Category Archives: Abilene

TSTC awarded Community Foundation of Abilene grant

(ABILENE, Texas) – For the third time since 2016, Texas State Technical College was awarded a Community Foundation of Abilene grant.

TSTC was awarded $7,500 which will be used for scholarships during the Fall 2020 semester. The college previously received grants in 2016 and 2018.

The scholarships are available for new students attending TSTC in Abilene, said Delton McGuire, TSTC’s West Texas Senior Field Development Officer.

“The TSTC Foundation is very thankful for the generosity of the Community Foundation of Abilene. Their gift will help new students at the school and relieve some of the financial burden,” McGuire said.

Financial aid advisors will award the scholarships in accordance with the policies and practices of TSTC, McGuire said. Full-time students may receive as much as $1,000 in scholarship funds.

“This money will provide opportunities for adults and students to attend school and help our local job market,” said Michelle Parrish, grant director at the Community Foundation of Abilene.

Grant funds to TSTC and other nonprofit groups is only part of the foundation’s mission. Parrish said donations are made throughout the year and used to fund projects.

Since 1985, the Community Foundation of Abilene has awarded more than $100 million in grants.

“We first opened through a gift and have definitely grown since that time,” Parrish said. “We have been able to double our grant donations over the past 10 years thanks to the community’s support.”

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TSTC alumnus finds job stability in medical records field

(ABILENE, Texas) – Like most people, Sarah Johnson was looking for job stability.

After graduating from Texas State Technical College in November 2019 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Health Information Technology, she found that stability. Johnson credits TSTC for helping her find a job as a medical coder at Hendrick Health System.

“At one point, it was difficult for me to find work,” she said. “Once I started in the medical field, I loved it and would make it a career.”

After being employed in customer service for 20 years, Johnson worked in the outpatient unit at Brownwood Regional Medical Center. She decided to complete TSTC’s Health Information Technology program to further her career. It was a decision she has not regretted.

Since February, Johnson has worked as a coder at Hendrick Medical Center. Coders are health information professionals who analyze medical records and assign codes using a classification system. 

“If I would have known about the HIT program first, I would have done it,” she said. “I am glad I was able to graduate and get a job I love.”

Johnson said the instructors were instrumental in helping her during school and finding a job.

“I was overwhelmed with work and school. My instructors were always supportive,” she said. “They would always tell me and other students, ‘You can do this.’ They really took an interest in how we were doing and wanted us to succeed.”

Sarah Brooks, TSTC’s Health Information Technology program chair, said Johnson “defined what makes a student successful in the online learning environment.”

“She was self-motivated and self-disciplined,” Brooks said. “Sarah was open-minded in sharing her work, life and educational experiences with others through the learning process.”

Johnson, who codes emergency room records at Hendrick, said no two days are the same and credits TSTC’s instructors for preparing her for the daily challenge.

“I see a variety of charts,” she said. “My main focus is to make sure the information is coded correctly.”

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TSTC alumnus puts skills to use as oil, gas field inspector

(ABILENE, Texas) – Devan Moore puts the skills he learned at Texas State Technical College to use on a daily basis.

After serving seven years in the U.S. Army, Moore attended TSTC and received Associate of Applied Science degrees in Wind Energy Technology in 2018 and Industrial Systems in 2019. Today, he is an oil and gas field inspector for the Railroad Commission of Texas.

“Not one day goes by that I do not implement some piece of knowledge that I learned at TSTC,” he said. “With the Railroad Commission, it is my responsibility to ensure that the oil and gas industry stays in compliance with rules and regulations.”

Moore, a native of The Colony, is in charge of inspections in Erath, Hood, Palo Pinto and Parker counties.

“I absolutely love what I do. I do not see this as a job; I see this as a new beginning,” Moore said.

Moore served as a field artillery cannoneer in the U.S. Army, and he said that experience gave him an advantage, both at TSTC and the Railroad Commission.

“I had zero oil-field experience,” he said. “Between my military training and my education at TSTC, I am excited about my career.”

He said his instructors and fellow students at TSTC did something for him in addition to academics.

“When I first started at TSTC, I was a little older than most of the students. But I was seasoned. At the same time, I wanted a clean slate,” Moore said. “In life, you can get into one of those slumps. I started to refine my skills, and my morale was higher. The biggest thing TSTC did for me was getting me out of my slump.”

