Author Archives: Daniel Perry

TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology program adapts to teaching during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Erik Trujillo worked with two other students on a recent morning assembling an engine in Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Engine Testing and Repair II class.

Trujillo, of Elgin, is in his second semester working on a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at the Waco campus. He is optimistic about the future as he dons a campus-required mask during the class lab.

“I enjoy learning and being here, but I also want to get started working,” he said.

Trujillo, like all of TSTC’s students, has adjusted to learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since spring 2020, TSTC’s programs have been taught either exclusively online or in a hybrid format that combines online lectures with on-campus labs. 

For Trujillo, he said he has adapted well.

“I enjoy getting the experience of learning every day,” he said.

TSTC students, faculty and staff continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in wearing masks, not gathering in groups, and sanitizing hands and work areas. All of this is being done to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The Diesel Equipment Technology program is emphasizing the disinfectant spraying of tables before and after classes and requiring everyone to wear Level 1 masks. Faculty members also use timers to ensure that students who work in groups only spend 15 minutes at a time together, then take a break to wash and sanitize their hands before returning to work.

David Folz, the program’s lead instructor, said there is a lot of material to cover in labs while students are on campus. He said even one missed day can put students behind and make it tougher to catch up.

Brad Brownlee, of San Antonio, is in his fourth semester in TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program in Waco. He works at a tractor-trailer-washing business, where he gets to look up close at engines. He said he likes in-person lectures better because questions can be asked quicker and there is more interaction. He said instructors try to include as much information as possible during in-person labs.

“The labs here are pretty amazing,” he said. “The instructors are amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The Diesel Equipment Technology program has more than 180 students this semester, Folz said. He said with smaller classes, more sections are created to accommodate everyone. The program accepts students each fall, spring and summer.

“That’s a good thing in a way,” he said. “We are limiting students to 15 per class.”

Folz said the pandemic has not diminished employers’ interest in the program’s students.

“There is still a lot of work out there,” he said. “People are wanting to get in to do interviews with our students.”

Due to campus visitor restrictions, emails are sent to program instructors to let students know where jobs are available.

Jacob Welker, of Gatesville, was recently offered a part-time paid internship at United Ag & Turf in Temple. He said the internship will work well for him because of his class schedule.

Welker is scheduled to graduate this semester from TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program and is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology – Off-Highway Specialization. He is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Welker said he was glad to take classes focusing on brake systems and how tractor-trailers function.  

“I am glad I got the extra classes I needed,” he said.

The demand for diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to rise to more than 290,000 nationally by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, workers made an annual mean wage of more than $49,000 in 2019, according to the agency.

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TSTC Aircraft Pilot Training Technology program maintains health, safety during pandemic

(WACO, Texas) – Dylan Durst said he was glad to be back in the cockpit as he took off for his first flight late last spring at Texas State Technical College’s airport in Waco after a two-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was about picking up where you left off,” he said.

Durst, who grew up in Mason and graduated from high school in Katy, is pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aircraft Pilot Training Technology at TSTC. He is scheduled to graduate this spring.

Durst and other students returned to classes and flew briefly after spring break in March of 2020. When TSTC converted classes to online and temporarily ceased face-to-face learning later that month, flight students were grounded until late May. The program then implemented a hybrid learning approach.

“We have been very fortunate that we have been able to continue operations in a manner that has proven safe,” said Greg Russell, chief instructor in TSTC’s Aircraft Pilot Training Technology program. “It may sound cliche, but our success as a department has come from the aviators’ ability to constantly evaluate and mitigate risks while adjusting to an ever-changing environment.”

The program’s 12 certified flight instructors returned to campus in early May to do training on sanitizing techniques and personal protection equipment. Students returned in mid-May for a week of their own health and safety training. The instructors and students also studied material data safety sheets to know all of the chemicals to be used for sanitizing aircraft before and after flights.

