Student Profile – Samantha Gutierrez

(HARLINGEN) – Samantha Gutierrez Samantha Gutierrez is studying Education and Training at Texas State Technical College and expects to earn her associate degree in Fall 2018.

The 18-year-old started as a dual enrollment student at TSTC, allowing her to get ahead of many of her classmates, while maintaining a 3.0 grade-point average.

When the Brownsville native is not busy studying she serves as secretary and an active member of TSTC’s Association for Future Educators and participates in fundraisers and community service activities.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate from TSTC I plan on continuing my education at Texas A&M University – Kingsville through TSTC’s University Center and get a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I also plan on pursuing a master’s and doctorate degree in Education and Psychology.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to work as a kindergarten teacher in a big city such as Houston or San Antonio and eventually become a counselor or family psychologist for a school district.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far at TSTC has been becoming secretary of TSTC’s Association for Future Educators. It has helped me gain professional experience that will look good on my resume and has given me the opportunity to organize fundraising and community service events.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that I have no limits. I can do all things as long as I believe in myself.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

The people who have influenced my success the most are my Education and Training Instructors Mary Hollmann and Myriam Aguila. They are my biggest motivators on campus and always push me to be and do my best.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to don’t be scared of stepping out of your comfort zone and going for your dreams. You only have one life to live, so live it the best you can.

A Recipe for Success: TSTC Culinary Arts Hosts Fourth Annual Food Festival

(HARLINGEN) – Culinary Arts student Jonathon Perez has been busy in the kitchen preparing his recipes and menu for the Fourth Annual Texas State Technical College Food Festival on Thursday, February 8.

Perez and his peers from Culinary’s International Cuisine class will host the annual event that represents 10 countries, creating at least 30 different dishes from across the globe. They are expected to serve close to 200 people.

The Tennessee native, who is currently in his last semester in the program, has been assigned Russian food and will create four different dishes for the festival. He said this has been something he has been looking forward to for a long time.

“I’m pumped and ready for the experience,” he said. “This is the first time I will do something like this on such a large scale. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Culinary Arts Lead Instructor Emma Creps said the goal of the food festival is to expose students to what they should expect when they graduate from the program.TSTC Culinary Arts Food Festival

“The food festival helps our students build confidence as a leader, work on their communication skills and practice for the future,” said Creps. “Whether they’re going to work for a restaurant, open a business or work in the catering industry, the skills they learn are needed.”

Creps added that her first-year students studying food preparation also have the chance to participate in the fun and help prepare dishes alongside students in their last semester.

“A lot of learning and training goes on between the first and last semester, and it’s important to get the first-year students involved so they know what to expect and can be better prepared,” said Creps.

The food festival also includes some competition between the students, one of whom gets to take home the People’s Choice Award medal.

As for Perez, who took third place in last year’s Iron Chef competition, he said he has a few surprises up his sleeve and looks forward to working with his first-year partner in making their table and food the most enjoyed and delicious for the win.

“I want to win so badly,” said Perez. “There are some people that doubt me, and I want to prove that I can do this. No matter what, though, overall it’s going to be a great learning experience and I can’t wait.”

The food festival is open to TSTC and the surrounding communities. Admission is $10 and includes tasting and one People’s Choice Award ticket, which counts as one vote for a favorite table and a chance to win door prizes, which are baked and prepared by TSTC’s baking class.

“We encourage everyone to come out and support our students, who are striving to be professional, successful chefs,” said Creps. “Come and enjoy food from across the world and have fun.”

For more information on the TSTC Food Festival, call 956-364-4754. To learn more about TSTC Culinary Arts, visit

TSTC Vocational Nursing Earns Perfect Pass Rate

(HARLINGEN) – PASS. This is what Summer 2017 Vocational Nursing graduate and class salutatorian Miranda Rodriguez saw on her computer screen nearly 48 hours after taking her National Council Licensure Examination, the state licensing exam for nurses. .

It was the same result for her 15 other peers contributing to a 100 percent pass rate for Texas State Technical College’s vocational nursing program once again.

“The results are finally in and we’re proud of our students for the work it took to make this pass rate a reality,” said TSTC Vocational Nursing Program Director Heather Sauceda. “It validates that the work we are doing and the lessons we are teaching every day is preparing our students for this test and for the workforce.”

