Category Archives: Abilene

TSTC Culinary Arts Student Awarded $2,500 Grant

(ABILENE) – Gissell Lomas Tavarez, a Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts student, recently was awarded a $2,500 grant from the National Restaurant Association.

Tavarez said the application process involved completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), writing an essay and getting three letters of recommendation.

“It does take a lot of work, but I finished it, and the association was really nice,” Tavarez said. “The essay, if you like doing what you do, you’ll write brilliantly about it.”

Chef Kayleen Moon, a TSTC Culinary Arts instructor, said that Tavarez absolutely deserved the grant.

“She’s very diligent. She had to go through a few more hoops to get here than most,” Moon said. “She’s very independent and still manages to do well in school. I’m very impressed with her. She worked really hard to get this scholarship.”

Tavarez said the money helped her take a break from work and focus on her studies.

“I was so excited,” Tavarez said. “I knew I wasn’t going to struggle as much. It’s so hard because after a while you’re like, ‘How am I going to do it? I’ll have to work more.’ So I was happy to know that I can take time off work and focus on my school because I know I have that backup money.”

She also used some of the money to help buy supplies for class.

“You think you’re going to be able to use it on yourself, but you use it always for school. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to buy myself something nice!’ No,” she laughed. “It really helped me get my books. Our pants and our shoes are done in like three months because we walk so much, and our knives are very expensive, so I used a lot of that money for that.”

After Tavarez graduates in May, she hopes to help her mother grow her business, Rossy’s Cafe, in the Texas Panhandle city of Hereford.

“My mom owns a little business already, and I think I want to expand it,” Tavarez said. “That’s why I came here, to get more of the information on how to actually manage it. I just wanted to take over a little bit because it is stressful owning your own business, very stressful. So I want to co-work with her, and hopefully we can do way more.”

Tavarez said the cafe shows potential.

“It’s a kind of diner place, very chill and relaxed, but there can be way more added to it,” she said. “It’s just hard when you’re trying to pay for what you already have and expand. So hopefully after this I can help Mom make it bigger. I know it can be way bigger than what it is.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College and the Culinary Arts program, visit

TSTC Veterans Receive Another $75,000 Gift from EMA Electromechanics

(SWEETWATER) – EMA Electromechanics donated $75,000 to Texas State Technical College in a check signing ceremony Friday, Oct. 20. The donation brings EMA contributions to TSTC to a total of $150,000.

The gift funds an account called Sweetwater Veteran’s Funds for College Education, which was established in 2015 when EMA gave the first gift of $75,000. Funds will go toward helping veterans complete their technical training at the college’s West Texas campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater.

EMA created the account as a way to honor area veterans.

“We want to give back to them for what they do for us,” said EMA Manager Gabriel Acosta. “The way we see it is that we enjoy freedom in the U.S. because of their efforts.”

Since 2015, 36 veterans have benefited from the Sweetwater Veteran’s Funds for College Education. TSTC currently serves 68 veterans across its four West Texas campuses.

EMA hopes the gift will ease the transition veterans face when returning from service.

“The purpose of this gift is to make sure that they have a chance to go back to civilian life with some help if they need some, to go back and get a career or improve their knowledge,” Acosta said.

Robert Schneider, an Air Force veteran who is an Automotive student at TSTC, was one of the recipients of the scholarship.

“I will forever be grateful for EMA being a helping hand in a time of need,” Schneider said. “I probably speak on behalf of many veterans when I say thank you. Being able to receive help from this company has lifted a lot of burden off of my shoulders at very crucial times.”

EMA was founded in 1952 in Argentina, but in 2010 it expanded to open its Sweetwater location, where it develops and manufactures specialized electromechanical equipment for wind generation.

TSTC Interim Provost Rick Denbow said the college is grateful for EMA and its contribution.

“TSTC is very thankful to EMA Electromechanics’ gift to our veteran students,” said Denbow. “Relationships like these not only strengthen TSTC, but bolster our students and community as well.”

For information on making a difference for TSTC students, visit



BEST Robotics to Kick Off Saturday

(SWEETWATER) – Big Country BEST Robotics will mark the start of its 2017 competition with a kickoff event at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9.