He wants other veterans to know about the opportunities available at TSTC, especially since he was part of the first Industrial Systems graduating class in Abilene.

“I am an active member of the Abilene area’s veteran community. I want our veterans to know that TSTC can offer a career path,” Moore said. “I know that other veterans may feel the same way after leaving the service. They need to know that TSTC will help them get out of that slump and be there for them.”

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TSTC students practice social distancing during lab sessions

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – A limited number of Texas State Technical College students returned to campus Monday, May 4.

Students allowed back on campus are studying in programs that require them to complete hands-on lab work in order to finalize their semester. While on campus, students and instructors practiced social distancing guidelines and wore face coverings at all times.

Students were glad to be back on campus and have social interaction with classmates.

“I am excited to be back,” said Diesel Equipment Technology student Jacob Rambo, of Wichita Falls. “While we were away, I did a skills test and had to align my own vehicle.”

Devyn Johnson from Lubbock, who is also a Diesel Equipment Technology student, said he spent time at work and with his family while away from campus.

“It feels good to be back. I missed the bonding with my friends and the coming together we had before getting started with class,” he said. “I have learned a lot from these guys.”

The return to on-campus instruction is specifically authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which has identified career and technical education as one area of education that may continue under the Texas governor’s Executive Order No. GA-16.

“CTE programs that require hands-on instruction that cannot be delivered online can continue to be delivered, but in strict accordance with CDC guidelines,” the executive order states.

“It is good to be back in the groove,” said Diesel Equipment Technology student David Wilson, of Brownwood..

Welding students in Sweetwater were also excited to be back on campus. Brian Naza, of Colorado City, admitted he did not do any welding at home.

“It is important that I improve my cutting and torch skills,” he said about what his focus would be on during the on-campus lab sessions.

Welding student Hector Mendez, of Senora, said returning to campus was a fresh start.

“I am looking forward to finishing what I started. I want to make good grades and put my skills to use,” he said.

Mendez said that before starting the lab session, his classmates talked about what they did during the past five weeks.

“We were really glad to see each other, but more importantly we want to finish and graduate,” he said.

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TSTC graduate finds career in computer programming

(ABILENE, Texas) – Haley Howdeshell started taking Computer Programming Technology classes at Texas State Technical College only knowing the basics.

Howdeshell is graduating this semester with an Associate of Applied Science degree. Even before receiving the degree, she has found a career opportunity at Funeral Directors Life in Abilene.

“They have so many career paths available,” she said. “I am pretty much set for life. It is thanks to TSTC that this happened, and I have a goal of staying here and working my way up.”

Howdeshell said that even though she did not have much experience with computers, Computer Programming Technology was a perfect fit.

“The more that I looked into the program, the more in love with it I became,” she said. “The only experience I had was turning on my computer at home and working on it. A lot of people do not even know how to hook up a printer. I really enjoyed my time in class and the labs.”

She credits her instructors, including Julie Rhoades, for opening her eyes to a different career.

“TSTC has a lot of different people there to help you,” Howdeshell said. “They helped me with my resume and coached me for interviews. TSTC showed me how to carry myself and provided me with a lot of good tips and tricks during the interview process.”

Rhoades knew Howdeshell would succeed.

“Haley has been a responsible student who’s dedicated to getting her work complete and submitted on time. She actively sought employment before she graduated and was able to dedicate hours to the job search, and the position she landed, while continuing her school work,” Rhoades said. “She has the self-discipline required to complete her goals and succeed in life.”

Rhoades had pulled Howdeshell aside to tell her about the Funeral Directors Life job opening.

“She was always helpful and encouraging to the students,” Howdeshell said. “I really appreciated what she did for me.”

TSTC prepared Howdeshell for a career, and she hopes more students, especially high school students, take advantage of the available programs.

“TSTC does some amazing things for students,” she said.

Howdeshell said she had one goal when she started at TSTC.

“I knew I was going to have to work hard. Graduation was my goal, and I graduated,” she said.

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Alumnus helps recruit students to TSTC

(ABILENE, Texas) – Computer Programming Technology students at Texas State Technical College in West Texas have an advantage.

