Inspired to Teach, Welding Grad Returns to TSTC

(HUTTO) – When Brandon Cernosek began attending the welding program at Texas State Technical College in Waco, a teaching job was the last thing on his mind.

But while going through the program, he drew inspiration from his welding instructor. As a result, Cernosek recently began teaching welding at TSTC in Williamson County.

“One of the teachers, when I was going to school, was a really good teacher,” Cernosek said. “He was one of those guys you wanted to be around and just listen to because he was always in a good mood with a positive attitude. He just made you want to come to class and learn. That’s the type of teacher I wanted to be.”

Cernosek graduated from TSTC in 2016. Later the Cedar Park resident worked in the welding industry before going to work for the college.

“I worked at Fast Lane Metalworks (in Waco),” Cernosek said. “It was a custom fabrication shop. People would come in and just tell us something they dreamt up that nobody else had, so we’d figure out how to make it. That was a lot of fun. Then I did some more industrial work.”

His love for welding began when he was in high school.

“It was just something that seemed so awesome,” Cernosek said. “You could just make things out of metal and do whatever you wanted with it. Cut here, add it there and, I don’t know, I just fell in love with how it feels when you’re under the hood. I can do a good TIG weld and come out happy. I just like doing it.”

Coming in as a new instructor, Cernosek worried that the students wouldn’t accept him.

“I thought the students weren’t going to respond very well to a young person coming in and trying to help them, but they actually responded really well,” he said. “I’m not trying to be a know-it-all or anything. I’m just trying to help out. They seem to take to it really well, and that feeling itself is really rewarding.”

TSTC Provost Edgar Padilla said he is happy to welcome Cernosek to the team.

“We are excited to see our welding program growing and always feel privileged to have a TSTC grad return from industry to teach our next generation of welders,” Padilla said. “Brandon is a great addition to the Williamson County family.”

Cernosek hopes that passing on his skills will help fuel the workforce.

“There’s not a lot of skilled laborers out there,” he said. “If I can help throw some more skilled laborers out there, that’d be great — teach some kids some new skills.”

TSTC prides itself on being “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for positions at its 10 campuses statewide. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

Student Success Profile – Flavio Tello

By Emily Swartz

Flavio Tello is a Mechatronics Technology student at Texas State Technical College. The McKinney native and his family moved to Harlingen to be closer to their relatives. Tello maintains a 3.8 grade-point-average and expects to graduate Spring 2019 with his associate degree.

Flavio Tello

What are you plans after graduation?

After graduation, I am interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University. I want to specialize in the robotics field. TSTC has helped me prepare for higher education and I am ready to pursue it.

What’s your dream job?

In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you what I want to be yet. I can tell you that Robotics is where my interest lies and that I am interested in Toyota as a company, particularly in assembling, processing and manufacturing. They often come to recruit students here so I know a lot about them.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

I have two accomplishments that I’m proud of. First, getting an A on my math final was one of them, and second is helping my instructor create machines to display at TSTC during our recruitment events. I love showing prospective students what you can accomplish under the right guidance, and it gives me a sense of pride creating something that TSTC is proud to showcase.

Name a TSTC person who most influenced your success.

My Mechatronics Technology Instructor Eutiquio Calderon and Mechatronics Technology Lab Assistant Alberto Perez have had the most influence. They encourage me to keep doing what I like when I feel like giving up.

What is your advice for TSTC students?

Focus on your studies, even throughout high school. You will be better prepared for what is ahead and you will have more opportunities. What you do in the beginning of your educational career will affect your grade-point-average in the future.

TSTC presented with RGV Partnership donation for scholarships

(HARLINGEN) – The Rio Grande Valley Partnership recently presented Texas State Technical College in Harlingen with a donation in the amount of $18,800 for the Texan Success Scholarship fund to be used for Vocational Nursing and Registered Nursing scholarships.

The initial donation was $9,400 and was matched dollar-for-dollar by TSTC’s Foundation and came from an endowment that the RGV Partnership started in 2014.

