Author Archives: Ben Barkley

Perry’s decision to attend TSTC based on helping family

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Growing up on a farm in Jacksboro, Kenneth Perry was constantly repairing equipment.

When it was time to choose a career path, Perry said he had two career options, and both included Texas State Technical College.

“My school counselor told me about TSTC’s programs. It was either going to be diesel or airplanes,” he said. “Anything that had a motor, I liked to work on it.”

His decision, in part, was made on the farm. The family 18-wheeler became his, and he decided to enroll in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. He is currently studying for an associate degree he can use on the farm and later in life.

“I wanted to be able to work on the farm and help my dad,” Perry said. “I also like the small environment we have in Sweetwater.”

While Perry has been used to working on trucks and tractors, he admitted that some areas still give him issues, especially the lab sessions’ transmission portion.

“There are so many moving parts. If you put it together wrong, you will not know it until you are done,” he said. “There is more tedious work when it comes to the transmission, so you have to pay attention.”

Perry said having instructors who have been in the field has helped him improve his skills.

“The instructors want you to figure out what is being done wrong before they come in and help,” he said. “They have set this up so we can learn all of the details.”

Perry does not know what his long-term plans are, but he knows he will put his knowledge to use helping his father on the farm.

“I will go home and drive the diesel and work on things for my dad,” he said. “I know that I will be able to work on our tractors and trucks. I will also be hauling hay and anything else for my father.”

Perry also knows that having a degree will help him when he does begin looking for a career.

“I am going to be prepared for work. Having a degree will be important, and TSTC is known for having graduates hired,” he said.

Instructor Shannon Weir said companies look for students like Perry, who show initiative while in school.

“Companies are always looking for good people to work on their trucks and equipment,” Weir said. “The best thing is many companies trust our graduates.”

With oil prices increasing, Weir said more companies will begin looking for employees. According to, the need for diesel engine specialists in Texas is expected to grow by 14% by 2028. That forecast is higher than the national growth of 3%. (I was a little confused reading this paragraph. Are the numbers for Texas or nationally? And, where does the thre percent come in?)

Perry said he is pleased that he decided to make working on heavy equipment a career.

“This decision set me up for a lifetime,” he said. “I am happy to be learning a skill that will help my family.”

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TSTC student adds paramedic to family’s list of first responders

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Anthony Monaco has been around first responders his entire life.

When Monaco lived in New York, his father was a volunteer firefighter, and his mother was a nurse. After his father’s job moved the family to Fort Worth, Monaco wanted to continue the family tradition.

After high school, Monaco attended a firefighter academy and was hired by the Stephenville Fire Department. He said the department operates both the fire and emergency medical services operations for the community.

Monaco completed an EMS program at his fellow firefighters’ suggestion and decided to take it one step further. He enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services Paramedic program and now is nearing graduation.

“My entire life has led me to TSTC, and I love it,” he said.

Monaco always enjoyed watching his father rush out to a fire call.

“It was an all-volunteer department, and I knew he was helping people,” he said. “When I was a kid, I would run around the house with his bunker gear on. I knew being a first responder was in my blood.”

Moving from New York to Texas, Monaco said he did not know what to expect. He was surprised at how quickly he was able to adapt to a different environment.

“Texas grabbed me from the start. Everyone has been so friendly,” he said. “I am definitely making this my home.”

That friendliness carried over to TSTC.

“Everyone is so welcoming and wants to take care of us. They want everyone to succeed,” he said.

That includes his instructor, Tim Scalley.

“He works daily to put the things he learns in class into his work,” Scalley said. “It is good for paramedics to learn how to do things in class so they are prepared for the next call they go on during work.”

In working toward becoming a paramedic, Monaco admitted that some of the lab sessions were difficult.

“The trauma scenarios we go through are some of the hardest,” he said. “We have to do a full assessment of the situation of a multivehicle accident and fix each life threat at a time.”

Monaco, who describes himself as a lifelong athlete, likened being in the lab environment to being on a practice field.

“I love sports and always told myself to practice like I would play the game,” he said. “I know the better I practice, the better I will perform in the field. That is how I am pursuing my education.”

Monaco said he noticed his critical thinking skills are heightened when working in the lab.

“I have to keep my mind open, like I would in the field, to assess what I am doing on a patient,” he said. “This is the best way for anyone to learn.”