Lab assistant Tony Torres is a 2016 graduate of the program, and he is available to guide students during lab sessions. Torres and master instructor Julie Rhoades share the same goal. They want their students to get a job after completing the program.

Torres said the program prepares students for the Texas workforce, but the learning does not stop after graduation.

“We let them know that the learning is not over at TSTC,” he said. “They will be learning different programming languages in the field. But if that language is not part of their company’s database, we want to give them enough tools so that they will be able to pick up what it is.”

Rhoades said the program will help students with different computer programs, including mobile applications. While she does not see many TSTC graduates focusing on mobile applications, Rhoades said it is a good skill for them to learn.

Having Torres working in the lab with students is an advantage, she said. Most of the program is taught online, but some students use the computer labs on the Abilene and Brownwood campuses to complete assignments.

Rhoades said Torres is also a good recruiter for the program in West Texas.

“His work ethic is great. He can tell the students what to expect during the course,” Rhoades said. “He has been through it and offers them first-hand knowledge.”

Torres said he likes to talk to students about why they chose the computer programming field.

“I have talked to some students that barely knew how to turn on a computer,” he said. “Those are the ones that really flourish in the program.”

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology. Torres earned that degree and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree.

Rhoades said she was pleased that Torres is working to further his education while helping current students.

“Tony has helped our recruiters with recruiting efforts,” she said.

She hopes that more of the West Texas program will include face-to-face interaction in the future.

“That will give us a chance to work with students both online and in person. It would be the best of both worlds,” she said.

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Virtual events keep TSTC students engaged

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students are facing a new challenge with online learning.

Michael LeRoux, coordinator of Retention Services for the West Texas campuses, said the staff wanted students to have a sense of normalcy. Through a brainstorming session with team members, LeRoux said the idea of a daily virtual experience was the way to go.

These experiences include Trivia Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, and discussions about what students face working at home.

“We are talking a lot about time management in what is our new normal,” LeRoux said. “We are doing things online that we did during our leadership luncheons. We had to adjust the approach by doing them online.”

Belinda Palomino, Harlingen’s Student Life and Engagement coordinator for TSTC, said students are wanting something positive to do with their time.

“We are there for the student experience on campus and wanted to keep that going in these times of uncertainty,” she said.

Eight students participated in the first Wellness Wednesday event, LeRoux said. However, as word spreads, he expects the numbers to grow.

There is an incentive for students, LeRoux said. Each student who signs in will have a chance to win prizes and shout-outs in future events.

There is also the chance to be the top campus. LeRoux said each of the 10 TSTC campuses is conducting virtual activities. But Wellness Wednesday is a statewide challenge. With the theme “Commit 2 B Fit,” students will have a chance to win prizes throughout the month.

“All students have to do is log 30 minutes of activity in order for it to count toward the challenge,” he said.

LeRoux and other staff members will send wellness tips and links to workout videos to help keep students active. One of the wellness tips was for students to do school work outside because, as LeRoux said, it can “break up the day.”

The experiences will vary by campus, and Palomino said Harlingen students can expect online hangouts with counselors, receiving positive messages. She said that a virtual movie night is in the works.

“With the different demographics, we are setting up each experience specific to where we are at,” Palomino said.

Fridays have been set aside as a virtual hangout for students just to talk about the week, LeRoux said.

“The students participating so far have really liked the activities,” he said. “We are getting some very positive feedback.”

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Alvarado receives TSTC Chancellor’s Excellence Award

(ABILENE, Texas) – Terra Alvarado has been a team player at Texas State Technical College for the past 14 years.

This year, Alvarado was honored with the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for going out of her way to help students who struggle with math.

“The teammates who win this award model excellence for us all and are recognized for both their sound character and for advancing TSTC’s mission,” said TSTC Chancellor & CEO Mike Reeser. “Due to their caring and dedicated efforts, TSTC continues to make a difference in the employment success of our students.”

“I was honored to be recognized and added to a group of my amazing teammates who have gone above and beyond to support TSTC’s mission of placing more Texans,” Alvarado said of receiving the award.

Alvarado, who is a native of Amarillo, is the Developmental Education division director at TSTC. After graduating from Randall High School, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from West Texas A&M University and a Master of Science degree in mathematics from Texas Tech University.