Everyone must abide by health and safety guidelines from TSTC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding hand washing, masks and social distancing when possible.

“It’s been extraordinary for sure,” said Ryan Lee, a flight instructor at TSTC. “The students have done well adapting to the protocols and procedures.”

Before students climbed back into the cockpit, they spent time using flight simulators to acclimate themselves to flying after their break. Durst said he was glad to have that opportunity to focus his mind again on flying.

Russell stressed the importance of students’ experience with actual planes.

“Our program requires that students be hands-on in the aircraft to practice procedures, checklists and aircraft control,” he said. “Students and our department would not have survived to this point without the ability to use in-person training.”

Lee said that due to the airplane sanitizing the students must undertake, flight blocks have been extended from two hours to two and a half hours. Students are required to fly at least three times a week. Lee said the increased flight time is good for students because they get to spend more time flying with instructors.

“We lost a lot of ground with our students,” Lee said. “We had a huge gap to make up with the students to make them proficient.”

There are positive aspects that Durst and Lee are taking away from the pandemic’s changes to teaching at TSTC.

Lee predicts better sanitizing operations for airplanes in the future.

“People expect to travel,” he said. “I think we are still in the golden age of transportation. I think we will bounce back really quickly.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a need for 45,000 commercial pilots by 2029. The number of airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers is projected to grow to more than 87,000.

“Right now would be the best time to start their aviation training,” Lee said. “The new students really need to know that a lot of the airlines offered early retirement to pilots. There will be a new shortage of pilots along with the preexisting shortage.”

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Carthage resident secures job before TSTC graduation

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Micah Johnson, of Carthage, looks forward not only to graduating this semester from Texas State Technical College, but also to starting work shortly thereafter as an instrumentation technician at Phillips 66’s Sweeny Refinery in Brazoria County.

“I’m excited for sure,” Johnson said. “It is something new. It is going to take me out of my comfort zone a little bit, but I am ready. I am due for something else, a different environment.”

Johnson is scheduled to graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automation and Controls Technology from TSTC’s Marshall campus. The program teaches students about calibration, computer instrumentation, engineering design, programmable logic controllers, robotics interfacing, and maintenance and troubleshooting.

“My instructors are really good at what they do,” Johnson said. “They are knowledgeable and have the answer to pretty much any questions you have.”

Douglas Clark, an instructor in TSTC’s Automation and Controls Technology program, said Johnson comes to class ready to learn and sometimes helps his classmates when they need guidance in understanding class material.

“When I first met Micah, I could tell right away that he was a kind, courteous, respectful young man and possessed a strong moral compass,” Clark said. “That came across in his demeanor.”

Johnson applied for a job at Phillips 66 last fall before noticing the company would be part of TSTC’s virtual industry job fair. He did a short informal interview with company human resources staff and a plant manager during the online event. He later received an email from the company indicating that they were interested in learning more about him.

Johnson went through a series of virtual and in-person interviews, along with a refinery tour late last fall, before being offered a job shortly after Christmas. He is scheduled to finish the hiring process in April and start work in May.

“I am sure they (Phillips 66) saw in him the same thing I saw when I first met him,” Clark said. 

After graduating from Carthage High School, Johnson took general studies classes at a local college but was unsure of what he wanted to do. He also got a job as a helper at an automation and measurement company.

Johnson’s cousin, Jarod Blissett, was attending TSTC’s Marshall campus to study in the Industrial Controls Technology program, the predecessor to the Automation and Controls Technology program.

“He would run me through what they were looking at and show me the assignments they were working on at school,” Johnson said. “It was really interesting.”

Johnson’s cousin motivated him to enroll at TSTC. He even arranged for Clark to meet Johnson and give him a tour of the campus.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that there will be a need for 15,100 electromechanical technicians by 2029. In Texas, electromechanical and mechatronics technologists and technicians made an annual mean wage of $56,750 in May 2019, according to the federal agency.