Monaco said knowing he will join an elite list of people known as paramedics will be rewarding. Texas has more than 20,000 paramedics employed statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The need for paramedics is expected to increase 11% by 2028 in Texas, according to

“My family is proud I am pursuing a dream, and I am proud to be doing it at TSTC,” he said.

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TSTC students see career opportunities in Industrial Systems program

(ABILENE, Texas) – One of the first things students learn in Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Systems program is that many job opportunities await them after graduation.

That was the reason why Jacob Nelson, Levi Taylor and Dalton Tiner decided to enroll in the program. What they have learned over their first two semesters is that they made a good decision for a career.

“There are so many different areas we can choose from. This truly is a jack-of-all-trades program,” said Nelson, of Abilene, who is pursuing a certificate in the program.

Industrial Systems students learn to install, operate, test and maintain equipment in various facilities. The three students, along with their classmates, are learning industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, diagnostic techniques, how to read and interpret schematics, and how to work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers, and programmable logic control systems.

Nelson said his family worked in many of the fields covered in the program. It was a perfect opportunity for him to expand his knowledge.

“I am pretty good at welding and working with my hands. I wanted to broaden my skills in that area,” he said, adding that he plans to study for an associate degree.

Taylor, of Hawley, is also pursuing an associate degree in the program and has been impressed with what he has been able to learn in a short time.

“I have learned there are a lot of opportunities available for people who study in this program,” he said.

According to, electrical technician positions are expected to grow by 8% in Texas over the next decade.

That trend has led to younger people enrolling in the program, something instructor Daniel Diaz likes to see.

“With many of our students starting younger, it gives them more time for growth in the industry,” Diaz said. “All of our students see success in the industry. This program helps get them off on the right foot.”

Nelson said having Diaz as an instructor helps him know that what he is learning will be used in the field.

“All of the experience he has had in the field is helpful,” Nelson said. “We know that when we read something, the instructors will tell us about that and how it applies to what we may see in the field. They have seen it, so they can explain it to us and give us their experience in that situation.”

Taylor said having state-of-the-art equipment to train with was another reason he chose to attend TSTC.

“I am a very hands-on person, and having time in the lab is the best part of the program,” he said.

Tiner’s father studied Industrial Systems at TSTC more than 10 years ago. Having the lab sessions today is something that Tiner, of Brownwood, is proud to talk to his father about.

“He had to do a lot more reading back then. He told me that having the equipment here is going to help me prepare for a career,” said Tiner, who is pursuing a certificate of completion in the program.

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Lifeguard Ambulance Service EMTs travel similar paths to TSTC

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Two Lifeguard Ambulance Service emergency medical technicians began their medical careers in similar fashion.

Michelle Bates and Brittney Evans did not immediately begin studying to become EMTs. Now the two first responders are completing their third semester in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services Paramedic program.

Bates, of Fort Worth, earned a college scholarship to play soccer and originally wanted to study clinical psychology.

“It was a couple of years, but I decided I wanted to study emergency medical services,” she said. “I first brought it up to my parents, and they were not sure that was something I should do.”

A couple of years later, Bates returned to her parents and was met with a positive response.

“I really got into the work, and it became my passion,” she said. “My parents are now 100 percent supportive of my decision.”

Evans, of Bangs, said she took time after high school to think about her career options. It was not until 2013 that becoming an EMT entered her mind.

“I fell in love with the EMS world,” she said.

Like Bates, Evans said her family has been supportive of her decision to become a paramedic. The mother of one and with one on the way said it has been hard to juggle family, work and school.

“I am ecstatic to get this done. I am so happy I have gotten this far,” she said. “My husband has been there the entire time supporting me.”

Bates had to face adversity during the past few months. She contracted the coronavirus and was quarantined during and after her illness. But she persevered in her studies through the help of TSTC EMS instructor Tim Scalley, who pushed her to get back into the lab sessions.

“He has been amazing and has taught us so much,” she said. “I had to tell myself to not kill myself to get everything done when I got back. I am not suffering now.”

Both Bates and Evans said their co-workers are excited for them to complete the program. They plan to stay with the company, but Evans said that does have one disadvantage.

“It is hard to help someone you know, but it is good that we are helping people,” she said.

Bates said the Paramedic program is challenging, but the rewards pay off.

“You have to know that you are here to learn and things are not going to happen quickly,” she said. “The best advice I can give anyone is to stay calm and take it one day at a time.”

