Student Success Profile – Christopher Martinez

(HARLINGEN) – Christopher MartinezChristopher Martinez is pursuing a certificate from Texas State Technical College in Vocational Nursing. The Harlingen native, who holds a 3.5 grade-point average, expects to graduate in Summer 2019.

The 26-year-old said nursing is something he has wanted to do since he was a child because it allows him to help others and                                                                                                   make a difference in lives.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I hope to find a job in my field and return to TSTC to pursue registered nursing and earn my associate degree.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become a traveling nurse, working in different hospitals in different parts of the country, and working in either an emergency room or cardiology department.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been maintaining my GPA in a program well known for its challenging and competitive nature.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is that I am my own worst critic. I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself and be more confident in what I do.

Who at TSTC has influenced your success the most?

I cannot just name one person, everyone in advisement and the vocational nursing program has influenced my success. Advisement was my stepping stone into this college and advisors have never led me wrong and I admire the experience and knowledge of the faculty in my program.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to be dedicated to your chosen career and path. This will take you a long way.

TSTC agriculture program welcomes PhD researcher to the team

(HARLINGEN) – Growing up in Egypt, Dr. Sheren Elsayed Farag remembers she dreamt of being a plant scientist and she was determined, no matter what, to make it happen.

Today, Farag is the newest Agricultural Technology instructor at Texas State Technical College and brings more than a decade of agriculture engineering and technology experience to the classroom.

“I was inspired by a teacher I had when I was small. He would take us to fields around our school to study the crops and soil,” said Farag. “And now I want to inspire other students who also want to pursue the same career path.”

The 32-year-old said she is excited to be at TSTC and cannot wait to begin implementing technologies used in agriculture.

“There are so many new technologies in agriculture that help make the job faster and more efficient,” said Farag, as she set up the program’s latest drone. “And to make our students more marketable and competitive when looking for jobs, they need to have knowledge and training in this technology.”

Farag’s first step in her mission is to implement drones in her curriculum.

The program has a total of five drones, four are consumer standard easy-to-fly drones for aerial photography and the other is a Multispectral Imaging Drone, popular to the agriculture field, to manage crops, soil, fertilizing and irrigation more effectively.Dr. Sheren Farag Agriculture Technology instructor

“Drones are the most utilized and popular technology in our field. And not many people are trained to use them,” she said. “So our students will be ahead of the game and this specialized training will improve their job outlook.”

Farag knows all too well the competitive nature of the industry and the types of opportunities students can have access to with this type of training.

Farag earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Alexandria University in Egypt in Soil and Water Science and Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

She went on to earn her second master’s degree and doctoral degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Seville in Spain in 2011 and 2014.

Farag also holds a post graduate diploma in Integrated Planning for Rural Development and Environmental Management from the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies.

“I have faced a lot of bias as a woman entering a male-dominated career,” said Farag. “It hasn’t always been easy, I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish and I hope to get more women interested in pursuing a career in agriculture.”

And Farag should be very proud. She received a couple of prestigious fellowships in her field from the Spanish National Research Council in partnership with Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios and from the International Fellowship from American Association of University Women, she was the only doctoral candidate selected.

It was the American Association of University Women that helped her get to the United States in 2016 and work as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Weslaco, beginning her extended stay in the states.

Sammy Gavito, TSTC state lead and instructor for Agricultural Technology, said Farag’s knowledge in agriculture, soils, soil fertility and irrigation is impressive.

“She brings great knowledge in precision agriculture,” said Gavito. “In particular, she brings great knowledge in global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) and the ability to teach drone technology to our students. And new technology is the direction our agriculture program is going.”

Before coming to the U.S., Farag also worked with a fertilization company developing new fertilizers, as a researcher monitoring irrigation, fruit trees, soil, water and managing plant development in Egypt and Spain.

And for four months, Farag spent time at Texas A&M-Kingsville as a plant physiologist controlling irrigation using meters and sensors.