Brent Baldree, RGV Partnership Foundation chairman and chief lending officer and South Texas regional market president at Texas Regional Bank, said the endowment was first started as part of the foundation’s mission to promote education in the four counties of the Rio Grande Valley: Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy.

“We have a long-time partnership with TSTC and they have always provided our workforce with quality graduates and it’s important that we continue assisting with their mission,” said Baldree.

Baldree added that since the inception of the RGV Partnership Foundation they have contributed nearly $160,000 to post-secondary institutions Valley wide.

“One of our main focuses is to raise funds that will continually support the youth in the RGV,” he said. “With the intent and hope they (students) stay to fill skills gaps in our area.”TSTC and RGV Partnership Check Presentation

A financial endowment is a donation of money to a non-profit organization and is designed to keep the principal amount intact while using the interest collected over time for charitable efforts such as scholarships.

In this case, RGV Partnership wanted nursing students to be able to use this money for tuition, room and board or books sooner rather than later and decided to move the monies to the TSTC Texan Success Scholarship Fund.

And with the reintroduction of the Vocational Nursing to Registered Nursing transition program it was agreed that this was perfect timing.

“We’re beyond grateful for the RGV Partnership recognizing how these funds will have a positive impact on our students,” said TSTC Senior Development Officer Amy Lynch. “They are great advocates for our college and we’re excited to be working hand-in-hand in creating a stronger, skilled workforce for our state.”

First-time TSTC students who are enrolled in vocational and registered nursing are eligible to apply for the scholarship. Those who are awarded will receive $1,000 for the year; $500 for the Fall Semester and $500 for the Spring Semester.

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said with the demand for nurses increasing these scholarships will help fill a gap.

“You can’t put a dollar amount on the impact RGV Partnership is making,” she said. “There is a shortage of nurses across the Valley and the state and this donation is one step closer to closing the gap by giving us the opportunity to train the skilled workforce we need.”

Already, with this donation, five nursing students have been awarded a Texan Success Scholarship for the Fall 2018 Semester.

To date, the Texan Success Scholarship has helped more than 660 students statewide and TSTC Foundation has raised more than $746,000.

“This money removes a burden from our students and allows them to focus on their studies to get to the career they have their eyes set on,” said Hernandez. “It’s important that our students know they have us at TSTC and in our community supporting them and cheering them on.”

For more information on how you or your company can give to fund student scholarships, call TSTC Foundation at 956-364-4500.


TSTC first nursing graduate: “It’s never too late.”

(HARLINGEN) – The last time Texas State Technical College featured student Sylvia Cleary she was studying biology at TSTC with two of her children and waiting for the inaugural Registered Nursing courses to start.

Now one year later she is part of the first graduating cohort of the program and its first valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Last night, the 50-year-old and 29 of her classmates earned their associate degrees during TSTC’s Commencement Ceremonies at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium, joining the nearly 300 other students who earned a certificate or associate degree from the college.

“It’s still so surreal. I can’t believe that I can check this off my bucket list,” said Cleary. “My personal goal was to become a registered nurse by the time I turned 50. And here I am.”

The Rio Hondo native, who worked two decades as a licensed vocational nurse before returning to school, said she thought being accepted into the program was a long shot, especially at her age.

“It was scary returning to school and being the oldest in all of my classes,” said Cleary. “But I had a goal and wanted to prove to myself and my children that success is possible at any age.”

So in 2015, Cleary quit her job and devoted 100 percent of her time to school.Sylvia Cleary

And although her family was supportive of her decision and desire to apply to TSTC’s first registered nursing program, she still kept the application process a secret.

“I secretly applied last year in case I didn’t get in. I didn’t want to have to disappoint anyone,” she said. “But fortunately I was one of 30 students to get accepted. It was a competitive bunch.”

Throughout the program, graduating was a distant and sometimes impossible goal for Cleary who struggled and was close to giving up on several occasions.

