ease your burden.”

Those interested in donating to the students can give to the Sweetwater Fire Emergency Relief Fund at

Local Ladies Group Votes to Give TSTC Scholarships

(BRECKENRIDGE) – The Stephens Memorial Hospital “Pink Ladies” auxiliary club of Breckenridge has voted to give two $500 scholarships to Vocational Nursing students at Texas State Technical College.

The group gave their first TSTC scholarship last year, and this year they have expanded it to two scholarships.

“Many of our past students are employed at the hospital, clinics and home health agencies in our community, so helping with scholarships spreads goodwill,” said TSTC nursing instructor Marchelle Taylor. “In doubling the scholarship, two students may receive benefits, and that generosity filters out into the community.”

Donna Pardee, president of the Pink Ladies, said the group loves doing things to help the hospital, and that is why they chose to give the scholarship to nursing students.

“We love doing things for the hospital and the community,” Pardee said. “Every penny we make through fundraising goes right back to the hospital. We don’t keep any of it. This scholarship seemed to be the best way to help a local nursing student in need.”

The scholarships will help students with financial hardships.

“Many of our students live in the surrounding rural areas, so gas and transportation may be an issue,” Taylor said. “Our clinicals are also up to 60 miles away twice a week, so gas money can become an issue. Scholarships may also help students with child care, meals, books and scrubs.”

The group will give one scholarship in the fall and the other in the spring.

“We are hoping to expand the amount next year,” Pardee said. “We realize that it costs a lot to go to college and some of these kids don’t get any help, so we are hoping to help the community.”

Students interested in applying for the scholarships can contact Taylor at

The deadline to apply for TSTC’s nursing program is approaching soon. Students interested in starting the program this fall must apply to the school online and send in their program application packet by Monday, April 2.

To apply, or for more information on the program, visit

TSTC to Host Open House at Brownwood Campus

(BROWNWOOD) – Texas State Technical College in Brownwood will hold its annual Open House from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16. This event is designed for prospective students who want to learn more about the college, but it is also open to their parents, families and friends.

Visitors can tour the campus and speak with instructors about the programs offered, including Business Management Technology, Chemical Dependency Counseling, Computer-Aided Drafting & Design, Computer Networking & Systems Administration, Database & Web Programming, Emergency Medical Services and Welding.

Faculty from the Electrical Power & Controls and Industrial Maintenance programs, which will begin in the fall at Abilene’s newest TSTC campus, will be present to speak about those programs.

Financial Aid information sessions will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Prospective students can also meet with TSTC Student Support Services representatives.

Interested persons should register online at For more information, call 940-447-7714.

TSTC Helps Graduate Achieve Goals

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College alumnus Ted Harvey was working as an assistant manager at a dollar store when he decided he needed a life change.

Harvey had always loved working with computers but hadn’t thought about making it a career.

“I just loved computers and was really good at working with individual computers, home networking and stuff like that,” Harvey said.

After researching career options and colleges, Harvey finally chose TSTC’s Computer Networking & Systems Administration program.

“When I came to TSTC, I got to learn about the business side of things and got more in-depth,” he said. “That really inspired me to go out and learn more and push myself.”

Harvey was unsure of what to expect when he first arrived at the school.

“When I walked in here, I was terrified. I was 30 years old,” he said. “But when I had my very first meeting with Jennifer Herrera, she was so welcoming and so friendly. It made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. It got me even more excited about going to college. Every step of the way, my whole time here, I always felt like the staff was extremely friendly and interested in my future.”

Harvey now works as a computer technician for the city of Abilene, where he troubleshoots desktops and servers and sets up wireless access points, among other duties.

“It has changed my whole life, coming to TSTC,” Harvey said. “Before I went to school, I was absolutely miserable at my job. I felt stuck, like there was no escape. Since coming here, I’ve been able to move up in my life.”

Apart from his full-time job, he also runs his own business, Blue Helix Technology.

“It is absolutely exhausting to do that with a full-time job, but I enjoy it a lot,” Harvey said. “I manage small business networks. I do computer security and Wi-Fi for a few small businesses here in town.”

Harvey has some advice for those considering the Computer Networking & Systems Administration program: “You get what you put in.”

“When you come to the CNS program, you’re not going to graduate and immediately be a networking expert,” he said. “You’ll get a very solid foundation and hands-on learning experience that will allow you to build on that. TSTC gave me the foundation to build on for everything that I do now and everything that I love.”