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TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology program selected for national apprenticeship program

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College has been selected as one of four colleges nationally to take part in a program aimed at producing more workers for the automotive collision repair industry.

Enterprise Holdings, with funding from its philanthropic arm the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, and Missouri-based Ranken Technical College have launched the Automotive Collision Engineering Pilot Program. The program includes that college, TSTC, and institutions in California and Illinois.

The pilot program’s purpose is to have students get real-world experience as they learn in classes to go into the collision repair industry. Jobs for auto body and glass repairers is projected to be at 184,000 by 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Texas, workers are reported to make an annual mean wage of $36,960.

“We’re proud to be spearheading the Automotive Collision Engineering Pilot Program through this innovative pilot,” said Mary Mahoney, vice president of Enterprise Holdings’ Insurance Replacement Division. “As the world’s largest car rental provider and an industry leader in mobility and technology, we have a huge stake in the health of the automotive repair industry and are committed to doing our part to invest in its success.”

The pilot program is using a model that Ranken Technical College has developed to provide apprenticeships to collision repair students. TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program will follow this format.

Students starting this fall in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program are eligible to join the apprenticeship program. Students that meet program requirements throughout their time at TSTC will earn the Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology – Repair Specialization Co-op. Some of the topics that students will learn include automotive plastic and sheet molded compound repair, collision repair welding, estimating, structural analysis and vehicle hardware.

“This program is for someone who really wants to do this,” said Jannifer Stimmel, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program. “We are aiming for a very special kind of student. We want someone who is motivated and driven.”

Students accepted into the program will take seven weeks of classes and work at approved repair shops for seven weeks each semester. Stimmel and the students will select the best place to work, but she will visit to make sure the repair shop has the right equipment and a technician who can mentor. 

She said it will help if shops are part of the Ford Certified Collision Network. Shop staff need to keep journals each week for Stimmel to review students’ progress. A portion of each student’s pay is subsidized by the pilot program.

“The goal is to have them work wherever they are planning on living when they graduate,” Stimmel said. “The ultimate goal is for them to be in a certified shop that can offer them an opportunity.”

The collision repair field is evolving for technicians who are becoming collision engineers.

“We are handed the instructions when a vehicle has been wrecked, and it is our job to put it back the way the manufacturer had it,” Stimmel said. “We are using procedures to re-engineer the vehicle and building it just like the factory does.”

Potential students interested in the pilot program can go to

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Spring semester classes begin at TSTC in Waco

(WACO, Texas) – Sunday’s snow and ice caused face-to-face classes to be canceled on Monday at Texas State Technical College, though online classes went on as scheduled. This caused some students to have their first day of classes for the spring semester on Tuesday.

TSTC students, faculty and staff continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in wearing masks, not gathering in groups, and sanitizing hands and work areas. All of this is being done to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Please keep not only yourself, but your family and all that you come into contact with on your campus, safe and healthy,” said Patti Tate, interim provost of TSTC’s Waco campus.

Jack Brown, of Angleton, worked on Sunday during the snowstorm and joined a snowball fight with his co-workers. On Monday, he went back to work and enjoyed the last of the melting snow but could not attend his Diesel Equipment Technology classes because of the weather closure.

But on Wednesday, Brown attended the first day of his Advanced Hydraulics class.

“It’s getting back on a schedule,” Brown said. “It’s getting back into a routine.”

The fourth-semester student said the keys to adapting to TSTC’s hybrid programs are to pay attention, go to class and prepare for a good deal of reading. Brown said he appreciates the hands-on labs more because he can work on equipment he does not see outside of class.

“It’s a nice combination of how this college works,” he said.

Students, faculty and staff members will continue to see physical changes across campus during the semester as the $29.6 million abatement, demolition and construction project continues.

“There is much excitement with buildings coming down and others going up. And yes, we are having to find alternate routes to get to labs and work, but it will be well worth it when completed,” said Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost in Waco.