“I’ve had so many great opportunities throughout my career,” said Farag. “And although bias, beliefs and prejudice in my home country were big obstacles for me, I’ve always kept my eye on my goals and focused on positivity to overcome it.”

Farag who knows multiple languages,  English, French, Arabic and Spanish, enjoys travelling, especially back to Egypt where her family stayed and said although she misses them she’s ready for her new adventure at TSTC.

“All I want is to help make a big difference in students’ lives and make them aware of the research, opportunities and growth that the agriculture industry has to offer,” she said.

For more information on TSTC’s Agricultural Technology, visit

TSTC Initiative Bets Students Can Find Jobs

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College is betting you not only get a job, but that you will get a great-paying one when you graduate.

That is why TSTC offers a Money-Back Guarantee on its most in-demand programs. If you do not get a job, you will get your tuition back, guaranteed.

TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee began in November 2016 and is for students pursuing associate degrees in Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker Technology, Electrical Power and Controls, Instrumentation Technology and Welding Technology. The technical programs were chosen because they are in high demand in Texas.

So far, 51 students statewide are enrolled in the initiative, said Kacey Darnell, executive director of TSTC’s Career Services and Talent Management.

“Even though the programs in the Money-Back Guarantee have high job placement, signing up for the Money-Back Guarantee is like having an insurance policy, and it will cost participating students nothing,” Darnell said.

Students in these programs are eligible to sign up with campus Career Services and Talent Management representatives. Students who are not hired in their field within six months after graduation may be eligible to get a refund for their time at TSTC.

Cody Russell, 29, of Dublin, Texas, is pursuing dual associate degrees in Electrical Power and Controls and Instrumentation Technology. He said the Money-Back Guarantee was like a security blanket. He is scheduled to graduate with both degrees in December 2019.

“Anything after the fifth semester and if you are double-majoring, start consulting with Career Services,” Russell said.  

Michael Bowers, TSTC’s vice president of student learning, said the students who sign up for the initiative can have access to lessons on resume writing, interview techniques and other employment skills.

Robert Lovelace, a TSTC master instructor and statewide department chair in the Instrumentation Technology program, said there are at least 90 new students in the program this semester at TSTC in Waco.

“The students are advised of the Money-Back Guarantee program in the registration process,” Lovelace said.

He said several instrumentation jobs in the oil and gas industry are along the coast, in West Texas and the Panhandle. Graduates who pursue the field can become electrical and electronics engineering technicians, and commercial and industrial electrical and electronics repairers.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC grad, Needville native made childhood dream come true

(FORT BEND) – Grant Siebrecht knew he wanted to become a diesel mechanic, but with pressure from his family to attend a four-year university he thought his dream was impossible, until Texas State Technical College opened up in his community.

“TSTC had great timing,” said Siebrecht. “It had everything I was looking for in a college and because of it, I am now doing what I love.”

The Needville native was a new high school graduate in 2016, the same year TSTC in Fort Bend County opened its doors, and much to his surprise, Diesel Equipment Technology was an offered technical program.

“I went through some disapproval from some family members because it was a technical school,” said Siebrecht. “But I knew a four-year degree wasn’t for me. I needed to work with my hands and this place had it all.”

With support from his grandfather from the get-go, Siebrecht received emotional and financial support from him, with the rest of the family following suit when they realized how happy and how much Siebrecht was achieving.

“I used to watch my dad work on cars and trucks as a hobby. It was fascinating and I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up,” he said. “And without the support from my grandfather and family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”Grant Siebrecht

In fact, Siebrecht loves mechanics so much he took a part-time job while in high school at a local mechanic shop, the same place his family would take their car when it needed repairs.

“This was a great experience for me as a high school student. It laid out my foundation in the industry,” he said. “And attending TSTC just took it to another level for me.”

The 21-year-old was among the program’s first cohort to graduate in 2017. And with honors, a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology, a 3.7 grade-point average and a job offer in hand, Siebrecht was ready to face the world.

