Category Archives: Fort Bend County

El Campo native finds his way to a cool career at TSTC

(FORT BEND) – Nearly a decade after graduating from high school Randy Ratcliff became a college student, proving that it is never too late to get an education or a successful career.

“TSTC changed my life for the better,” said Ratcliff. “It set me up with the foundation to give my family better life.”

The 38-year-old, who is married with two children, graduated from TSTC HVAC Technology with a certificate and associate degree in 2009 and 2012 respectively and recently received a promotion – he is now the service manager at El Campo Refrigeration and Restaurant Supply, where he has worked for four years.

He started out as a service technician, but already had extensive experience in commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration.

“I enjoy working outside and with my hands,” said Ratcliff. “And HVAC and refrigeration is always going to be a necessity. So for me there was no other career. HVAC was it.”

While Ratcliff waited for his wife to complete her degree, he worked at a polyvinyl chloride, or PVC manufacturing company in Wharton and did his research on colleges that offer HVAC.

“I knew I was looking for a college that offered hands-on learning. I knew a university wasn’t for me,” he said. “After a lot of research, I found TSTC online and when I learned about their hands-on approach, it clicked. It was the college for me.”Randy Ratcliff

College was a challenge for Ratcliff. He was full-time student and had to work to support his family. But because he was an HVAC student, he was able to work for a local refrigeration company performing maintenance on ice machines while gaining experience.

“Everything I was learning in class I could apply out in the field while I worked,” he said. “That’s the beauty of TSTC. You practice with actual machinery and tools you use out in the field. It was enough to set me up with a successful career and make me competitive in my field.”

Ratcliff graduated with several job offers, including a full-time position where he was working at the time.

When El Campo Refrigeration, where he had already applied, learned about his various offers, they made him an offer he could not refuse.

“Randy has great work ethic and fits into our culture well,” said Michael Kennedy, owner of El Campo Refrigeration. “And the one quality that I really admire about Randy is his willingness to work side-by-side with our service technicians to help train and lead.”

Ratcliff said he credits TSTC for helping him make his dreams a reality.

“If not for TSTC I would still be working shifts that keep me away from my family,” he said. “I would not have the opportunities I have been given. TSTC makes you employment-ready and employable.”

Ratcliff, as manager, is now reaching out to TSTC and other local colleges to recruit new employees and said its to help others who may be in the same position he was in when he was school.

“I’m always recommending TSTC, even to the guys I work with,” said Ratcliff. “I know that if I hire students from TSTC they would have received quality hands-on training and be work ready.”

HVAC Technology is offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Harlingen, North Texas, Waco and Williamson County campuses.

For more information, visit tstc.edu/programs/HVACTechnology.

 

TSTC Alum Finds Success in Hobby Turned Career

(HARLINGEN) – As a child, Harlingen native Hunter Warner would help his father and friends work on cars and trucks.

So wasting no time at all, when he was faced with figuring out his future after high school he enrolled in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County.

His only challenge – having to move away from home for the first time.

And although there were other diesel programs in the Valley, the now 20-year-old knew TSTC was the right fit for him because of his financial situation, it was a two-year program versus four-year and it was a brand new campus.

“I had always heard about TSTC and it always came highly recommended by teachers and friends,” said Warner. “So when I heard about the new campus in Rosenberg and the new diesel program, I jumped on it. But moving away is never easy.”Hunter Warner

Like with any move, there were expenses to cover and for Warner who was a college student, there was also tuition, books and supplies.

Fortunately, Warner received the TSTC Texan Success Scholarship and was able to transfer his sales representative position at Discount Tire to the Rosenberg location.

“Although moving away was hard, it was overall a great experience and way of growing personally and professionally,” said Warner. “The training I received was invaluable. It laid my foundation.”

Warner said he is a hands-on learner, so the majority of class time spent at the TSTC diesel lab working on assignments and projects with equipment actually used in industry helped him succeed.