The abatement and demolition of campus houses that date back to the days of Connally Air Force Base will continue during the spring, according to information provided by Karen Waller, TSTC’s vice president for facilities, planning and construction. The first phase of abatement will be completed this month, with demolition already underway on the south side of campus. The second phase is scheduled to begin Jan. 25. 

The abatement process for Lavaca Hall, located behind the Kultgen Automotive Center, has already been completed, with demolition planned for January and February. Abatement and demolition for Patterson Hall and other structures is planned for March to July.

Griffith Hall, a student residential facility now under construction next to the Student Services Center, is scheduled to open in August.

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Longtime TSTC Creative Services employee to retire

(WACO, Texas) – Glenn Zgabay has seen a lot in his more than 40 years of working at Texas State Technical College.

“It’s rare nowadays to see someone’s career span over 40 years with the same employer,” said Nick Alvarado, TSTC’s vice president of Communication and Creative Services. “Glenn has been a strong foundation to our team with his technical experience and historical knowledge. We are truly grateful for his dedication to TSTC.”

From the evolution of technology, to a college name change in the 1990s, to buildings torn down and new ones erected, Zgabay is a walking history of the college. But at the end of January, he will retire from his position as a publication specialist in TSTC’s Creative Services department.

“I worked with so many wonderful people during my tenure here at TSTC, that it would probably be impossible to list them all and unfair to try,” Zgabay said.

Jan Osburn, a former executive director of Creative Services at TSTC, worked with Zgabay for about 30 years. She remembers his working with a paste-up board for designs and trips back and forth to the print shop to work with staff to produce camera-ready pieces.

Eventually design work became digitized, and Zgabay had to keep up. Osburn said he was great with Adobe Photoshop but also worked with Adobe PageMaker and QuarkXPress. He also contributed his skills to helping produce TSTC’s former student newspaper, the Tech Times.

“Other than being talented and skillful, Glenn is a kind person, but he has a dry sense of humor,” Osburn said.

Caitlin Hooks, interim assistant director of Creative Services at TSTC, had an office next door to Zgabay’s at the Provence Graphic Communications Center on the Waco campus.

“Although I have only worked alongside him for the last five years, I can say that Glenn has always come to my office with a smile and ready to work,” Hooks said. “He is always willing to take on difficult projects and never complains. I have never seen Glenn stressed out or upset. He is generally an easygoing and happy person to work and be around.”

Zgabay was born in Waco.

“My father worked at James Connally Air Force Base and had been an aircraft pilot. So naturally when I was very young, I wanted to be a pilot,” he said.

Zgabay graduated in 1976 from the Commercial Art and Advertising program at what was then Texas State Technical Institute (TSTI) and eventually became TSTC.

“I’ve always liked to draw and have been interested in art,” he said. “I was attracted to artwork relating to fantasy, science fiction, surrealism — the type of artwork seen on many album covers, movie posters and book covers.”

During his time at TSTI, he was a work-study student in the campus Public Information and News Office and did a paid summer internship at Southwest Advertising, an agency that was in downtown Waco’s ALICO Building. After graduation, he worked at the agency for about a year before being hired at TSTC as a graphic artist in February 1977.

“My career in this field spans over 44 years,” he said. “One of the biggest changes in commercial art production has been the introduction of personal computers, and what we referred to at the time as desktop publishing. The advent of this liberating change revolutionized the profession.”

What has kept Zgabay at TSTC is its mission to educate Texans to get great-paying jobs. He said TSTC’s contribution to the 10 Texas cities that have campuses and to the state is essential.

“Being a graduate of the college, I have felt a personal bond and kinship with our students,” he said. “Working in Waco, and being close to my and my wife’s families, was also a major factor.”

Zgabay said it feels liberating to retire.

“I have enough plans to keep me busy for years, and they will definitely include artistic endeavors of various sorts.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC’s CPT program trains graduates for in-demand jobs

(MARSHALL, Texas) – The future of Texas State Technical College’s Computer Programming Technology program is shining as bright as a laptop screen.