“TSTC was a great place of learning for me. All of the hands-on training and knowledgeable faculty made my experience there worth my while,” said Siebrecht. “My classmates and I learned so much and the student life was great. Everyone was so nice and welcoming.”

Siebrecht credits TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology Instructor Spencer Paige for much of his success because of his knowledge, patience and experience.

“Spencer was great. With his teaching, training and letter of recommendation, I got a job before I even graduated. Not many people can say that about their college,” he said.

Siebrecht started his career at Hlavinka Equipment Company in Rosenberg as a diesel technician and has now been there for a year and half.

“I work on off-road equipment and tractors, have a steady paycheck and benefits,” he said. “What more could a guy ask for?”

Hlavinka Equipment Service Manager Chris Hallman said he knew from the moment he met Siebrecht that he was a great hire.

“I could tell that this was a young man who wanted this position and who actually had a passion to work in this industry. This is what set him apart from other candidates,” said Hallman. “And of course knowing that he received his training at TSTC was an added plus.”

Hallman added, “He is a solid worker, not afraid to get his hands dirty and get the job done and has a concern for safety. He is definitely a great asset to our company.”

Siebrecht said he will be visiting TSTC again soon because he plans on beginning the path toward an associate degree in Spring 2019 because he has bigger dreams he is working toward.

“I hope to someday own a diesel shop and work on diesel truck performance and heavy equipment,” said Siebrecht. “I’m a turn-the-wrench type of guy and I have to continue my education and getting experience to make this happen.”

Diesel Equipment Technology is offered at TSTC’s Fort Bend County, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater and Waco campuses.

For more information Diesel Equipment Technology, visit

TSTC Hosting Area High School Students for Dual Credit Classes

(ABILENE) – West Texas students are getting a taste of college life when taking dual credit classes at Texas State Technical College.

This semester, the Aviation Maintenance program is hosting high school students from the Clyde and Hawley school districts, and the Abilene Independent School District is sending secondary students to the new Electrical Power and Controls program.

“It shows we are working to give them an educational option,” said Kim Porter, TSTC’s vice president for student recruitment.

Students travel four afternoons a week to TSTC for general classes in the Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology certificate programs.

“This gives the high school students the ability to sample and see an educational program and career field before they have even left high school,” said Josh Parker, a TSTC Aviation Maintenance instructor. “There is currently a labor shortage in the aircraft maintenance field, and all industry analysts are predicting the shortage to last many years to come. The job market for the graduates of our two-year program is booming, and with that boom, starting wages are going up as well.”

This is the third year TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance program has hosted high school students.

“I think it is beneficial for the students to work alongside the college students and do the rigorous work,” said Paula Kinslow, Clyde Consolidated ISD’s director of curriculum and special programs. “It’s not something that is unattainable. With the students going into a career field that is in high demand, we can help them get in and go forward.”

Clyde CISD also has students taking dual credit classes in TSTC’s Culinary Arts and Welding Technology programs in Abilene.

Kinslow said TSTC is a natural fit because of proximity and affordability.

“We are really proud of our kids and want to provide the most for them,” Kinslow said.

Less than 20 juniors and seniors from Abilene High School began a 12-week semester earlier this week in the Electrical Power and Controls program at TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center. The students will travel to the campus five afternoons a week.

“The students can earn six semester credit hours that can be used for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Power and Controls at TSTC,” said Ketta Garduno, AISD’s director of career and technical education. “The DCOA (Development Corporation of Abilene) provided scholarship funds for eligible students who applied, and AISD, for this year, is covering the cost of transportation, books and supplies.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to  


Student Success Profile – Julyssa Balderas

(HARLINGEN) – Julyssa BalderasJulyssa Balderas, 19, is a Business Management Technology student at Texas State Technical College and expects to earn her associate degree in Fall 2019.

