Category Archives: Breckenridge

TSTC Student Q&A with Mercedes Burkhart of Stamford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breckenridge Vocational Nursing Mercedes Burkhart April 3, 2017

TSTC Filling Nursing Needs in Stephens County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J5D_2497 breckenridge nursing resized

Area Company Hires Five TSTC Welders

welding(BRECKENRIDGE) – Christmas came early for five TSTC Welding Technology students who will graduate Monday with job offers from 1954 Manufacturing, a company based in nearby Graham, Texas.
One student, who grew up in Graham, interviewed with the company on his own and relayed to his classmates that they were interested in hiring more welders. Monday, Welding instructor Gregory Nicholas packed up five of his students to visit the company.
“I took them because most of them didn’t have the gas money to drive out there. It’s a little harder when you’re a full-time student,” Nicholas said. “So I said ‘Alright, let’s load up and go!’ and I took them out there.”
Nicholas said he hoped the trip would make a difference for his students.
“I wanted to help change their lives and help them get their career started in what they came to do,” he said.
The students interviewed and toured the company, and were all offered jobs.
“When the instructor brought in the other students, they were more than qualified. We’ve had people apply from [another welding school] but they haven’t been as qualified,” said 1954 Manufacturing Manager Courtney Hayes. “After they took our weld test, we were interested in bringing them on.”
Hayes said the company hopes to bring on more TSTC graduates in the future.
“The instructor was very helpful. We’re definitely interested in partnering with TSTC and interested in any candidates coming through his class that he thinks would be a good fit,” Hayes said. “If they all have training like the other applicants that came in, it’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
The company, which was founded in 2014, focuses on building truck bodies. They expect to hire another 10 to 20 welders next month.
“We have a sister company in California and we’re moving our entire water tank department here in January, which is why we’re trying to ramp up and hire more welders,” Hayes said. “Once we make that transition, we’ll be looking for more people to put in those positions and we foresee continued growth.”
According to, Texas will see a 13 percent increase in jobs for welders over the next eight years.
The two-semester welding program will teach students multiple welding processes including oxy-fuel welding (OFW) and cutting, shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).
TSTC is enrolling now for Spring 2017. To apply, or for more information, visit

Graduate of First Environmental Class Returns to Join TSTC Team

teresa-purcell-smBRECKENRIDGE – Teresa Purcell was a pioneer, studying as part of the first cohort in the Environmental Technology program at Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge. Now, Purcell has come full circle to teach that same program.

The Albany, Texas resident began teaching in the Environmental Technology program at the start of the fall 2016 semester, and she said the program has grown quite a bit since its inception.

“When we started, we had one classroom and all of our equipment was in a closet,” Purcell said. “To come here now to this lab they’ve built for the students and all of the different types of equipment, the opportunities are incredible. They train at every level possible so they can be able to go out there and say, ‘hey, I’ve trained on that. I’ve learned that. I want to be part of that.’”

Purcell broke into the environmental field while working at a law office in Shreveport, La. A friend of hers joined the Environmental Technology program at TSTC and persuaded her to come along.

“I thought I would like to work toward environmental law, because I wanted to stay with the law aspect,” Purcell said. “So we joined the program together. Once I graduated and got to experience a different field, I decided I was going to stay away from the law aspect of it because I enjoyed being outside and doing things for the community.”

Purcell wanted to join the TSTC team for the camaraderie and to help guide students.

“When I went through the program, the staff and my classmates were like a second family,” she said. “They were caring, always there for you no matter what. I wanted to become part of the team because I know they help the students succeed. We guide them in the direction they need to go. I just felt like TSTC was an opportunity to be able to give back to students and share my knowledge and experience with them.”

Before working at TSTC, Purcell worked as a field chemist in Dallas, an environmental tech in Abilene, a senior environmental tech in Iraq and, most recently, a project manager in Port Arthur.

Purcell’s favorite part of teaching at TSTC is doing hands-on work with the students.

“We’ve started quite a few projects here in the classroom, and being able to show them how to do this is great,” Purcell said. “What I’ve heard is that we’re the talk of the campus because of the things we’re doing here. They’re excited about the things we’re doing. It makes me feel good. Twenty years ago I never thought I’d be here doing this.”

For more information on TSTC’s Environmental Technology program, visit

TSTC REACH Club to Hold BINGO Fundraiser

Texas State Technical College’s Real Education on Addiction Can Help (REACH) Club will hold a BINGO fundraiser from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 29, at TSTC’s Breckenridge Technology Building in Breckenridge.

The REACH Club was started in 2004 by two TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling students to raise funds for scholarships and educate the community about addiction.

This fundraiser, which will be held for the second time since its debut in 2005, will not only raise awareness about addiction, but will also raise funds for student scholarships.