For more information on TSTC’s Computer Networking & Systems Administration program, visit

Annual TSTC Abilene Open House a Success

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College in Abilene held its annual open house Friday, opening all three of its Abilene campus locations for tours and presentations. The event, designed for prospective students who want to learn more about the college, saw about 100 students come through.

This is the first year that all three campuses have been available for Open House.

“We did things a little differently this year because we opened up all three buildings,” said TSTC Vice President of Recruitment Kim Porter. “So, they went to Culinary, they got to see Aviation, and Wind Energy came over from Sweetwater. We had pictures of the new Industrial Maintenance labs to market the new building, and Welding came over as well.”

Electrical Power & Controls, Industrial Maintenance Technology and Welding Technology will begin in Abilene in the fall with the opening of TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center. Visiting prospective students learned about the three programs.

“We had a lot of interest in the new programs,” Porter said. “All in all it was a really good day.”

Many of the day’s visitors came in with programs already in mind.

“A lot of the students that came in kind of knew what they wanted, other than just coming in to visit TSTC,” Porter said. “Our recruiters have done a really good job in preparing them and showing them what to expect. I met a young lady from Abilene High School, a first-generation student, and she applied for our Industrial Maintenance program. She’s really excited about that.”

TSTC recruiter Hannah Elliott said she had seen a lot of the visitors before.

“A lot of students I’ve developed relationships with throughout the year came to the event,” said Elliott. “Every student thanked me and was glad that we held the event. The parents were excited that they were able to come and that everybody was here and ready to help them.”

TSTC will hold open houses at its campuses in Brownwood in February and Breckenridge and Sweetwater in March.

For more information on open houses, visit To learn more about the college and its programs, visit

TSTC in Sweetwater to Host Blood Drive

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College will host a Meek Blood Center blood drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, in front of the Student Center on the TSTC campus in Sweetwater.

Griselda Sanchez, community standards liaison at TSTC, said the students requested that the school host the drive.

“They wanted to donate and asked if I could make that arrangement,” she said.

Sanchez hopes to make the blood drive a recurring event on campus.

“We have had this in the past, but it was a few years back,” she said. “I want to make it a regular thing, and the Meek Blood Center is really excited to do that. I feel like TSTC should be known as a location that not only is here to educate our students in technologies, but also in serving opportunities.”

TSTC hopes the drive will help those in need of this lifesaving gift.

“Many have a personal tie to donating, so in lieu of naming this drive, I hope each student and employee who donates comes with their special person in mind,” Sanchez said.

Frances Baker, marketing and business development manager at Meek Blood Center, said donating blood is a powerful action.

“We don’t have a lot of opportunities in our lives to save someone else’s life, but blood donation is one way to do that,” Baker said. “You can save three lives with one donation. There’s a lot of power in the blood.”

Sanchez said everyone benefits from the drive.

“Those in need of blood benefit, and those who donate will feel like they have made a difference.”

Meek donations benefit patients over a large area.

“Meek Blood Center provides blood to 17 area hospitals, including Sweetwater’s Rolling Plains,” Baker said.

Donors will receive a T-shirt. For more information on the blood drive, call 325-235-7311.

TSTC Receives Equipment From Lincoln Electric

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College has received 10 welding machines from Lincoln Electric to jump-start the welding program at its new Abilene campus.

“This support gives our students access to the newest technology out there,” said TSTC Interim Provost Rick Denbow. “Our students have the advantage of becoming familiar with industry-standard equipment before they begin working.”

Lead TSTC welding instructor Gregory Nicholas said the equipment is highly advanced and will be utilized to its highest potential.

“This support from Lincoln provides our students with the most up-to-date multiprocess welders on the market,” Nicholas said. “It gives them every tool needed and available to become the welder that industry needs. These machines will help TSTC ensure that our students are proficient in all welding processes and can pursue a career in the industry.”

The Lincoln Electric equipment is from their Power Wave, Power Feed and FlexTec lines.

“Lincoln Electric is pleased to support and advance Texas State Technical College’s welding program,” said Jason Scales, Lincoln Electric’s business manager, education. “By expanding access to state-of-the art welding solutions, training and skills, TSTC graduates are better positioned to build successful, long-term careers in advanced manufacturing.”