Rodriguez is now an LVN at All About Kids Home Health and said the time she spent waiting to find out if she passed or failed was agonizing.

“It is the best feeling in the world when you finally see the word PASS,” said Rodriguez. “Naturally I had some doubts and when I left the testing center I was second guessing everything, but the outcome goes to show that TSTC taught me everything I needed to know.”TSTC Vocational Nursing

The San Benito native added that because of TSTC and the guidance from her instructors like Sauceda, she was able to make her dream come true and do the work she loves.

She will be applying to TSTC’s registered nursing program this spring with hope of returning to TSTC as a student in the fall.

“I can’t think of a better place than TSTC to do my LVN to RN transition,” said Rodriguez. “TSTC’s nursing programs and its students are held to a high standard and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

TSTC’s Vocational Nursing is a 16-month program that teaches students the foundation of nursing, patient care through hands-on training in state-of-the-art simulation labs and how to be compassionate, confident and skilled nurses.

“We strive for excellence from our students with every single class,” said Sauceda. “We have confidence that our students can excel from beginning to end and become great nurses.”

To ensure and encourage student success, the program will implement a new tutoring schedule for all current and future vocational nursing classes.

In addition, new technology such as workstations on wheels, similar to what is seen at doctor’s offices and hospitals, will be implemented to allow students hands-on practice administering medications and other medical practices.

“This is a challenging program and we want our students to know we are here for them,” said Sauceda. “We want to offer what we can, when we can to help them succeed and begin their careers.”

The next TSTC Vocational Nursing information session is February 5 at the TSTC Nursing Education Center, Room 113 and 115 at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit or call 956-364-4762.

Belton Alumni Look to Make Impact at TSTC in SkillsUSA Construction

(WACO) – A group of Belton High School alumni who won gold medals at last year’s national SkillsUSA contest in Kentucky are now students at Texas State Technical College – and they want to touch gold again.

Allen Harlow, Joseph Hermann and Andres Zapata were part of the high school’s Teamworks construction group that placed first nationally. The team was the first from Texas to get this achievement.

“We had our hopes up high and felt we did our best and gave it our all,” Zapata said. “When they called Belton out for first place, we couldn’t believe it and were speechless.”

Now, they are TSTC Building Construction Technology majors working each Friday preparing for their first collegiate-level SkillsUSA Teamworks contest in April at TSTC. But first, the group will practice against Belton’s 2018 Teamworks group at the Texas SkillsUSA District 10 Leadership Development and Technical Skills Competition taking place Feb. 2-3 at TSTC.

“I am so very proud to see our former students competing on the college level,” said Belton High School construction technology instructor Craig Sullivan. “I think they will do very well, if not win it all again. They have a superior understanding of how the contest is run and judged and what is expected. They have all been cross-trained in all the skills. TSTC is taking them to the next level and polishing their craft.”

Harlow, 19, said Sullivan convinced him to go to college though he thought about joining the military.

“Allen was my team finisher,” Sullivan said. “He could do all aspects of the build. When needed, he would help each team member finish their skill. He was also my second mason on the team and was key in our finish last year at nationals.”

Zapata was involved in SkillsUSA construction most of his high school career. His favorite parts of construction are learning building codes and plumbing. Last summer, he was an intern at Cooper and Bright Plumbing in Harker Heights, where he worked alongside employees on projects ranging from pipe installation to troubleshooting water leaks.

Attending TSTC was always in his post-high school plans, Zapata said. He said it felt like home with so many Belton students at TSTC. He is a 2017 recipient of the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation’s Work Ethic Scholarship.

“It has helped me out to pursue my dream,” Zapata, 19, said.

Twins Joseph and David Hermann, 20, did SkillsUSA construction at Belton. Joseph was on the national championship team and two state championship teams and David was on a Belton team that finished second in the state.

Joseph Hermann said he chose to do SkillsUSA in high school to stay out of trouble. Masonry has become his strength in team construction. His brother said he enjoyed learning the full range of construction through the organization.

“The Hermann twins were a joy to teach,” Sullivan said.

Another Belton High School alumnus who has SkillsUSA experience hopes to make an impact in the Building Construction Technology program. Zach Henderson, 20, a 2016 Belton Teamworks member, is in his second semester at TSTC. He came to Waco with encouragement of BCT instructor Michael Carrillo and his classmates.