Evans offered similar advice for prospective students.

“You are going to have to hunker down and be serious about the program. There will be a lot of sacrifices,” she said. “I have learned that the more you put into it, the more you get out of what you learn.”

When Bates and Evans complete the program, they will join more than 26,000 EMT-paramedics employed in the state, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services

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TSTC Wind Energy Technology student looking for adventure

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Grant Cusenbary likes to explore nature and go on adventures.

Cusenbary’s sense of adventure led him to Texas State Technical College’s Wind Energy Technology program. Nearing the completion of his second semester in pursuing an associate degree, he is ready to explore more of the program.

“I am naturally curious. I like to ask a lot of questions, and with our small classes, we get the answers from our instructors,” he said. “It is one thing to know what you have to know, but it is another thing to understand why something does what it is supposed to do.”

Cusenbary’s curiosity came at an early age.

“Working on a farm, I did not know how some of the things worked on our tractors. But I wanted to learn more,” he said.

The same curiosity led Cusenbary to TSTC. He knew people in his hometown of Graham who had wind turbines on their property. He asked the farmers different questions and soon realized he could have a career in wind energy.

“I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of research. TSTC is known for its wind program, and I knew it would be the best place to receive an education,” he said.

Instructor Billie Jones said Cusenbary is very attentive, a positive trait for future wind turbine technicians.

“He does ask a lot of questions, and that is something I like in students,” she said. “He has worked hard in all of his classes.”

With the questions, Cusenbary notices a trend in class.

“It opens a lot of opportunities for us to have in-depth conversations with our instructors,” he said. “I enjoy having the smaller classes because we can have great discussions with the best instructors.”

Cusenbary said he chose TSTC for another reason.

“Almost all of the graduates are guaranteed to be working when they finish. That means the program has a great reputation, and I wanted to be part of that tradition,” he said.

Jobs in the wind energy sector are some of the fastest-growing in Texas. According to, the need for wind service turbine technicians in Texas will increase 83 percent over the next decade. That trend is higher than the national forecast of 61 percent by 2029.

Even with his second semester coming to an end, Cusenbary is ready for what comes next.

“I know what I am learning now will prepare me for the day when things become more hands-on. I can then apply all of the knowledge I have gained into doing it with my hands,” he said.

Like most students in the program, Cusenbary said it will be gratifying when he makes his first turbine climb.

“I used to work on a ropes course, so I am used to climbing high and having to wear safety equipment,” he said. “But to be able to do it with my classmates and make the climb in the turbine, that is one adventure I cannot wait to have.”

Cusenbary said his adventures will continue after he completes the program, and he is looking forward to traveling while working in his chosen career.

“Wind energy is going to offer me an adventure of a lifetime. I am looking forward to seeing the country and taking hikes and seeing the views from the top of the turbine,” he said. “I cannot believe I will be able to explore our country while making money. TSTC is offering me a great opportunity.”

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Moeller sees link between TSTC, student success

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – When Monty Moeller learned that Texas State Technical College was hosting a high school welding event, he knew his students would be in attendance.

Moeller, the Rolling Plains Technical School coordinator and welding instructor, wanted his students to see TSTC’s facilities. Two of his students finished in the top three at the recent Breckenridge welding competition.

“Prior to the pandemic, I would always take our students on tours to see the programs offered in Abilene, Breckenridge, and Sweetwater,” Moeller said. “We are within 90 miles of each of those campuses.”

He has seen many success stories at TSTC, from his students to his own family.

“My son graduated from TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program in Sweetwater,” Moeller said. “My son-in-law was in the same class as my son, and they did not even know what the future would bring them. They both have great jobs, thanks to TSTC.”

One student who Moeller is particularly proud of took the welding skills he learned at TSTC into a military career.

“He earned his degree and is using the things he learned at TSTC to protect our country,” he said.

Another student wanted to stay close to his home in Haskell. Moeller said since graduating from TSTC, the student is welding in Haskell while also learning other trades, like electrical work, on the job.

“I have told him and many of my students to soak up all of the knowledge you can,” he said.

With welding being one of Moeller’s focuses at the school, he looks for competitions throughout West Texas. In October, he hosted an event that was judged by Stephen Hope, TSTC’s welding instructor in Breckenridge.

“Monty and the school are big supporters of the programs we offer at TSTC,” Hope said. “We have had many students from his school enroll in West Texas.”