With the upcoming addition of the welding program at the Abilene campus, TSTC will offer welding at all 10 of its locations. Officials broke ground on Abilene’s new campus last April, and classes are set to begin there this fall. The new building, which is being constructed off Loop 322 next to Abilene Regional Airport, will also house Electrical Power & Controls and Industrial Maintenance Technology programs.

Lincoln Electric is the world leader in the design, development and manufacture of arc welding products, robotic arc welding systems, plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Lincoln has 63 manufacturing locations, including operations and joint ventures in 23 countries and a worldwide network of distributors and sales offices covering more than 160 countries.

For more information on TSTC, visit

TSTC Culinary Arts Watches Calendar for Winter Vegetables

(WACO) – The winter months mean an abundance of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and other vegetables for students to learn about in Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts programs.

Of Texas’ five growing zones, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, three include TSTC’s campuses. TSTC’s Culinary Arts program in Abilene is in a zone stretching from the Red River to the Rio Grande. The technical college’s Culinary Arts programs in Waco and Williamson County are in a zone extending from the Rio Grande to the Houston coast. And, TSTC’s Culinary Arts program in Harlingen is in a zone made up of the Rio Grande Valley.

TSTC students learn about the seasonality of vegetables in classes, said Aaron Guajardo, an instructor in the Culinary Arts program in Waco. He said paying attention to when vegetables are at their height of availability can mean more quantity and lower food and shipping costs.

“The flavors are going to be better because the conditions will be more favorable for them to grow,” Guajardo said.

Winter vegetables are those that are planted in the fall and early winter and are harvested before spring planting, said Colleen Foleen, a McLennan County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for family and community health.

“The roots and leafy greens are going to be the ones you are going to have,” Foleen said. “If you look when they are available at the stores it’s best from November to April. Things in season and grown fairly locally are going to have a higher nutrition value, will be cheaper and have no artificial means of sunlight to grow.”

Each of the state’s growing zones bring different soil, climates and planting schedules. For instance, beets can be planted about Aug. 15 in the Panhandle and as late as Dec. 15 in the Rio Grande Valley, according to the extension service. The Ruby Queen and Detroit Dark Red beets are available in Texas from October to April as growing seasons move southward, according to the extension service and the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Foleen said kale is currently being harvested and spinach and lettuce are growing well in McLennan County.

“It gets too hot here for most of the greens, but they will grow well in the wintertime,” she said. “We have a lot of vegetables that are winter that are considered spring and summer in other climates.”

Kayleen Mills, a Culinary Arts instructor at TSTC’s Abilene campus, uses celery and onions in stocks. Locally grown celery is available from December to April and onions can be planted in November and December in Central and South Texas with crops being available from March to August, according to the state extension service.

“It’s a huge money saver and time saver and it’s neat for the students to see it too,” Mills said. “Things like that do very well in the winter.”

Herbs are also available year-round throughout the state. Mills said she and other faculty members grow herbs in raised gardening boxes in the parking lot next to the T&P Depot in downtown Abilene.  

“The students see how intense the herbs are in flavor when you grow them versus purchasing them,” Mills said. “It’s a huge thing when you are manipulating recipes.”

Seeing when vegetables are in season helps with menu planning at TSTC’s student restaurants in Abilene, Harlingen and Waco.

“It comes down to how you get the best product at the end of the day,” Guajardo said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC in West Texas Holds Fall Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 120 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2017 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 11, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Students from TSTC’s campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater took part in the ceremony.

Many of the graduates already have jobs.

Arnulfo Leyva, 19, of Kermit earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. He began work in the summer repairing bulldozers, backhoes and excavators at Warren CAT in Odessa.

Leyva was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He said his pride gave him motivation to work hard to become an honor graduate.

“It was fun at TSTC,” Leyva said. “I met new people and had a good time.”

Some graduates are preparing to job hunt.

Eric Collins, 25, a U.S. Air Force veteran, earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aviation Technology. The Laurinburg, North Carolina, native and Abilene resident said he chose his major because of the work he did in the military.

Collins, a Phi Theta Kappa graduate, said he will take Federal Aviation Administration written and practical tests and apply for airplane maintenance jobs in the Abilene area.

Some graduates will continue on with academic work.

Karli Bernal, 26, of Anson graduated with a certificate in Vocational Nursing. She plans to work on her Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing in Sweetwater.

“It took a lot of dedication and sacrifice,” Bernal said about her studies at TSTC. “I have three kids so it takes a lot.”

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