“I knew I wanted to do school,” Henderson said. “I told myself it was something I had to do.”

Henderson said he also wanted to be on another Teamworks team with his Belton classmates.

“I’m hungry for a national title,” Henderson said.

Harlow, Joseph Hermann and Zapata’s victory last year continued a winning SkillsUSA tradition at Belton High School.  Under Sullivan’s tenure, the high school has won four consecutive state Teamworks titles, four teams have placed in the top 10 nationally and last year’s team won first place.

“Students that have gone through our program here at Belton have bought into our motto,” he said. “I keep it posted in our classroom: ‘Excellence is not an act, but a habit. We are what we repeatedly do.’ That motto has served us well.”

TSTC is also hosting Texas SkillsUSA’s District 5 for its leadership and skills contest on Feb. 9-10. District 4 will visit for its contest on Feb. 23-24.

“Hosting these district contests on our campus allows us to have direct access to high school students that are driven to excel in technical-related fields,” said James Matus, TSTC’s statewide SkillsUSA manager.

For more information on SkillsUSA in Texas, go to

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Student Success Profile

(HARLINGEN) – Christian GaytanChristian J. Gaytan is studying Computer Systems Management Technology and applying for the police academy at Texas State Technical College.

The 20-year-old Harlingen native expects to graduate in Spring 2019 and stays busy with TSTC’s Service Squad.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate, I plan on joining a police force here in the Rio Grande Valley and continuing my education to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become a state trooper and climb the ranks.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment so far has been overcoming some difficult obstacles in my life, while continuing school and working toward my dreams.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

I have learned a lot about responsibility and owning my choices while being here at TSTC. These lessons have helped me mature as a person and as a student.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

My girlfriend, Samantha Giselle Flores, has been my greatest influence. She is a vocational nursing student, hoping to become a registered nurse, yet she has helped me get through all of my struggles and find a career I am passionate about.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is never let anything stop you from going to college and following your dreams. Strive for what you want, don’t give up when times get hard, and keep moving forward.

TSTC Alum Breaks Cycle, Finds Rewarding Career

(HARLINGEN) – Olga Garcia is director of data systems at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District — a career she never dreamed of while growing up because of her family’s circumstances.

The Harlingen native was raised in a migrant family, traveling annually to Washington state and Oregon to pick strawberries, pears and apples and not returning until September or October.

“I usually had to play catch-up in school,” said Garcia. “But it was important to my parents that I get an education. They wanted my siblings and me to have more than a life as a migrant.”

And although taking the big step of enrolling in college was exciting and scary for Garcia, she knew that as a first-generation college student this was her chance to help her family and break a cycle.TSTC Alum Olga Garcia

“College was the goal for me from the beginning,” she said. “Migrant work is hard work, and I knew an education would change the lives of many.”

Garcia’s decision to enroll in college came in the 1980s when computers were just starting to come into play. Her sister purchased one for her house and Garcia helped her set it up, sparking an interest in Garcia that has led to a successful career.

“I wanted to go to a college where I could graduate within a couple of years and immediately start working,” said Garcia. “TSTI, now TSTC, had a reputation for this so I decided to give it a try.”

In 1985 Garcia graduated with her associate degree in Data Processing from TSTC and immediately found a job with Weslaco Independent School District as a programmer. She was there for 14 years.

“The training and coursework at TSTC helped me be competitive and find a job quickly,” she said. “TSTC helped me fulfill my goal.”

Garcia credits her instructors and peers for her success.

“I had the opportunity at TSTC to work with the most experienced instructors, and the hands-on training was invaluable,” said Garcia. “And to this day I am still friends with people I met while in college.”

After her time at TSTC, Garcia went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from the University of Texas-Pan American in 1998 and a master’s degree in Education Technology from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2011. Both colleges have since merged to become the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

After Garcia’s 14 years in Weslaco, she worked for nearly a year at TSTC’s Information Technology Help Desk before joining the Harlingen school district, where she has been for nearly 15 years and has served as assistant computer programmer, coordinator of student applications and, most recently, director.

“Never did I expect I would ever have such a successful career,” she said. “From the beginning to now, I am so blessed and grateful to be where I am today. It’s more than I could ever imagine.”

Garcia said she does not know what the future holds for her, but she is very happy and looking forward to more years with HCISD and spending time with her husband of 31 years, who she met as a student at TSTC, as well as with her children and three-year-old grandson.