The event, held at The Center at Texas State Technical College, will give students a glimpse into this year’s contest objectives.

“This is where we’ll reveal this year’s game challenge,” said Richard Smola of Ludlum Measurements, who is serving as co-hub director of Big Country BEST Robotics. “They’ll see the scenarios and learn how their robot will need to perform.”

Students will also go over contest rules and pick up their robot-building supplies at the event.

“We give them everything that they need,” Smola said. “Plywood, PVC, wire — everything they need to build a robot. Supplies like motors and programming tools are reused each year. These are middle school and high school students, and they all receive their supplies to start building on the same day.”

Texas State Technical College partners with Ludlum Measurements to co-sponsor the Big Country BEST Robotics program, with Ludlum leading the event this year and TSTC supplying the venue and event volunteers.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers, and the venue is really important,” Smola said. “With The Center we have a nice, big space, and we have the expertise of those volunteers from TSTC and Ludlum who’ve helped in prior years.”

BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help students develop technological literacy skills and encourage interest in engineering, science and technology.

Students have six weeks from the kickoff event to the final game day event. Game day will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at The Center at TSTC.

For more information on TSTC, visit



TSTC to Celebrate Student Center’s 20th Anniversary

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater will celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Center,” the campus’ 36,000-square-foot recreational facility, with a commemorative ribbon cutting event at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 8, inside the building’s Seminar Room.
Former TSTC President Homer K. Taylor, who served as manager of development at the time, said in the ’90s TSTC exhibited a need for this building.
“First and foremost, our campus is somewhat isolated,” Taylor said. “We are a few miles from town, so our residential students needed a place to be able to use. Prior to this building, our students had a small building where students had like two pool tables and some table tennis. The building was shared with health services and the Dean of Students office. It was a very small place for the number of students we had. Students needed a place to add winter-type intramural sports and a cardio/fitness center. We were also in the middle of adding more housing for students, so we needed a facility that resident students could use and enjoy.”
Taylor said the facility not only filled a need for TSTC, but for the community as well.
“Dr. Clay Johnson, president of TSTC in Sweetwater at the time, had a dream to build a facility that was first class that both our students and the community could use and enjoy,” Taylor said. “In pursuing the plans for the Student Center, Clay and I visited the Cooper Fitness and Cardio Center in Dallas and modeled parts of the facility after the Cooper Center. The Center (at TSTC) offered the community a public place that would have a cardio/fitness center, a workout facility and a public meeting place.”
Maria Aguirre, TSTC executive director of compliance, agrees.
“The Student Center is a place the community has used since its opening,” she said. “We’ve hosted banquets, proms, meetings, workshops, competitions, conventions, practices for basketball and so much more for many community organizations and companies. The Rotary Club of Sweetwater regularly meets in the Seminar Room and has done so for many years. The Student Center is at the heart of our community.”
Since The Center was considered an auxiliary building, state funds could not be used to build it. A community-wide fundraiser was held to raise money to construct the building.
“This was the first time in Sweetwater to conduct a fundraising campaign to build such a facility,” Taylor said. “In The Center, there is a plaque of early donors that made a pledge and financial commitment for this facility. The goal for this building was to raise about $1 million to $1.5 million for this project.”
Aguirre said that even after 20 years, people ask if The Center is a new facility.
“The staff at the Student Center has cared for that facility very well,” she said. “Most prospects or visitors to the campus give great compliments to our Student Center and are surprised to find out it has been around for 20 years.”
Cake and punch will be served at the ribbon cutting. After the ceremony, attendees can also enjoy a lunch of grilled lemon pepper chicken or hamburgers for the discounted rate of $7.



President and CEO of Abilene Chamber of Commerce to Speak at TSTC Commencement

(ABILENE) – Doug Peters, president and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, willspeak at the Texas State Technical College summer commencement ceremony, which starts at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18, at the Abilene Civic Center.
Peters took on his current position of CEO in 2015. He oversees the strategic direction of the chamber and its affiliate organizations, including the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council and the Abilene Industrial Foundation.
He totes up 30 years of experience in chamber of commerce and economic development environments, having begun his career in Dayton, Ohio. He later went on to work for chambers of commerce in Richmond, Indiana; Findlay, Ohio; and Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he also served on the Economic Alliance.