“This was a huge sacrifice, like for many, for my family and me,” she said. “And things got tough. At times I was torn between my two loves: family and nursing.”

Cleary is a mother of four and also her husband’s full-time caregiver. He is a decorated army veteran who earned a purple heart for his service, but suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I didn’t want to falter as a wife or a mother, so I pushed myself at home and at school and it eventually takes a toll,” she said. “Most of the time I did my homework while my 15-year-old did his just so we could spend time together.”

Cleary said she credits the support and care she received from her instructors in the program for her will to continue pushing forward.

Shirley Byrd, Registered Nursing program director, said she is proud of Cleary and all she has accomplished in the past few years and months.

“She is an inspiration to me and everyone in our program,” said Byrd. “It takes a lot to come back to school after being away for so long, but she really devoted herself and made it through.”

Byrd added, “She was one of our best students and I can’t wait to see her succeed like I know she will. She is definitely going to be a leader in the nursing profession.”

Clearly has a few ideas of where she wants to work now that she has graduated, but is waiting to pass her National Council Licensure Examination, which she will take in the next few days.

Her journey with school is also not stopping with TSTC. She hopes to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing and eventually a master’s degree so she can return to TSTC as a nursing instructor.

“It is my family that keeps me going. Everything I do, I do for them,” said Cleary. “My son John who is legally blind has overcome so much and is my biggest inspiration. If he can do it, so can I.”

Her son John is studying Education and Training at TSTC, and her daughter Logan who also received her associate degree in Biology from TSTC and has recently been accepted to medical school at the island of Antigua, were last featured with Cleary.

Cleary will officially be sworn into the nursing profession on August 4, during TSTC’s Registered Nursing Pinning Ceremony at the TSTC Cultural Arts Center.

For more information on TSTC’s Registered Nursing program, visit


Gun violence survivor graduates with degree from TSTC

(HARLINGEN) – Left for dead during an armed robbery, Leonel Garza Jr. believes he was given a second chance at life for a reason and, with the help of Texas State Technical College, he has set out to make it the best life he can.

Tonight, the 33-year-old McAllen native will put on his cap and gown and walk the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium stage to receive his associate degree in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) from Texas State Technical College.

“The fact that I’m graduating hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Garza. “I’m excited and proud, but it’s all still so surreal.”

Surreal because Garza almost didn’t make it to see this graduation day.

On April 28, 2016 at 6:45 a.m., Garza still remembers every detail of the day, an armed robber entered his apartment in Irving, Texas.

“My roommate, who I called ‘Abuelo,’ or grandfather, and I were getting ready for work and throwing out trash, when we forgot to lock our front door,” said Garza. “A simple mistake nearly cost us our lives.”

Garza and his 65-year-old roommate were shot by a would-be robber.  ‘Abuelo’ was shot in the chest and Garza was shot five times on his right side and back as the gunman demanded money and items.

“By the grace of God I was able to call 911,” said Garza. “I couldn’t feel my legs so I crawled to ‘Abuelo’ who was laying on the ground. This is the day I realized who I was as a person. I could have easily given up, but I didn’t.”Leonel Garza Jr.

Garza said he remembers thinking that he had to live for ‘Abuelo,’ who survived the attack, and for himself.

“At that moment I realized I wasn’t ready to die. There was more to life. I wanted a career, to be a husband and a father. That’s why I fought hard to live,” he said.

Garza had only been in Arlington a few months on that fateful day. He had recently left  a 10-year job as a security guard with the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, was celebrating the completion of his HVAC certificate at an Irving vocational institute and was looking to start a new career.

The gunman was never arrested and Garza was left to slowly recuperate with three bullets forever lodged in his body. The incident also affected him emotionally and mentally.

“Physically I was a mess. I couldn’t walk without a walker or a cane and I was advised not to work for at least a year to allow my body to recuperate,” said Garza. “But I also wake up every day with the fear of being shot.”