“I’ve come a long way, and I hope my story can be an inspiration for others,” she said.

Garcia shared some advice. “Never give up. There are a lot of opportunities, so seek them, ask questions and ask for help,” she said. “And remember that when one door closes, another door always opens.”

For more information on programs offered at TSTC, visit

TSTC Agriculture and Culinary Students Plant Seeds of Success

(HARLINGEN) – More than 1,700 pounds of potatoes were planted on a chilly and wet Wednesday afternoon by nearly 30 Texas State Technical College Agricultural Technology and Culinary Arts students.

The farm-to-table partnership between the departments brings both programs together so that students can get different perspectives of the food business.

“This project is an effort to continue working closely with Culinary Arts on our farm-to-table initiative,” said Agricultural Technology Instructor Norberto Mendoza. “It’s great to open our students’ eyes to new experiences and opportunities.”

Both programs have been working together on this concept for nearly a year, and although culinary students have already helped to harvest vegetables and fruits, this is the first time they have helped to plant them.

The farm-to-table project gives the agriculture students the chance to give what they have grown to the culinary students to use in their kitchen.

“One of our goals as our partnership grew was to include Culinary in the planting process,” said TSTC Culinary Arts Instructor Emma Creps. “I’m excited to give my students this opportunity, and they’re excited for the experience.”

The students who participated in Wednesday’s potato planting are from the Agricultural Technology Crop Science and Culinary Arts Food Prep I classes.TSTC Potato Planting

Everything from potato cutting and treatment to planting on a one-acre lot used by Agricultural Technology was handled by the students under their instructors’ guidance.

Agricultural Technology student Irene Loya said this by far has been one of her favorite projects.

Loya, who will graduate with an associate degree from the program in Spring 2019, is already farming vegetables, fruits and various peppers, as well as growing flowering plants such as lilies, lavenders and roses.

“It’s exciting to be given this type of hands-on, real-world training. I know for a fact I could not get this anywhere else,” said Loya. “Everything I’m doing I can relate to what I am doing and want to do in the future.”

Loya said opportunities like this one give her a chance to build relationships and network with people who she might work with someday. She added that she hopes to grow her farming business once she completes her degree.

“At the end of the day, we’re all here to learn from each other and help in any way we can,” she said. “It just opens doors to many more opportunities that will be beneficial to all of us in the long run.”

Mendoza and Creps agree that this partnership is helping them create well-rounded students who will appreciate the processes that make the food business successful.

“I want my students to know where the food they cook comes from and appreciate the process that happens before they get it in the kitchen,” said Creps.

She added that many of her students go on to work at or open restaurants or build catering businesses, and having an understanding of farm-to-table and its processes makes a huge difference in their success.

Culinary Arts second-semester student Griselda Medina said she is already preparing a space in her backyard for a small vegetable and fruit garden and that this opportunity has opened her eyes to a whole new world.

“I already love nature and what it provides for us,” she said. “I’m not afraid of a little dirt. I’d rather know where my food is coming from and what I’m putting into my body and that of my family and, someday, customers.”

She said being able to plant the potato and seeing it grow over time is something beautiful because it is food that is straight from the earth and natural.

“This is so exciting for me, and I’m glad our instructors have given us this type of opportunity,” said Medina. “This project lets me know that I am definitely on the right path in my life.”

In late May the students will have another opportunity to come together over potatoes when harvesting begins. In the meantime, Culinary Arts will keep cooking and serving the vegetables and fruits that Agricultural Technology provides.

For more information about TSTC Agricultural Technology and Culinary Arts, visit

TSTC Helps Graduate Achieve Goals

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College alumnus Ted Harvey was working as an assistant manager at a dollar store when he decided he needed a life change.

Harvey had always loved working with computers but hadn’t thought about making it a career.

“I just loved computers and was really good at working with individual computers, home networking and stuff like that,” Harvey said.

After researching career options and colleges, Harvey finally chose TSTC’s Computer Networking & Systems Administration program.

“When I came to TSTC, I got to learn about the business side of things and got more in-depth,” he said. “That really inspired me to go out and learn more and push myself.”

Harvey was unsure of what to expect when he first arrived at the school.

“When I walked in here, I was terrified. I was 30 years old,” he said. “But when I had my very first meeting with Jennifer Herrera, she was so welcoming and so friendly. It made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. It got me even more excited about going to college. Every step of the way, my whole time here, I always felt like the staff was extremely friendly and interested in my future.”