Last spring, the program moved all of its classes online. Due to this, the college’s programs that were physically on five of TSTC’s campuses combined into one statewide unit. This means instructors are not tethered to one geographic campus to teach, but rather can work with students online from throughout Texas.

Phyllis Hollingshead, an instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said she is teaching 60 students this semester in the Introduction to C++ Programming class.

“Now that we have moved fully online, I feel the program will grow,” she said. “Computer programmers are needed everywhere, even in East Texas.”

The East Texas Council of Governments, which encompasses 14 counties, had more than 1,400 software and web developers, programmers and testers that made a median annual wage of $87,100 as of the second quarter of 2020. There were more than 800 computer and information analysts making a median annual wage of $71,500 in the same period.

“Students willing to move to Austin, Dallas or Houston can make even more,” Hollingshead said.

Shannon Ferguson, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said Citibank and Texas Farm Bureau are among the companies that have hired the college’s graduates in the past.

Ferguson is excited about the statewide Computer Programming Technology and Web Design and Development Technology programs taking part in the Austin Technology Council. The council focuses on supporting business and professional growth, providing networking and business mentoring opportunities and giving public policy representation to the tech industry.

“We hope to promote our graduates and get them into companies in that area,” Ferguson said.

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Texas Mutual Insurance Co. awards grant to TSTC

(WACO, Texas) – The Texas Mutual Insurance Co.’s $150,000 grant awarded in late 2020 through The TSTC Foundation to Texas State Technical College means that students can continue to learn technical skills quickly and receive assistance to ease life’s burdens.

The college’s Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program will receive $100,000 of the grant. The program began last fall in select technical programs to give an opportunity for people to learn skills in 15 weeks or less so they can enter a new career field.

“Because of the seriousness of the COVID-19 unemployment crisis and the overall economic crisis in Texas, we put into place these RISE awards in about 45 days from concept to delivery,” said Hector Yanez, TSTC’s senior vice president of Student Learning. “Something of this caliber would normally take over a year to develop and put into the market. However, with teamwork and support, we made this happen and are very proud of the accomplishment.”

The money will be used to provide partial tuition, books and supplies that may be needed for students who are interested in pursuing an occupational skills award in the RISE program.

Yanez said there was limited startup for the program, which began last fall, but additional support was needed to continue to help more Texans in need and expand occupational skills awards to more programs.

“TSTC is very fortunate to receive this grant, but most importantly it is the students that will benefit the most,” Yanez said. “The RISE program is truly an opportunity for everyone. Whether you are unemployed, lost your job due to COVID-19, or just looking for an opportunity to upskill your talents, there is an opportunity for all.”

During the spring semester, occupational skills awards will be offered in:

  • Basic Automotive, Basic Industrial Systems and Basic Plumbing: Waco;
  • Basic Industrial Systems: Marshall;
  • Basic Welding – Multiple Processes: Abilene, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas and Waco;
  • Basic Electromechanical Automation: Harlingen;                       
  • Basic Machining: Waco, Fort Bend County and Marshall;
  • Basic Accounting and Bookkeeping, Basic Cybersecurity, Basic Mechanical, Architecture Drafting and Design, and Basic Web Design: Statewide.

The remaining $50,000 of the grant will go to the Helping Hands scholarship.

“A profound number of TSTC students lack the financial resources to keep them afloat while pursuing their education,” said Beth Wooten, chief executive officer of The TSTC Foundation. “Some students will drop out because they have to choose between keeping a roof over their heads or going to school. This grant ensures that there will be emergency funds available to those in dire need.”

The grant is part of $2.875 million awarded statewide by the Austin-based Texas Mutual Insurance Co. to aid workforce development initiatives and help communities during the pandemic.