When not in the classroom or the library studying, the Harlingen native is a work study at the TSTC Advisement Center and said it has been a very rewarding job being able to help fellow students.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate with my associate degree I plan on transferring to the University of Texas at San Antonio to pursue a bachelor’s degree in General Business.

What’s your dream job?

TSTC has helped me find my passion and my dream career. I hope to someday work in and manage the finance department of a large company in a big city.

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been being hired at the TSTC Advisement Center. I love having the opportunity of helping other students and the way the team here motivates me to put myself out there and not be shy.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lesson I have learned is to always face your challenges head on. No matter how tough life gets, we have to keep moving forward.

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

Everyone at the advisement center is great, but my supervisor Alysse Prepejchal has helped me the most. She has helped me grow professionally and personally. She is always there to give sound advice and to motivate me to try something new outside of my comfort zone.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to enjoy every moment spent at TSTC because the college offers students every opportunity possible to achieve academic success and make new friends.

TSTC Agricultural Technology presented with scholarship donation

(HARLINGEN) – What do the Harlingen Cotton Committee and the late Ruben Vela’s former drummer have in common? A passion for agriculture.

On Thursday night, during the annual Harlingen Cotton Committee 2018 First Bale of Cotton Auction and Scholarship Fundraiser, Juan Martinez, former drummer for the late conjunto and accordion legend and 13 other Agricultural Technology students at Texas State Technical College were presented with a $15,000 check, which was matched dollar-for-dollar by the Lozano-Long Foundation, bringing the total to $30,000 for scholarships.

The funds were divided equally among the 14 students.

“After spending 10 years in the music industry and as a Valley music teacher, this career change has come with its challenges; mainly financial,” said Martinez. “So this money is going to help me put gas in my car, help earn my associate degree and continue what my grandfather started.”

Martinez grew up in Santa Rosa, working farms with his grandfather planting different crops such as sugarcane, cotton and vegetables. But his career path instead followed his father’s who was the lead singer for Vela.TSTC Harlingen Cotton Committee Check Presentation

“I still love music, but after my grandfather passed away a couple of months I wanted to honor him, and this is how I’m doing it,” said Martinez. “I thank TSTC and the Harlingen Cotton Committee for allowing me this opportunity.”

Sam Simmons Jr., Cotton Committee chairman, said the organization’s ultimate goal is to help students like Martinez pursue an education in a field where the number of farmers is decreasing annually.

“We want to empower students to better their lives,” said Simmons. “And we hope that every student we touch can lead a successful career in Agriculture. We need them.”

The partnership between the Harlingen Cotton Committee and TSTC began in 2011. Since the organization’s first recorded donation, the funds provided for scholarships has grown along with the partnership.

To date the organization has donated more than $60,000 to TSTC.

“The Harlingen Cotton Committee do so much for the agriculture community in the Rio Grande Valley, including for our students here at TSTC,” said Amy Lynch, TSTC senior field development officer. “They care so much about agricultural education and ensuring that students have the resources they need to make their dreams a reality. It’s amazing.”

And making their dreams a reality is something that Martinez, who completed an internship with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco and was immediately hired on; and Samantha Mendoza, also a TSTC Agricultural Technology student, are familiar with.

“I’m graduating next semester and I will transfer to Texas A&M-Kingsville to pursue a degree in pre-veterinary medicine,” said Mendoza. “And all of this is possible because of TSTC, its instructors and the money I have just received from the Harlingen Cotton Committee.”

“I struggle financially and this has brought such a huge relief. I’ll be able to focus on getting to the finish line,” she added.

TSTC Agricultural Technology Department State Lead and Instructor Sam Gavito said he is overwhelmed and overjoyed by the organization’s generosity to his students and program.

“There are no words to describe how appreciative I am for the help our students are getting,” said Gavito. “Every student here is worthy of this scholarship. They have proven their academic success and I can’t wait to see what else they can achieve with this help.”

Gavito added, “This is an amazing event. I send a huge thank you to everyone.”