Peters is a member of the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives Association, the Grace Museum board, the Junior League of Fayetteville advisory board, the board of the United Way, and various other local, state and national organizations.

He is married to his lifelong sweetheart, Whitney, and together they have three children.

TSTC expects to award over 100 degrees and certificates across its four West Texas campuses Friday.

TSTC awards associate degrees and certificates in areas such as Aviation Maintenance, Computer-Aided Drafting & Design, Emergency Medical Services, Environmental Technology, Nursing, Welding, Wind Energy and more. The college is currently registering for the fall semester.

For more information on TSTC, visit

– # –
Who: Texas State Technical College students, faculty and staff; Abilene Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Doug Peters
What: Texas State Technical College Summer Commencement Ceremony
When: Friday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Abilene Civic Center, 1100 N 6th St., Abilene

Three TSTC Employees in Abilene Earn Chancellor’s Excellence Award

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College has announced the recipients of this year’s Chancellor’s Excellence Award, and seven West Texas employees were honored. Of the seven, three employees from Abilene received the award.
This year’s Abilene award winners are Holle England, professional development officer; Jeannette Gist, director of student recruitment; and Jennifer Ryan, success coach.
England, a 22-year TSTC employee, was honored to receive the award.
“I believe in TSTC’s mission, and I strive to make sure that everything I do goes toward that mission,” she said. “In today’s society, a technical education is so important. I try to make sure we have excellent faculty and staff to support the students.”
Ryan has worked at TSTC for 14 years and said winning the award was a humbling experience.
“I thought it was a joke,” she laughed. “When you come to work, you do your work and you try to make the best of it. You try to encourage your students the best that you can, and you don’t really think about being recognized for that.”
The “underdogs” keep her motivated at TSTC.
“I want to help the person that was told by their high school counselor, a teacher or even a family member, ‘I don’t think college is for you,'” she said. “I try to show them that just because they may be limited in reading or math skills, or maybe have a learning disability, that doesn’t have to limit their potential to break the chain. Just because your family has always had manual jobs, that doesn’t mean you can’t be something different.”
With a background in children’s and family ministry, Gist also wanted to help make a difference for families.
“My heart just beats for families,” she said. “When I took the job, I wasn’t sure how my passion would connect with this job, but I found out very quickly how well it connects to what I care about. Every day in student recruitment we meet people. Sometimes they’re young, but sometimes they’re people even older than me who don’t know what they want to be when they ‘grow up.'”
She enjoys helping these students take the next step toward success.
“It’s a high to be able to walk through the process and direct them to a career that will enable them to provide for their families,” Gist said. “You never know what everybody’s story is and what it even took for them to walk through the door and pursue something different. What if they grew up in a household where people didn’t tell them they were smart? Maybe they didn’t have the confidence to take on a challenge like college. I want to be the person that sits across from them and says, ‘You can do it.'”
The Chancellor’s Excellence Award began in 2001, and over the past 15 years more than 280 TSTC employees have received the honor. Recipients are chosen based on outstanding contributions and achievements, commitment to excellence and character. Honorees serve as agents of change in the advancement of TSTC initiatives.
TSTC touts itself as “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for over 90 positions at its 10 campuses. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Gives Military Members, Veterans Education Opportunities in West Texas

(ABILENE) – Shawn Ogden of Clyde wants to continue working in the aircraft industry after discovering the career as a mechanic in the U.S. Air Force.

But, he knew after leaving the military he was missing some of the certifications needed to professionally maintain aircraft.

“Going to college after being in the military can be intimidating and challenging, but it is absolutely worth the effort,” said Ogden, 43, a student at Texas State Technical College in Abilene. “The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is extremely helpful when it comes to making sure you have everything you need to complete your education.”

Guiding Ogden through his time at TSTC is Veteran Services, which works with students who were in the military or are current active-duty members, along with their spouses and dependents.

“In the military, in order to make rank and be successful, we have to have education in our background,” said Annette Collins, veteran programs officer at TSTC’s West Texas campuses.

Some of the popular programs that members of Veteran Services like to pursue include Computer Networking and Systems Administration in Abilene and Brownwood, and Nursing and Vocational Nursing in Brownwood, Breckenridge and Sweetwater.