“School is not my forte. I learn by doing, not reading,” said Warner. “And although I did consider other colleges, TSTC stood out because of its hands-on learning.”

Before Warner walked across the commencement stage in December 2017 to receive his certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology, he had a job waiting for him with Ag-Pro Companies in Harlingen.

“It was such a relief knowing I had a job waiting for me. Although, I was scared to take the plunge and leave my job at Discount Tire; I was comfortable,” he said. “But my family and friends encouraged me and told me not to let my education go to waste because of my fear.”

So now Warner is back home working as a service technician at Ag-Pro on heavy equipment such as tractors. He will be celebrating his one-year anniversary in a couple of months.

Ag-Pro Service Manager and Warner’s direct supervisor Christie Hill said it was his skills, know-how and his will to take initiative that caught her attention.

“I knew he would be a great asset to our team,” said Hill. “He is self-motivated, not afraid to work on something new and gets along great with others.”

Hill said he started out in the Lawn and Garden department and quickly got promoted to the heavy equipment side of the house.

“His dream is to become a field technician and have his own truck,” she said. I have no doubt that he will get there sooner than later. He works hard and has ambition.”

In fact, Warner will be attending a week-long session at John Deere School getting further training on electrics and hydraulics.

Warner describes his job more as a hobby than actual work because he loves it so much, and he credits TSTC’s Placement Officer Judy Cox and his diesel program instructors for helping him open this chapter.

“I want thank them for their tireless efforts in helping us students get a job,” said Warner. “Because of them I now have the dream of opening up my own diesel mechanics shop. And with what I learned at TSTC and the experience I’m gaining at Ag-Pro, I know that it can become reality.”

“And it feels great to be back home,” he added.

Diesel Technology is offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses. For more information on Diesel Equipment Technology, visit tstc.edu/programs/DieselEquipmentTechnology.

TSTC grad, Needville native made childhood dream come true

(FORT BEND) – Grant Siebrecht knew he wanted to become a diesel mechanic, but with pressure from his family to attend a four-year university he thought his dream was impossible, until Texas State Technical College opened up in his community.

“TSTC had great timing,” said Siebrecht. “It had everything I was looking for in a college and because of it, I am now doing what I love.”

The Needville native was a new high school graduate in 2016, the same year TSTC in Fort Bend County opened its doors, and much to his surprise, Diesel Equipment Technology was an offered technical program.

“I went through some disapproval from some family members because it was a technical school,” said Siebrecht. “But I knew a four-year degree wasn’t for me. I needed to work with my hands and this place had it all.”

With support from his grandfather from the get-go, Siebrecht received emotional and financial support from him, with the rest of the family following suit when they realized how happy and how much Siebrecht was achieving.

“I used to watch my dad work on cars and trucks as a hobby. It was fascinating and I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up,” he said. “And without the support from my grandfather and family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”Grant Siebrecht

In fact, Siebrecht loves mechanics so much he took a part-time job while in high school at a local mechanic shop, the same place his family would take their car when it needed repairs.

“This was a great experience for me as a high school student. It laid out my foundation in the industry,” he said. “And attending TSTC just took it to another level for me.”

The 21-year-old was among the program’s first cohort to graduate in 2017. And with honors, a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology, a 3.7 grade-point average and a job offer in hand, Siebrecht was ready to face the world.

“TSTC was a great place of learning for me. All of the hands-on training and knowledgeable faculty made my experience there worth my while,” said Siebrecht. “My classmates and I learned so much and the student life was great. Everyone was so nice and welcoming.”

Siebrecht credits TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology Instructor Spencer Paige for much of his success because of his knowledge, patience and experience.

“Spencer was great. With his teaching, training and letter of recommendation, I got a job before I even graduated. Not many people can say that about their college,” he said.

Siebrecht started his career at Hlavinka Equipment Company in Rosenberg as a diesel technician and has now been there for a year and half.