All proceeds from the 2018 First Bale of Cotton Auction and Scholarship Fundraiser benefit the committee and Algodon Club of Harlingen Scholarship Fund.

“This donation is life-changing for many of our students,” TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez. “That one tank of gas can mean the difference between graduating or dropping out and this organization understand that.”

“They are friends of TSTC,” Hernandez added. “The impact they have on our TSTC students is amazing. Tremendous.”

For more information on TSTC Agricultural Technology, visit

TSTC uses TWC grant to help small businesses in the community

(HARLINGEN) – Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Texas State Technical College are working with local small businesses in Cameron County to help them have the trained personnel they need, thanks to Skills for Small Business grants awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

“TSTC and the TWC are working together on a small-business initiative to ensure that, like larger industries, they have a trained workforce,” said Isidro Ramos, executive director for TSTC Workforce Training and Continuing Education. “Our community is made up of small businesses, and it is our responsibility to provide them with the resources they need.”

TSTC’s Continuing Education Department received $156,000 for 2019 to use for professional training and development among small businesses.

“Most of the time, small businesses have limited resources and training is not in their budget,” said Ramos.  “But with this grant, they’re able to get their employees the training they need. We can’t forget about our small businesses.”

TSTC has been conducting this training since 2016 and helped more than a dozen small businesses.TSTC Continuing Ed.

Small-business employers are able to apply for the training every year, but they must be able to pay the prevailing wages in the local labor market for the trainees funded under the grant.

“There is an application process, but most small businesses qualify,” said Ramos. “These trainings help make a business more effective, efficient, competitive in their niche market, and innovative. We encourage everyone to apply and take advantage of the resource.”

Courses offered through the grant range from leadership in customer service and communication skills to beginner, intermediate and advanced Microsoft Office and QuickBooks trainings to marketing and basic supervision.

There are nearly 20 courses offered.

For Victoria Barrientos, billing officer and certified mastectomy fitter for MediForce in Harlingen, the QuickBooks trainings she completed through TSTC will help her and the business she works for advance in the way they use the software program.

“We use QuickBooks every day, and there were still features of the program we had no idea existed,” she said. “This course taught us how we can use QuickBooks to help us work smarter, not harder.”

Barrientos, who has been with the company for 10 years, and four others from the company recently completed the QuickBooks beginner and intermediate courses.

“This was a great learning experience all around, and I can’t wait to implement what we learned,” said Barrientos. “We want to work on using QuickBooks not only for retail and services, but now for quotes, reporting and inventory since becoming aware of these features in our courses.”

Laura Alvarez, a clerk for the construction department at Harlingen Glass & Mirror who has only been with the company for three months, jumped at the opportunity to take a QuickBooks training course.

“I had no QuickBooks knowledge prior to this training,” said Alvarez. “I’m 61 years old and thought I couldn’t learn anything new, but the learning experience and hands-on training made understanding easier, and now I’m ready to use this knowledge at work.”

Osvaldo Sosa, president and owner of Harlingen Glass & Mirror,  said professional development is something he encourages all of his employees to pursue.

“I am pleased that TSTC is offering this type of resource,” said Sosa. “This gives me the skilled employees I need and my employees the confidence they need in themselves to do their job well and work with customers. It’s like I always tell them: education cannot be taken away from you.”

TSTC’s Waco and Fort Bend County campuses also received a Skills for Small Business Grant for training within their communities.

For more information on Workforce Development and Continuing Education at TSTC, call 956-364-4590 or visit

TSTC in Waco Student Restaurant to Open Sept. 19

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts program opens its student-operated restaurant for the fall semester on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

The restaurant is at the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center on Campus Drive. The restaurant is open to the public, who this semester may dine on student-planned menus with themes such as Cuba, Germany and Texas.