Ogden is part of the TSTC FAST Trac Airframe and Powerplant Program in Abilene that allows active-duty military members and veterans to study in an accelerated 13-week program focused on Federal Aviation Administration curricula. Classes are taught in hangar space at Abilene Regional Airport.

“There are a lot of veterans that come out and have worked on jets and airplanes the whole time in service but they don’t have the FAA airframe and powerplant license,” said Julia Humphrey, director of career services for TSTC’s West Texas campuses. “The program is geared for them to get the license and go to work.”

Ogden said he has felt at home at TSTC and knows he will be competitive and ready for job searching once he completes academic work in December.

“TSTC offers a complete package with hands-on training, which I have never had access to before,” he said.

Veteran Services also brings people together who share experiences no matter what military branch they are affiliated with.

Veterans, their spouses and dependents can work with TSTC’s Career Services and Talent Management staff on career readiness, resume writing, networking and interview skills. The technical college also has hireTSTC, an online resource for students to connect with companies that have job openings tailored to certificate and associate degree programs.

“I like TSTC because of the way they take care of their students,” said Collins, a 24-year U.S. Air Force veteran. “The staff is willing to go above and beyond to help the students get the education they need.”

A lot of TSTC’s student recruitment is focused on Dyess Air Force Base, which has more than 5,000 active-duty and U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees and an economic impact of more than $441 million, according to the Abilene Industrial Foundation. The military installation is also the largest employer in Taylor County.

“A lot of the active-duty personnel ask about their benefits and if their spouses can use the benefits,” Collins said. “Yes, they can.”

TSTC will have Registration Rally events for the fall semester on Aug. 2 in Sweetwater, Aug. 3 in Breckenridge, Aug. 8 in Brownwood and Aug. 11 in Abilene.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Culinary Grad to Head Kitchen in New San Antonio Restaurant

Duttry cooking(ABILENE) – San Antonio bakery La Panadería has something new cooking, and Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts graduate Travis Duttry is the chef behind the fire.

The 2014 graduate was hired last month as head chef for the soon-to-open restaurant and has been busy readying operations since.

“It’s slightly chaotic right now,” Duttry said. “I’ve been working on writing the menu, getting recipe books set up, making sure that everything is delivered properly — we’re still getting equipment coming over from Europe, and I’ve put up a few ads for hiring here in San Antonio. We’re just running straight forward trying to get everything set up.”

But success didn’t come easy for the chef. Duttry says hard work was what got him where he is today.

“I’ve been working two jobs for the last six years or so,” he said. “I always thought I could get more experience working two jobs rather than one. While going through school I probably cooked more than I slept. I was working almost 100 hours a week.”

Culinary instructor Kayleen Moon said Travis definitely showed initiative.

“He commuted for class and had better attendance than those who lived in town,” she laughed. “I’m so impressed that he got a job as a head chef with a certificate. He asked a lot of questions in class and cross-trained outside of school. It screams potential.”

Duttry, a Brownwood resident, chose TSTC for its proximity to home and traveled to school in Abilene.

“TSTC was the closest school to me, and I didn’t want to owe a lot of money when I graduated,” Duttry said.

He enjoyed his experience at TSTC.

“Chef Kayleen Moon was awesome. She was very informative,” Duttry said. “I always felt like I learned as much in school as I learned out of school. There are certain things I learned there that I would have never learned in a small town, like the classic mother sauces and steak au poivre. Stuff like that I never would have learned in a small town, but I got to learn those skills there, use those in the professional world and build on what I learned in school.”

Duttry enjoys cooking what he likes to eat.

“Anything that’s Italian; Mexican food, and I don’t mean Tex-Mex, but traditional Mexican food; upscale bar food; and classic comfort food — that’s what I like to cook.”

Set to open Friday, the downtown San Antonio location will be the second store for La Panadería and will be located at 301 E. Houston St.

Duttry recommends that culinary arts students and aspiring chefs get as much experience as they can.

“Do your best in school and outside of school,” he said. “Try to find a nicer restaurant to work in so you can implement what you learned in school. The things you learn at work and in school, they’re going to build off of each other. And you make money while you’re doing it!”

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. For more information on TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, 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 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.