“I work on off-road equipment and tractors, have a steady paycheck and benefits,” he said. “What more could a guy ask for?”

Hlavinka Equipment Service Manager Chris Hallman said he knew from the moment he met Siebrecht that he was a great hire.

“I could tell that this was a young man who wanted this position and who actually had a passion to work in this industry. This is what set him apart from other candidates,” said Hallman. “And of course knowing that he received his training at TSTC was an added plus.”

Hallman added, “He is a solid worker, not afraid to get his hands dirty and get the job done and has a concern for safety. He is definitely a great asset to our company.”

Siebrecht said he will be visiting TSTC again soon because he plans on beginning the path toward an associate degree in Spring 2019 because he has bigger dreams he is working toward.

“I hope to someday own a diesel shop and work on diesel truck performance and heavy equipment,” said Siebrecht. “I’m a turn-the-wrench type of guy and I have to continue my education and getting experience to make this happen.”

Diesel Equipment Technology is offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses.

For more information Diesel Equipment Technology, visit tstc.edu/programs/DieselEquipmentTechnology.

TSTC donates school supplies to local non-profit organization

(FORT BEND) –

With the new school year upon us, the Student Government Association (SGA) at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County wanted to help students and their families that struggle to purchase school supplies for the year.

All thanks to the organization’s hard work and help from college students and employees, TSTC was able to donate a boxload of supplies to Lunches of Love in Rosenberg.

Lunches of Love is a non-profit organization that is committed to helping end childhood hunger in Fort Bend County by providing free nutritious sack lunches during extended holidays and weekends. They provide at least 3,500 lunches a day.

“Many of our families don’t have the means to purchase food to eat on a regular basis – much less school supplies,” said Adriane Gray, Lunch of Love creator and director. “These supplies will help our kiddos have confidence and hold their head high when walking into school with the tools needed to have a great year.”

TSTC SGA school supply donation.

Pictured left to right are SGA officers and Cyber Security Technology students Parker Sorrels and Scott Easter delivering the school supply donations to Lunches of Love in Rosenberg.

Grey added that the school supplies are a true blessing for her Lunches of Love kids and that she is very thankful to TSTC for the donation.

To make this donation possible, SGA President Rogelio Garcia, Vice President Parker Sorrel and Treasurer Scott Easter, recently hosted a Gaming Tournament with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward the purchase of school supplies.

“Not only was this a great way for our students to relax and have fun before final exams, but it allowed everyone on campus to get involved and give back,” said Garcia.

Also, between June and August, collection boxes were set up throughout campus with students, faculty, staff and administration making donations.

“We wanted to do something meaningful that would benefit our community,” said Garcia. “We hope that this will alleviate the stress of back-to-school shopping and that it’s a boost for students to help them succeed. They are our future after all.”

TSTC Director of Admissions and SGA Advisor Georgeann Calzada said she is proud of the SGA officers for coordinating donation drives and the event to collect monetary donations and supplies such as notebooks, paper, pens and pencils, folders and colors.

“Our local communities are very important to us so we try to give back in any way we can,” she said. “At the start of a new school year we see how students struggle  to get the bare necessities so we wanted to extend our donations to our local community.”

Calzada added that civic engagement is an important lesson to teach students during this transitional phase into their careers.

“The communities they’ll be working and living in need them to be involved. It builds good character and I hope that they feel the sense of joy I feel when I see them giving back to the community that gives us so much on a daily basis.”

For information on SGA or the programs offered at TSTC in Fort Bend County, visit tstc.edu.