Since then, Garza has returned to the Rio Grande Valley, married and now has a one-year-old son, but he struggles daily with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. But that has not stopped him from achieving his goals and living his life to the fullest.

Garza said TSTC, his instructors and classmates have helped him more than they will ever know.

“For a person like me who lives in constant fear, everyone at TSTC has given me the power to overcome it,” he said. “They have helped me move forward with my life and my education. They have helped me gain my life back.”

During his time at TSTC, Garza maintained a 3.75 grade-point average allowing him to graduate with honors, served as president for TSTC’s SkillsUSA chapter and parliamentarian for the Texas SkillsUSA chapter, even traveling to Louisville, Kentucky last month for the SkillsUSA national conference.

Garza has also already interviewed with local HVAC companies and is waiting to get a call back.  He hopes to gain experience in the field for a few years before pursuing his ultimate goal.

“Someday I plan on returning to TSTC as an HVAC instructor,” said Garza. “I hope to follow in my instructors’ footsteps and help other students the way everyone has helped me.”

Nearly 300 students will receive certificates or associate degrees during TSTC’s Commencement Ceremonies tonight at the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

For more information on HVAC Technology, visit

TSTC Instructor’s Enthusiasm Earns Him Faculty of the Year Award

(RED OAK) – Employees at Texas State Technical College celebrated Employee Appreciation Day in June, a day that included fun for employees and awards for employees of the year.

HVAC Instructor Terry Robinson was chosen as faculty member of the year.

Robinson, a native of Clute, Texas, who has been teaching at TSTC for two years, said he was humbled to receive the honor from his peers.

“I was gratified to get this recognition,” he said. “I think they’ve seen my dedication and the amount of work I put into helping build the HVAC department. When I came here, they had just moved all the equipment from another location, so I had to not only start building stuff to teach with, but I had to build the lab. I think everyone was well-pleased with the effort I put into it.”

Robinson was working as a service manager when he discovered a passion for teaching.

“I enjoyed teaching my technicians and installers how to do things, so I knew that teaching was going to be something I would want to do at some point,” he said. “In 1992 I started teaching, and I’ve been teaching ever since. I’ve also taught at Tarrant County College, Fort Worth Independent Schools’ night adult program and at Cedar Valley College.”

In his teaching style, Robinson swears by his motto: “Those that can, teach passionately.”

“That’s the way I try to approach my teaching. I enjoy communicating with my students and being creative,” he said.

He enjoys showing students the significance of TSTC.

“I’ve seen all types of educational systems — private, proprietary, trade school, junior college — and I like TSTC because I think we’re the best educational value a student can have,” Robinson said. “It’s just such an incredible value for students at a relatively low price.”

Robinson and his wife, a former elementary school teacher, share a passion for education.

“My wife was there the day that I got the award, and it just totally surprised her,” Robinson said. “She had just retired after 41 years of teaching elementary in public schools. In the last 15 years or so, she was a talented and gifted teacher. I always told her, ‘Of course you teach talented and gifted — you live with me!’”

TSTC prides itself on being “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for positions at its 10 campuses statewide. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Looks to Expand Team

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College is looking to expand its Williamson County team and hiring for several instructor positions.

Precision Machining, Industrial Maintenance, HVAC, Welding and Culinary Arts are some of the areas in which the school is looking to fill vacancies.

Campus Director Darren Block said teaching offers a chance to make an impact in the community. It also lets one do one’s part to fill the “skills gap,” a shortage of middle-skilled workers to fill open positions in the U.S.

“By instructing the next generation of blue-collar workers in this country, we are building the future and providing a path to success,” Block said. “You often hear ‘it’s a dying art’ or the ‘skills gap.’ We are filling that skills gap, or handing down that skill or ‘art’ to the next generation.”

Block said teaching also offers a sense of pride.

“Teaching someone to do what you do is fulfilling and rewarding,” he said. “When I get a call from an employer saying our student is working out great and asking if we have any more to send them, that is what it is all about.”