“We will have informational brochures set have out and, of course, take the opportunity to talk to people about addiction,” said Patricia Bundick, a Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor at TSTC and the faculty adviser for the club.

Bundick hopes the community will come out to enjoy the activity with the club.

“We want the community to be aware of what’s available here,” she said. “We also want the community to be able to participate in helping students.”

BINGO prizes so far include candles, gasoline gift cards, yard art and restaurant meals.

The Breckenridge Technology Building is located at 415 N. Breckenridge Ave. For more information on the fundraiser, call Bundick at 254-559-7721.

TSTC Students to Challenge for Gold

(WEST TEXAS) – Two students from Texas State Technical College in West Texas are preparing to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to contend for gold medals at SkillsUSA’s National Leadership and Skills Conference.


Rachael Thompson will compete in First Aid-CPR and Jon William Lewis will compete in Information Technology Systems at the conference, which is scheduled for June 20 to 24. More than 6,000 high school and college students are expected to compete in about 100 contests.


“We are very proud,” TSTC in West Texas Provost Eliska Smith said. “We are excited that we will be represented again at SkillsUSA. It’s wonderful for them to have this experience to compete against other college students around the nation.”


The TSTC Foundation honored the students with a special send-off on Friday, June 10, in Abilene.


Winning a gold medal at the national competition can add another credential to students’ resumes and make them more marketable when job hunting.


“SkillsUSA is an excellent opportunity to get the attention of important people, whether it be the contest chair who is selected from industry or a potential employer through one’s resume,” said Lewis, 21, of Abilene and a May graduate in Computer Networking and Systems Administration.


Students from TSTC in West Texas, Waco and Harlingen won more than 30 gold medals, and more than 70 medals total, during SkillsUSA’s statewide postsecondary competition in early April in Waco.


“The biggest success I think we have had this year for our campuses in West Texas has been the amount of medals we have taken home this year,” said Crystal Latham-Alford, a SkillsUSA campus director for the Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses. “Also, this is the second year we have been up in participation numbers in the last five years. We continue to grow and the future looks bright.”


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


Registration continues for the fall semester at TSTC. For more information, log on to

TSTC Receives $1,000 Donation from Breckenridge Rotary Club

(​BRECKENRIDGE) – ​The Breckenridge Rotary Club presented Texas State Technical​ College with a check for $1,000 Tuesday at their rotary luncheon.

The money will go towards scholarships to help students with tuition and supplies.

Les Strickland, president of the Rotary Club said they gave the money to TSTC because they like to help the students.

“We believe in TSTC,” Strickland said. “We like having the campus here and we want to see it grow.”

TSTC will begin registering new students for the summer and fall semesters Monday, April 4. For more information on the college, visit

Breck Rotary Scholarship

TSTC Chancellor Announces New Leadership for West Texas

(SWEETWATER) – Chancellor Mike Reeser announces the appointment of Eliska Smith, MASCL to serve as provost for the Texas State Technical College campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, effective August 10.

 Smith began her career in marketing and communications more than 25 years ago, spanning the economic development and consulting, publishing and health care industries, as well as higher education. Smith’s tenure with TSTC began in 2002. Today, she serves as TSTC’s statewide public relations officer and leads strategic communications from the central administrative offices in Waco. Previously, she was TSTC’s associate vice chancellor specializing in communications, public relations, and leadership development. She also was the founding director and sponsoring executive-in-charge of the TSTC Leadership Institute.

“In essence, the job of the provost is to make TSTC a great place to work and to develop our relationships with the communities in which we operate,” said Chancellor Michael L. Reeser. “I have confidence that Eliska’s keen grasp of the organizational mission and her ability to foster relationships will be an asset to our West Texas family,” added Reeser.

“Eliska’s leadership experience and broad background will serve her well as the provost and leader of our West Texas campuses,” said Gail Lawrence, President Emerita, Vice Chancellor & Chief Culture Officer.

“It will be my joy to call the Big Country home,” said Smith. “I look forwarding to helping TSTC strengthen our partnerships with community and industry leaders to strengthen our economies and to help more Texans prosper,” added Smith.

Smith received a Master of Arts in Strategic Communications and Leadership from Seton Hall University, an advanced certificate in mid-management from SMU/Cox School of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts from Baylor University.

Smith has served in leadership positions within community and professional associations including: President and past president of the board, Christian Women’s Job Corp of McLennan County; lay director of the Greater Waco Emmaus Community; member, Waco LeadershipPlenty; secretary, board member, and president of the Central Texas Chapter Public Relations Society of America; district IV executive committee member for the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, member of the Leadership Waco Class XX, board member of the Leadership Waco Alumni Association, member of the Rotary Club of Waco, and board member of the Waco Aviation Advisory Board.

Smith is a single mother, with a son, Houston, who is attending Texas Tech University, and a daughter, Caroline, who will be attending Sweetwater High School.

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