The sky is the limit at TSTC for homeless man turned college graduate

(FORT BEND) – They say it takes a village. For Darryl Jackson, or DJ, as most people know him, that could not be more true.
Thursday night was life changing because the 22-year-old graduated with his certificate in Electrical Lineworker Technology from Texas State Technical College – a feat that not long ago seemed impossible for this young homeless man.
“I never dreamt that I would, or could be a college graduate,” said Jackson. “Statistics show I should be in prison or dead.”
But Jackson is not a statistic. Instead, he is defying all odds.
The Houston native was taken away from his mother because of her drug addiction and his father was never in the picture.
Jackson grew up in the foster care system and suffered some abuse. At 18, he aged out, like many teens in the system do.
He found himself out in the streets with no place to live, no food to eat and no money for even his most basic needs.
“My entire life has been discouraging, frightening and sad,” said Jackson. “I was a very angry child and teen. I didn’t understand why I was suffering.”
Jackson spent one year at a homeless shelter. Then went from couch-to-couch, living with different friends.
Then, finally a break. One of his friends invited him to visit TSTC for registration.
“I had no intention of registering for classes. I was only along for the ride,” said Jackson. “But as soon as I stepped foot on campus everything changed.”
Darryl Jackson
That was the day that changed Jackson’s life forever. And although he said he had no idea what a lineworker was or did, he signed up for the program anyways. He figured he had nothing to lose.
“What was I thinking, I’m afraid of heights,” Jackson said he thought on the first day of class. “I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into, but I knew I had to do something. I didn’t want to be homeless forever.”
Enter Troy Eads, TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology instructor. Jackson credits Eads for much of what he has been able to achieve.
As a young homeless man, school was not a priority, survival was. And although Jackson received financial aid and scholarships such as TSTC’s Texan Success Scholarship, it was only enough for tuition and books.
He was still homeless and without enough to eat.
“DJ was so close to quitting several times, and it hurt me as his instructor because I knew about his life and I wanted so much to see him succeed,” said Eads. “He would sleep in the trucks at the college’s diesel lab and he was always hungry and tired, so I took him into my home.”
Jackson would stay with Eads occasionally, but help also came from Carolyn Arnim from Friendship Church in Richmond, who learned about the lineworker student and his situation during one of her clothing drop-offs for TSTC’s Clothing Closet. Arnim got her whole congregation to help.
“As a church in the community we felt compelled to help Darryl. What was happening could not happen on our watch,” said Arnim. “I can’t even put into words what a big deal his graduation is. We’re so proud of him and I truly feel that we needed Darryl more than he needed us. His testimony has resonated with so many in our community.”
The congregation from Friendship Church took Jackson in as one of their own, helping him with spiritual guidance, clothes, food and a place to stay.
Between TSTC and the church sharing the cost, Jackson has been able to stay at a local motel for the past couple of semesters, and Eads picks up Jackson for class and drops him off at his room every day to ensure he has transportation.
“Without Troy, TSTC or the church, I would have quit a long time ago. There is no way I could have graduated without these selfless people. They are special to me,” said Jackson. “Everything everyone has done has changed my life.”
On August 27, Jackson will begin his career at CenterPoint Energy in Houston with a starting pay of $30 an hour.
“I’m ready to get to work and start building my future,” said Jackson. “I have a chance at a completely different life and I’m excited.”
Jackson said with his new career he is looking forward to saving for an apartment and car, and helping his sisters who are also struggling.
His long-term goals are to own a business and help others.
“I need to build myself up so I can build others, he said. “I want to be to others in my situation what everyone here at TSTC and Friendship Church have been to me, they have become the family I never had.”
Jackson celebrated his life-changing milestone with Eads, Arnim, Friendship Church Pastor Jason Frazier, his tenth grade teacher Sierra King and their families, all of which he credits for his success.

TSTC Cyber Security Student Graduates to New Career

(HARLINGEN) – Rogelio Garcia is a small-town guy from Roma, Texas, but has accomplished big dreams at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County and will graduate with his associate degree in Cyber Security Technology this Thursday.

“TSTC has been a great ride,” said Garcia. “I never thought I could accomplish something like this at my age.”