Hope said students from the technical school based in Rochester come into TSTC with an advantage.

“The students are a step ahead of many first-year students. That is a direct result of Monty and what he teaches,” Hope said.

It showed during the TSTC competition. The three students welded a 6-by-6-inch cube and continually ground the cube, and checked for leaks before the final judging.

“These students were prepared for this competition,” Hope said.

Moeller said students from smaller campuses, like Haskell and Benjamin, attend the school through a cooperative agreement. The purpose, like at TSTC, is to prepare people for the workplace.

“So many students do not go to college anymore. We set up our programs to help get people to work,” he said. “We also tell our students that if they go on to higher education, like TSTC, they will be more marketable.”

Moeller plans to bring additional welding students to competitions scheduled later this month at TSTC in Abilene and Sweetwater.

“The more we can show our students the great facilities TSTC has, the better chance they will come here to earn a certificate or degree,” he said.

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TSTC Wind Energy Technology student accepts a job midair

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – It started like any other Wednesday for Rebecca Fortuna.

The Texas State Technical College Wind Energy Technology student was at the top of a wind turbine when her cellphone rang. On the other end of the call was a FieldCore representative, who offered Fortuna a job as an electrical wind technician.

“The call was one for the books,” said Fortuna, who is a candidate for graduation next month. “I was 300 feet in the air and accepted a job.”

It was her second call from FieldCore, which offers field services to maintain and upgrade power generation equipment.

“I had my first interview a week ago, and within a week, I was offered a job,” she said. “I owe this wonderful opportunity to all of my instructors.”

Fortuna’s family is excited about the opportunity.

“My husband was ecstatic, and my daughter was in disbelief,” she said. “She could not believe it happened so fast.”

Getting away from a desk job was one of Fortuna’s goals all along. After starting a career in health information, in 2016, she knew she needed a change.

“I am the type of woman who wants to do something different. I like to use my hands,” she said. “I didn’t mind the desk job. I just wanted more in my life. All of my brothers work in the wind industry, and I wanted to know what I had to do to get into the field.”

She knew that working in the wind industry would have its demands, especially since it is a male-dominated profession. But that has not stopped her.

“I am not afraid of a challenge. The wind industry is all around us, and it is growing so fast,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in that and wanted to be able to see different things.”

Fortuna, who is studying for an associate degree, was drawn to FieldCore because it gives her the chance to travel. She will begin training with the company in late April or early May.

Being a self-described busybody, Fortuna said the wind industry would provide her with different challenges.

“It is not a boring field because everything is changing daily,” she said. “This program teaches you so many different concepts. I like to get my hands dirty.”

Fortuna hopes she can influence other women to enroll in the program.

“A lot of the girls that I work with at my current job are intimidated because it is male-dominated,” she said. “I tell them it is not what they would expect. It is a great program for women.”

Fortuna said TSTC instructor Billie Jones has been instrumental in helping her learn more about the industry.

“Billie has been great. She will get in there and help you with anything,” Fortuna said. “I have told girls that they need to talk to her if they are interested in the program.”

Jones said Fortuna worked hard to achieve her goal.

“She is a great student. She is one of the hardest workers in class, and I know she will be successful,” Jones said.

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Veteran turns weekend hobby into second career at TSTC

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Scott Rosignol, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army, dabbled in welding on weekends while living in Harker Heights. 

But it was not until he moved to Breckenridge and toured the Welding Technology program at Texas State Technical College that he began to think of welding as a career option.

After talking with TSTC welding instructor Stephen Hope, Rosignol decided to enroll in the program.

“I talked to Stephen about what I wanted to do, and he told me everything that would be available. I saw how clean and organized he had the shop, and I was hooked,” he said.

Hope said working with veterans is one way he can give back.

“I always try to have a veteran in our program. They worked hard to serve our country, and it is my job to serve them in training them for a trade,” Hope said. “Many veterans learn so many trades in the military, and teaching them a trade for a second career is the least I can do. I always like to see veterans complete the program and give them a big hoorah.”

Rosignol is on track to earn his certificate of completion in August, but he plans to return to TSTC to earn an associate degree.

“This is the kind of environment I want to learn in,” he said.

After he retired from the military, Rosignol lived in Tennessee and had no real plans on what to do with his life. But he knew he wanted to do one thing.

“I wanted to further my education,” he said.