Meals are served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays from Sept. 19 to Nov. 30. The restaurant will be closed the week of Thanksgiving. The serving days and themes, which can be subject to change, are:

Sept. 19 and Sept. 21: Texas

Sept. 26 and Sept. 28: Ireland

Oct. 3 and Oct. 5: Germany

Oct. 10 and Oct. 12: Czechoslovakia

Oct. 17 and Oct. 19: Cuba

Oct. 24 and Oct. 26: Northern Italy

Oct. 31 and Nov. 2: Vietnam

Nov. 7 and Nov. 9: Chef’s Choice

Nov. 14 and Nov. 16: Chef’s Choice

Nov. 28 and Nov. 30: Live Action Buffet

Weekly menus will be posted on the Facebook page for the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center at TSTC in Waco.

To make reservations, call 254-867-4868. Visitors must arrive at least 15 minutes before their seating time. Reservations are not accepted on restaurant serving days.

For menus and other information, go to

TSTC Fathers Proud of Sons’ Achievements

(WACO) – Three recent Texas State Technical College graduates gave their fathers plenty of reasons to smile.

Bailey Bowers, 20, and Jason Z. Mallory, 20, received Associate of Applied Science degrees in Electrical Power and Controls and Nate Hutchison, 18, received the Associate of Applied Science degree in Robotics Technology at TSTC’s Summer 2018 Commencement in mid-August.

And, they all started full-time jobs in late August.

Their last names are recognizable on campus.

Bowers is the son of Michael Bowers, TSTC’s vice president of student learning, Hutchison is the son of TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison, and Mallory is the son of Jason Mallory, director of internal audits.

The younger Bowers grew up in Clifton and graduated in 2016 from Meridian High School. He originally wanted to continue pole vaulting in college, but saw what his relatives were doing in their careers and wanted to follow suit.

The younger Bowers continued a family tradition of majoring in Electrical Power and Controls at TSTC. He counts his father, older brother and cousins as TSTC alumni.

“It’s the diversity of the job opportunities,” the older Bowers said. “It’s not a niche-type field. A degree in Electrical Power and Controls opens up opportunities.”

Bowers awarded his son his degree at the graduation ceremony.

“It was a wonderful moment,” he said. “I was happy for him and for his achievement. I could see the joy in his face going across the stage.”

The younger Bowers works in computer research and equipment for projects at Oncor in Sherman.

“I am greatly enjoying my job,” he said. “Most of my time has been taken up becoming familiar with the individuals I will be working with and the service area I will be working within. With the others in the office having an average tenure with the company of 27 years, I plan on working hard to learn as much as I can to be able to take on a leadership role in four to five years.”

The journey for Hutchison’s son to become a TSTC graduate at 18 began with a toy.

“Nate has always had an engineering mind; growing up, his room was a minefield of Lego creations,” the provost said. “One day we were watching the show ‘How It’s Made’ together and I thought he might be interested in that intersection of computer programming, engineering, electronics and robotics.”

The Hutchisons visited TSTC’s Robotics Technology program, and the younger Hutchison was interested.

“Because he started with dual credit, he was usually younger than other students in the cohort, but they treated him like everyone else in the program,” the provost said.

The younger Hutchison did an internship, which has now turned into a full-time job, as a software technician at Fallas Automation in Waco.

“I use everything I learned at TSTC on my job, and though I’m still learning every day on the job, I was very well prepared for work,” the younger Hutchison said.

Mallory brought his son, who graduated in 2016 from Rosebud-Lott High School, to visit TSTC during his senior year. Mallory said TSTC gave his son the opportunity to see what he was capable of.

“This place taught him the way he learns and gave him confidence,” said Mallory.

After his first year at TSTC, the younger Mallory got an internship at Commercial Metals Co. Construction Services in Seguin and was offered a full-time job by last Christmas contingent on graduation.

“On a daily basis, I troubleshoot electrical motors throughout the mill, check wiring connections and grease motor bearings,” the younger Mallory said. “All this helps keep the mill running.”

The younger Mallory said he was glad to start work with no college debt.

“TSTC did exactly for me what I was told it would do,” he said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to