Harvey now works as a computer technician for the city of Abilene, where he troubleshoots desktops and servers and sets up wireless access points, among other duties.

“It has changed my whole life, coming to TSTC,” Harvey said. “Before I went to school, I was absolutely miserable at my job. I felt stuck, like there was no escape. Since coming here, I’ve been able to move up in my life.”

Apart from his full-time job, he also runs his own business, Blue Helix Technology.

“It is absolutely exhausting to do that with a full-time job, but I enjoy it a lot,” Harvey said. “I manage small business networks. I do computer security and Wi-Fi for a few small businesses here in town.”

Harvey has some advice for those considering the Computer Networking & Systems Administration program: “You get what you put in.”

“When you come to the CNS program, you’re not going to graduate and immediately be a networking expert,” he said. “You’ll get a very solid foundation and hands-on learning experience that will allow you to build on that. TSTC gave me the foundation to build on for everything that I do now and everything that I love.”

For more information on TSTC’s Computer Networking & Systems Administration program, visit

TSTC Automotive Technology Students Get Experience in Simulated Auto Shop

(WACO) – Students in the Automotive Technology program at Texas State Technical College are getting a simulated real-world experience working with customers and their vehicle repairs in a Friday automotive service class.

TSTC students, faculty and staff members can fill out work order forms at the Kultgen Automotive Center on campus. A schedule is developed and customers are told when to bring vehicles in for service. Customers are responsible for buying the parts, which are given to students to install. Students working in the Friday class have already gone through at least three semesters of program study.

“The students are involved with interacting and calling the customers and passing on parts needs and lists to them,” said Jon Dawe, a TSTC Automotive Technology instructor.

The students work on oil changes, tire rotations, starters, electric diagnostics, brake systems and other vehicle issues that can be done between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on most Fridays during semesters. Due to time constraints and the complexity of some problems, vehicles can be held over until the next service class day if customers agree to it.

Benjamin Hernandez, 21, and Cody Small, 20, both of Waco, worked Friday morning on an issue with a car door.

“When I started here, I knew nothing about cars,” said Hernandez, a 2014 graduate of La Vega High School. “My old car broke down so much, and I got tired of being charged for labor and service. I wanted to fix it on my own.”

Hernandez said the students do not know what problems they will deal with until work orders are handed out. But, he has a challenge in trying to read some customers’ minds.

“Sometimes we are told it doesn’t run and we have to figure it out,” he said.

Small said he enjoys the diverse problems vehicles have and how to do auto shop paperwork.

“What I’ve learned is a lot of the problems are not that complicated,” he said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to


Annual TSTC Abilene Open House a Success

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College in Abilene held its annual open house Friday, opening all three of its Abilene campus locations for tours and presentations. The event, designed for prospective students who want to learn more about the college, saw about 100 students come through.

This is the first year that all three campuses have been available for Open House.

“We did things a little differently this year because we opened up all three buildings,” said TSTC Vice President of Recruitment Kim Porter. “So, they went to Culinary, they got to see Aviation, and Wind Energy came over from Sweetwater. We had pictures of the new Industrial Maintenance labs to market the new building, and Welding came over as well.”

Electrical Power & Controls, Industrial Maintenance Technology and Welding Technology will begin in Abilene in the fall with the opening of TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center. Visiting prospective students learned about the three programs.

“We had a lot of interest in the new programs,” Porter said. “All in all it was a really good day.”

Many of the day’s visitors came in with programs already in mind.

“A lot of the students that came in kind of knew what they wanted, other than just coming in to visit TSTC,” Porter said. “Our recruiters have done a really good job in preparing them and showing them what to expect. I met a young lady from Abilene High School, a first-generation student, and she applied for our Industrial Maintenance program. She’s really excited about that.”

TSTC recruiter Hannah Elliott said she had seen a lot of the visitors before.

“A lot of students I’ve developed relationships with throughout the year came to the event,” said Elliott. “Every student thanked me and was glad that we held the event. The parents were excited that they were able to come and that everybody was here and ready to help them.”

TSTC will hold open houses at its campuses in Brownwood in February and Breckenridge and Sweetwater in March.

For more information on open houses, visit To learn more about the college and its programs, visit