After working as an electrical and mechanical technician, Rosignol moved to Texas. It was by talking to his son that welding became an option.

“After my son graduated high school, he went to welding school and had some fantastic opportunities,” he said. “That piqued my interest in welding being a possible career.”

Rosignol’s goal is to complete his education and “just weld and make some money.” However, he may take his career a step further down the road.

“I probably will do my own thing one day and launch my own business,” he said. “But I need to get a few years under my belt.”

For now, the welding lab environment at TSTC leads to the best part of the day for Rosignol.

“I am excited that at the end of the day, I can look back on my pieces and see where I have improved,” he said. “The program does have its challenges, but that is showing me how much I am improving.”

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TSTC helps fill need for chemical dependency counselors

(ABILENE, Texas) – The need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is expected to grow over the next decade.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 26 percent increase in the number of counselors needed in Texas by 2028, and Texas State Technical College is helping to train counselors to fill that need through its online Chemical Dependency Counseling program.

Many of the students in the program learn more about themselves, according to Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor Patty Bundick.

“Some of our students are hungry to know more about themselves,” she said. “The one thing I always think about, even if the student does not go to work in the field, is that the program has made a difference in their life.”

Making a difference in someone’s life is what inspires Leigh Anne Folger, a counselor at Addiction Behavioral Services.

“I can’t take credit for their success or get down if they fail,” said the 2017 TSTC graduate. “All I do is provide them with the information that can help them. I hold up the road map to a successful life. They have to want to drive the car.”

Abilene’s Ashli Arispe shares that same philosophy.

“I think everyone deserves a second chance,” she said. “My nature has always been to help people. I volunteered in high school and have always liked helping others.”

Arispe, a 2020 TSTC graduate, works for ABODE Treatment in Abilene. She said the facility’s acronym, short for Adult Basic Opportunity Development and Environment, depicts how the treatment center works to help people.

“I want to help more people, and help them plant their seeds and watch them sprout,” she said.

The five-semester Associate of Applied Science degree program at TSTC covers several topics, including working with families and family intervention. Students will discuss current issues ranging from child protective services to HIV and other diseases.

Joseph Ott, a 2015 graduate of the program, said he always enjoyed helping people and that was the main reason he chose the field.

“I knew that being 22 years sober that I would try to help people. It is not about the money for me,” he said.

The median annual salary for a counselor, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $46,240 in 2019.

Graduates of TSTC’s program have found employment at different facilities in West Texas, including the Abilene Regional Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Homeward Bound, Serenity House, the Taylor County Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

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Technology helps prepare TSTC Paramedic students for almost any situation

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Students in Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services program are trained to be prepared for almost anything they might encounter in the field.

By using the iSimulate REALITi simulator in lab sessions, instructor Tim Scalley can program various situations for students to address. The simulator also can mimic the cardiac monitors of area EMS services for future paramedics to train on systems they will use at work.

“There is a lot going on and a lot to remember,” said Paramedic student Anthony Monaco, who works for the Stephenville Fire Department as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. “The simulator allows me to get the kinks out while I am in class. I am able to work on what I need to do on the equipment we have available.”

Scalley remembered when students used decommissioned equipment, but technology has advanced to train paramedics with REALITi.

“In the past, we would train with decommissioned equipment. A lot of them did the same thing, but the companies’ equipment is not always the same,” he said. “It is nice to have the technology available for people to learn their system.”

Scalley said many students complete the program and begin working for Lifeguard Ambulance Service in Brownwood. He uses the simulator to program a patient’s situation and walks students through treatment from start to finish.

“Sometimes he will throw a curveball at us, and that is what happens in the field,” Monaco said. “I like to practice in the lab. I know that practice makes perfect.”

Scalley will relay vital signs that he has programmed to students to make adjustments on the patient.

“The life of a patient can change on the fly,” he said.

But not everything in the EMS lab is done on a manikin-style patient.

During a recent session, paramedic students were able to talk to young children and their parents about simulated symptoms. The scenario included all coronavirus safety protocols, and Scalley said it was similar to a doctor’s visit.

“We have to complete visual assessments with children, and we are able to do that with local families,” he said. “All of the training will pay off for the students.”

Scalley also has a stress reliever for the class. He likes to pull out the CPR dummies attached to a computer program for a competition to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“It provides the students with good, accurate information on how they are performing CPR while also involved in a friendly competition,” Scalley said.

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