This is a career change for the 37-year-old who spent nearly 13 years in the retail industry serving as a multi-unit manager for chains such as Kirkland’s, Anna’s Linens and Sears.

“Retail is all I’ve known since high school,” he said. “I hadn’t been in a college classroom since my early 20’s. It was intimidating making a change.”

Garcia had attempted the college and university life before TSTC. He studied Criminal Justice at a Rio Grande Valley community college and a university in San Antonio, but neither was the right fit.

“In the long run I realized criminal justice was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Garcia. “I couldn’t find anything I was passionate about, until now.”

With the instability and hectic schedules that come with working retail, Garcia, with the support of his wife of 14 years, quit his job and they moved to Houston in hopes of finding better opportunities.Rogelio Garcia

“We always heard from others that Houston has tons of opportunities and work available, so we decided to make the move,” he said. “And it was perfect timing with the opening of the TSTC campus in our area.”

Garcia said he did not know what he was getting himself into; he had no idea what cyber security was about. The only computer experience he had was with point-of-sale systems and online shopping.

Disregarding his insecurity about the program, Garcia enrolled in January 2017 and since then has found success as a student and student leader on campus.

“Yes, there were moments I felt like giving up,” he said. “Moments I wondered what I was doing. It was a risk, but a risk worth taking.”

Garcia credits his Cyber Security Technology Instructor Ryan Hill for the reason why he did not quit school this time around.

“Mr. Hill was my guidance and saved me when I was ready to quit,” said Garcia. “He was the first person I saw on my first day and the one that mentored me along the way. He’s a great asset to TSTC and overall a great person. He believes in me and believes that I can do great things.”

Hill described Garcia as a great joy to have in class, a pleasure to work with, and one of the most dedicated students he’s seen.

“As a dedicated student and leader, he was always the first to arrive and the last to leave,” said Hill. “It is his dedication and earnest involvement on campus and in the community that will allow him to graduate with distinction. It is this drive, determination and ability that will make him a valued asset at any company he chooses.”

Garcia will graduate with a 3.9 grade-point average, with honors and memories he said he will cherish and miss.

Along with adjusting to student life and studying to maintain his impressive GPA, Garcia also served as TSTC in Fort Bend County’s Student Government Association president, where he recently led a school supply drive and benefit and was one of the first inductees into the campuses newly established honor society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, where he served as vice president.

Garcia also worked on campus as a Student Ambassador and New Student Orientation volunteer conducting campus tours and welcoming new and prospective students on campus.

“Being active on campus gave me a whole new outlook on college and improved my experience,” said Garcia. “It allowed me to meet new people, make new friends, make a difference in the community, and make college memorable. I’ve enjoyed every moment and I’m going to miss it.”

So what’s next for Garcia?

He already has a few job offers on the table that he is reviewing. He ultimately hopes to work as a network administrator and Garcia is looking forward to celebrating this accomplishment with his wife, parents and in-laws on Thursday and can’t wait to put on his cap and gown and walk across the commencement stage.

TSTC in Fort Bend County’s Commencement Ceremony will be held Thursday, August 16 at the Stafford Centre in Stafford, Texas at 6 p.m.

TSTC student inspired by sons with muscular dystrophy

By Emily Swartz

(FORT BEND) – Joshua Schott, a Texas State Technical College Robotics Technology student, grew up in less-than ideal circumstances.

“Growing up I had no idea where my next meal was going to come from,” said Schott. “My life was less about success through education and more about survival.”

Schott attended Palacios High School where he received a 2.1 grade-point average.

During that time, school was not a priority.

“I didn’t receive much of a high school education,” said Schott. “I knew that I didn’t have many options as far as higher education, but I ended up getting my degree anyways at ITT Technical Institute.”

At ITT Tech, Schott refocused on his education. He received a 4.0 grade-point average and graduated with an associate degree in Electronics.

The father of four worked menial jobs after earning his degree to provide for his family.Joshua Schott

Without much luck finding a job in his desired field, he made the decision to enroll at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County.