TSTC Provost Edgar Padilla hopes those interested in strengthening the workforce of Texas will apply.

“TSTC is a dynamic institution, working hard to fulfill a unique mission among colleges and universities in Texas,” Padilla said. “Our employees are the heartbeat of our vision for placing more Texans into great careers. We are seeking employees who are eager to innovate, lead and be part of changing the landscape of higher education in Texas.”

TSTC has 10 campuses statewide in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater, Waco and Williamson County. Each campus provides a unique atmosphere, with programs chosen to suit each area’s employment needs.

“We are situated in one of the top five fastest-growing cities in Texas,” Padilla said. “The business climate in the Austin metropolitan area, coupled with our unique culture, makes this the perfect place to work and make an impact for our future students and graduates.”

TSTC offers benefits such as retirement, medical, dental, vision and more.

For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Employees, Students Raise Funds to Support Family in Need

(WACO) — Some 200 Texas State Technical College students, faculty and staff gathered recently at a cookout to raise money for Billy Anthony III, son of TSTC employees Cheryl and Tony Lloyd.

Anthony has battled multiple sclerosis for seven years, and the fundraiser raised more than $900 to help alleviate some of the financial burden associated with his illness.

“His diagnosis caught us so off guard. He was a healthy, happy, blonde-haired, blue-eyed young man,” Cheryl Lloyd said. “And even now when you see him, he is still so positive, and if he thinks something is wrong with you, he will ask if he can pray for you.”

Lloyd is a lab assistant for the TSTC Electrical Lineworker program. When students learned that her son was given a terminal diagnosis, they wanted to help. They reached out to Letha Novosad, lead instructor in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program, to find a way to help Lloyd and her husband, Tony, an instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls, with the burden of their son’s final expenses.

“Cheryl is such a kind and giving person, and she gives her all to the Electrical Lineworker program so that the department really sees her as the mom over there,” Novosad said. “And I would do anything for her and her family because she just inspires good.”

Novosad reached out to the TSTC Faculty Senate and The TSTC Foundation, whose members acquired food and drinks to be sold. The Electrical Lineworker Technology students furnished baked goods to sell, and students from various TSTC programs volunteered to go to classrooms with goods to promote the fundraiser.

“It’s for one of our own. It’s a good cause, and they needed help,” said Eric Roen, a second-semester Electrical Lineworker Technology major student.

For more information about Anthony, his family and an opportunity to donate, visit the GoFundMe page at:

For more information about Texas State Technical College, visit


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 Welding Provides Opportunities for Area Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – One of Stephens County’s largest industries is oil and gas, and with that comes the need for qualified welders.

“There is always a lot of demand in the oil industry for welders and they pay well also,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corp. “There is always a shortage it seems like. Texas State Technical College fills that gap.”

And, there are plenty of jobs for TSTC’s Welding Technology graduates to consider.

The Abilene-Breckenridge area has more than 300 welding jobs open now, said Steve Collins, business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene.

“There are so many welding jobs available right now that they can’t fill a lot of their positions,” he said.

Some jobs in welding in the Big Country do not involve oil and gas.

Southern Bleacher Co. in Graham has 35 welders among its 150 employees. The company produces bleachers, support structures, decking systems and coatings for school districts, universities, fairgrounds and event venues throughout the nation.

“We go through phases when a lot of people join the Southern Bleacher family, they do not leave,” said Sarah Lundgren, the company’s communications director. “Our turnover is pretty small.”

But, Lundgren said the company occasionally has hiring campaigns for welders. The company and TSTC have partnered together in the past.

“Our welders are not hired for specific jobs,” she said. “They work on all jobs. There are different welding areas of the shop and have different responsibilities.”

Stephen Hope, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge, said students typically have jobs when they graduate. He said students have recently found work at ProFrac in Cisco and Tiger Manufacturing Co. in Abilene.

Jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A majority of these jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester structural welding certificate which includes classes teaching blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

Registration for fall classes is ongoing right now. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to