“Each year TSTC employees have an opportunity to nominate fellow employees who display our core values on an ongoing and consistent basis. Regardless of their daily demands, these nominees have risen to the top through their dedication to TSTC customers, both internal and external,” said Rick Denbow, provost at TSTC in West Texas. “With multiple levels of vetting, only a small percentage of those nominated are awarded the Chancellor’s Excellence Award.”

Over the past 14 years, Alvarado said teamwork has been the key to driving student success.

“The best part of working at TSTC is my teammates. I work with amazing and dedicated people who support each other, and we all work together toward student success,” she said.

Her idea of teamwork shows in her personal goal while working at TSTC.

“As my position is one of supporting the departments in my division, my primary goal is to support my team in achieving their goals,” she said. “TSTC makes a huge difference in helping students get degrees and certificates that not only get them jobs, but great-paying jobs, without a ton of student loan debt.”

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award began in 2001 and has been given to more than 300 TSTC employees statewide. Recipients are nominated by their peers for their work toward advancing the technical college’s mission.

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EMS students used to online learning

(ABILENE, Texas) – When a medical crisis occurs, one of the first phone calls is to 911.

Emergency medical technicians are among the first responders on the scene to help a patient. Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services students use online learning to prepare them for a medical situation.

Abilene EMS instructor James Pitts said video is being used to help current students with skills they may need during a medical emergency, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Using video is nothing new to students, he said. It is essential to the program, which is available in Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen.

“We have been looking for quality videos to supplement the students’ skills,” Pitts said of working online only at this time.

The program has a three-step approach: online learning, classroom lectures to reinforce what was learned online, and lab work. Pitts said students have several resources they can use on their own, including online access to the course’s publisher, Jones & Bartlett.

“They can navigate to interactive lectures. They can read chapters and engage in feedback online,” he said.

In the classroom, Pitts said instructors and students discuss what was provided online.

“They spend the rest of the day developing skills in the lab,” he said. “There has been a learning gap for our students to adjust to this way of learning. I think this will be better for our program.”

When TSTC began remote classes last month, Pitts said the students were already in a “good spot.”

“We used the tools that were in place, but since we were not on campus, we had to modify things,” he said.

Technology is used for live lectures as instructors and students continue classes.

“We did not want to lose that live engagement with the instructors. That was important to us,” Pitts said.

According to Pitts, it is important for students to continue using online resources at home.

“All this is preparing them for coming back to school and putting their skills to use,” Pitts said.

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TSTC and Hendrick Health System Celebrate TWC Skills Development Grant

(ABILENE, Texas) – Leaders from Texas State Technical College, the Texas Workforce Commission and Hendrick Health System gathered Friday to commemorate a TWC Skills Development Fund grant.

The $198,022 grant will enable 115 current employees and 19 new workers to earn up to three certifications and take 19 classes covering coding, claim accuracy, clinical documentation, medical office compliance and other topics. Training started Jan. 3, said Cindy Brunett, a TSTC Workforce Training project manager. 

Doug Peters, president and chief executive officer of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, said he is thankful for TWC investing in the city. 

“We need a skilled and accessible workforce and grow the jobs we have,” he said.

The partnership and training fulfills TSTC’s mission of supporting the state’s economic development efforts with specialized training, said Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC’s West Texas campuses.

TWC Chairman and Commissioner Representing the Public Bryan Daniel said the grant means TSTC can help make Hendrick’s employees the best at what they do. He said patients can feel someone is taking care of them at every stage of their care. 

Daniel said the grant will have a financial return in some employees seeing their salaries rise and more patients being served.

“What a phenomenal job TSTC does for our state,” he said.

Marjohn Piney, operations manager of Hendrick Health System’s provider network, said the goal of the business is to deliver the highest-quality health care to the region. 

Texas Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, said he knows resources can be limited in West Texas. He said the grant symbolizes how the region will thrive in workforce training and skills development in the next decade.

“We have found ways to stretch dollars more ways than you can imagine,” he said. 

The Skills Development Fund has been used since 1996 to localize workforce training for Texas companies. This enables companies to work directly with local partners to develop training tailored to the needs of employers. The competitive grant has assisted more than 4,200 employers and created or upgraded more than 342,000 jobs statewide, according to the TWC.

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