“My wife is the person that inspired me to pursue my education. We did our research together and waited for the Fort Bend campus to open,” said Schott.

The 38-year-old plans to earn his associate degree in Summer 2020 to venture out into the medical field. He wants to help develop new exoskeletal technology to aid in mobility for people that are paraplegic, including his two sons with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is an inherited disorder of progressive muscular weakness typically in boys and in one of the many types of muscular dystrophy.

“My sons are where I get my passion from,” said Schott. “I really want to make a difference for them through my career. “My dream is that all kids confined to wheelchairs are granted this opportunity.”

Darcy Schott, Schott’s wife speaks to his resilience.

“Joshua is a dedicated husband and father. He has never given up,” she said. “He gives his time selflessly and is always willing to help another person in any way he can. Robotics is just another way for him to tirelessly help not only his family, but humanity as a whole.”

Schott’s family members are not the only ones proud of him. TSTC Electronic Power and Controls instructor Jonathan Bonkoske sings praises for the helpful student.

“He is a high quality student who personifies the technical skills education that TSTC provides,” said Bonkoske. “He has always been available to help those who need a hand with class work and I look forward to seeing him excel in our program and his career.”

Schott’s wishes for after graduation are simple.

“I hope to provide enough finances to purchase a house, to no longer rely on government assistance, and take my family on a vacation,” he said.

For more information on the Texas State Technical College Robotics Technology program, visit tstc.edu.

Registration is going on now. First day of class is August 27.

TSTC Visionary Murray Watson Jr. Remembered for Service

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College mourned Wednesday the loss of former Texas legislator Murray Watson Jr., who filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system into a stand-alone institution for technical education that would become TSTC.

“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.

Watson died Tuesday at age 86.

Watson was a state senator when he filed legislation to make the James Connally Technical Institute independent and rename it Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC). Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill’s final version in May 1969 in Austin.

At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.

Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.

“Murray and I walked out of the old (TSTC) system’s building, and we were about a million dollars short to build the new Culinary Arts Center,” Stuckly said. “I said, ‘Mr. Watson, I want you to think about something. Your name is on that (the recreation center) building. Wouldn’t it be nice for it (the new building) to be called the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center? If you give us a million dollars, you could look at each other forever.’ It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that he called and said he was going to do it.”

Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.

“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”

Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.

“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.’”

Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.

“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”

Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.

“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”

Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.

“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”

The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.

“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”

Rowe said Watson raised cattle andis sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.

“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”

Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.

“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”

John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.

“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”

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

 

TSTC Students Represent Texas at National SkillsUSA Conference in Kentucky

(WACO) – Students calculated, hammered and stirred their way through the first day of competitions Wednesday at SkillsUSA’s 54th National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Texas State Technical College students from the Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, Waco and West Texas campuses participated in events such as Additive Manufacturing, CNC Technician, Internetworking and Medical Math at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The students qualified for the national conference by winning at SkillsUSA Texas’ state conference in April in Waco.

Noah McCoy, 21, a 2015 graduate of Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, represents TSTC in Harlingen in the Automated Manufacturing Technology team contest.

“There are different expectations,” McCoy said. “We are a three-man team. Miguel (Zamarripa) knows machining and Carlos (Davila) is strong in drafting. It’s pretty cool.”

McCoy went to the national contest in 2017 and competed in Technical Drafting.

I’m a little more prepared,” he said. “We show the other students around and how things go.”

Alexander Oldham, 30, is a Computer Networking and Systems Administration major at TSTC in Brownwood taking part in Technical Computer Applications. He said the contest’s components complement what he is studying.

“You never stop learning,” Oldham said.

Oldham, like many students attending the conference, has been trading state delegation pins. So far, he has gotten pins from Georgia, Illinois and Iowa, but has not gotten the elusive Hawaii or Puerto Rico pins yet.