“We have a deep commitment to building a stronger, safer Texas, and through our partnerships with organizations across the state, we’re able to deliver on that commitment,” said Jeremiah Bentley, vice president of marketing and community affairs at Texas Mutual. “These partnerships help us keep our finger on the pulse when needs arise in our communities.”

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TSTC Listens to Industry Partners to Make Students Work-Ready

(RED OAK, Texas) – While people pursuing the heating and air conditioning industry need to know how electricity and refrigeration flows work and how a meter functions, interpersonal skills are just as important to have.

Texas State Technical College’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology program has a statewide advisory board made of industry professionals to help it keep up with the skills that students need to stay ahead.

“The advisory board told us last month that the industry is still rolling and COVID-19 has not slowed them down at all,” said Lance Lucas, TSTC’s statewide Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program chair. “HVAC technicians are still needed throughout the state.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that there will be 391,900 jobs for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers by 2029. The agency attributes the growth to commercial and residential building construction and the development of climate-control systems.

Texas had more than 26,600 heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers in May 2019 making an annual mean wage of $46,840.

Roy Boyd, service manager at Airmasters Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Cleburne, said work ethic and personality play major roles in considering which people to hire. Company employees have to communicate well with customers, dispatchers, technicians and others.

“We are always looking for good help,” Boyd said. “We can bring them in when they are green and build them up to our standards. Or if they come in with the skills, we can hone those in and do it the way we want. We have a high standard of quality.”

Members of the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association seek employees with basic technical knowledge and installation skills and who have a desire to serve and learn. Integrity and good character are also needed, according to the association.

Devorah Jakubowsky, the TACCA’s executive director, said the organization’s members will look forward in 2021 to touting the importance of indoor air quality, refrigeration and new technologies. She said people will continue being needed to fill jobs as workers retire.

“We have to do a better job of convincing people that HVAC is a good career option,” Jakubowsky said. “You get to work with your hands and not behind a desk. You get to troubleshoot and figure things out. You earn a good living, and you don’t rack up mounds of student debt obtaining a four-year degree.”

Registration continues for the spring semester at TSTC, which starts Jan. 11.  For more information, go to

TSTC Graduate Eager to Use Newly Learned Skills

(WACO, Texas) – Joseph Leavelle Jr., of Lorena, is eager to use his love of technology to find just the right job.

He took a step toward that during the recently completed fall semester at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. He was one of three students to complete the Basic Computer Networking and Systems Administration Occupational Skills Award (OSA).

The students learned how to break down the components of networking and identify the function of each layer, then how to connect, configure and program end devices, routers and switches to create a network, said Jim Hogue, lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Networking and Systems Administration program.

“Subjects that are normally covered in a week were given in a day in the OSA,” Hogue said. “Each lesson builds on the last, so there is actually an acceleration of knowledge as the OSA progresses.”

Leavelle, a graduate of Robinson High School, was able to work part time at a tractor supply business and devote time to his studies. He said he is grateful to his parents, who live less than two miles from him, for letting him use their internet for the online work. He estimates he devoted at least 30 hours a week to the OSA classes.

“Most of the material was pretty new,” Leavelle said. “I have experience working with computers at different jobs, but I have not done computer networking and worked on them, formatted them and worked on networks.”

He said the time spent studying was worth it. He said his favorite lessons involved using the Cisco Packet Tracer, a network simulation tool.

“I am definitely more of a hands-on learner,” Leavelle said. “I would rather see things and how they are supposed to work.”

His next step is looking for a new job.

“I am primarily looking for jobs in the information technology field,” Leavelle said. “It seems like experience is valued more in the field, but the OSA can help me get in the door.”

The OSA is a three-class, fast-paced way to meet employment needs in Texas. The OSA classes are conducted through the Cisco Networking Academy, enabling students to receive a discount to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate test. 

Leavelle said he plans to take the test before May.

Classes take a semester to complete and can motivate students to pursue an associate degree or go into the job market.

Registration continues for the spring semester. For more information, go to