The buildup to Wednesday began Monday night when state meetings were held to go over conference information and rules.

On Tuesday, the opening ceremony was held at historic Freedom Hall and included national awards, a high school parade of states and remarks from NASCAR Team Penske driver and Michigan native Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski talked about his development in racing and how several technical careers factored into his line of work. He said the more effort people put toward their goals, the better the results will be.

“I think the USA will continue to get stronger because of you guys,” Keselowski said, vowing his support to SkillsUSA.”

Attendees cheered when Keselowski changed on stage out of the navy blue blazer he was wearing into SkillsUSA’s signature red jacket.

“Everyone here is a winner,” he said. “This coat represents winners. I like winners.”

The national conference has 102 events with an attendance of 18,000 people, including students, teachers and representatives of 600 national companies, trade associations, labor unions and businesses, according to information from SkillsUSA.

Competitions continue Thursday, along with students visiting Kentucky Kingdom, an amusement park on the grounds of the exposition center.

The closing ceremony will be Friday night at Freedom Hall, where more than 1,000 gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to secondary and postsecondary competitors.

“When students succeed, America succeeds,” Timothy Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA, told attendees at Tuesday night’s opening ceremony,

For more information on SkillsUSA, go to skillsusa.org.

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

 

TSTC’s newest campus sends first SkillsUSA competitor to nationals

(FORT BEND) – Texas State Technical College Diesel Equipment Technology student Troy Ketchum will be graduating in the coming months, but not before travelling to Louisville, Kentucky as the first student from TSTC in Fort Bend County to compete at the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

“You can feel the excitement around campus building up about my travel to the upcoming event,” said the 30-year-old. “I hope I can make everyone proud.”

At the end of the month, the Rosenberg native will compete against thousands of other students from across the United States in hopes of bringing home a gold medal in his category: Job Skills Presentation.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help high school and college students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, hands-on competitions, leadership conferences and other activities.

TSTC in Fort Bend County Provost Randy Wooten said that the entire college benefits from having students like Ketchum compete in these events.  Troy Ketchum

“The student body knows that they are being represented at these events and they are big supporters of Troy,” said Wooten. “All of us here are thrilled by having our first competitor at the SkillsUSA national level.”

Wooten also said that he has been involved in Ketchum’s dry-run presentations and practices since before the state competition and he knew immediately that he would be hard to beat.

“It’s obvious that Troy has what it takes to win. He’s a strong contender,” said Wooten. “And having our college represented in Kentucky means that even though we’re the newest and one of the smallest right now, we can run with the big dogs.”

The United States Navy veteran has been preparing his presentation, “The Importance of Proper Tread Depth and Safety of Truck Tires,” and his delivery non-stop for this competition.

Ketchum has taken two days out of the week since the beginning of the year to present in front of students, faculty and staff at the campus.

“I practice in front of anyone who is willing to listen,” said Ketchum. “And I welcome all feedback.”

Spencer Paige, lead instructor for Diesel Equipment Technology and SkillsUSA advisor, said Ketchum has told him that he even practices while driving, at work and at home in front his brother or a mirror.

“He has put in so much work and effort into SkillsUSA. We are proud him,” said Paige. “We are positive that he will do well and represent TSTC positively.

Paige added, “The fact that this is our campus’ first SkillsUSA chapter and we’re headed to nationals is remarkable and we hope that more students join us next year. This is a great organization that teaches lessons and skills that stay with you forever.”

Ketchum, who is also looking forward to graduating in August said that the skills he has learned in class and by competing in SkillsUSA have prepared him for a job in his field and for what he calls a leap from waiting tables full time.

“As soon as I return from SkillsUSA I’ll start on job applications. I feel so accomplished and excited entering this next phase in my life,” he said. “But first, I want to bring home the gold for TSTC and Fort Bend County.”

Ketchum and at least 50 other TSTC students statewide will be competing at the week-long event, June 25-29.