Author Archives: Naissa Lopez

TSTC Cybersecurity program recognized by national agencies

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Cybersecurity program prepares students for a life of digital safety and protection.

Not only does the curriculum equip students for a vastly growing occupation, but the program at the Harlingen campus is also recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as one of the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense for two-year education.

Some of the qualifications that an institution needs to achieve for the recognition are establishing standards for cybersecurity curriculum and academic excellence, competency development among students and faculty, and essential engagement in solutions to challenges facing cybersecurity education, among others.

Cybersecurity instructor Cesar Ibarra said that TSTC’s standards for the program live up to these expectations.

“Our cybersecurity program is recognized for having the necessary skill set for current cybersecurity job openings and emerging technology environments,” he said.

According to, there are currently just over 47,000 cybersecurity jobs in Texas alone, and the demand is not slowing down.

“There is a current and projected high demand for cybersecurity professionals,” said Norma Colunga-Hernandez, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Cybersecurity department.

The recognition is not permanent, and the program will need to reapply in 2023. Even so, Ibarra said that the field of cybersecurity is here to stay.

“Cybersecurity is not just important, it’s become a way of life,” he said. “We are already living in a digital world and have a digital life.”

TSTC recently introduced a fast-paced Workforce Training cybersecurity boot camp that will feature eight industry-grade foundational courses to equip students with the knowledge they need to get them into the world of cybersecurity. To learn more, visit

February is Career and Technical Education Month.During this month, TSTC is proud to showcase the students, staff and faculty who support our mission of being the “most sophisticated technical institute in the country” every day. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to


Rear view of concentrated thoughtful male programmer viewing computer language code on computer monitor while working on new program in modern office

TSTC Culinary Arts to host virtual information sessions for prospective students

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Prospective students who have dreams of whipping up meals on a stove and baking decadent pastries in the oven can be one step closer to making them a reality when the Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts program hosts a series of virtual information sessions from Feb. 26 through April.

The sessions will be hosted online and give participants an opportunity to learn about the program from the comfort of their own home.

Culinary Arts instructor Omar Duran said that it is a great opportunity for prospective, current and nontraditional students.

“Any individual that wants to learn to be a chef is welcome to the sessions,” he said. “They can participate and have their questions answered by an instructor in the program so they can get important information straight from the instructors who teach the courses.”

Several key points of interest will be discussed during the sessions, including cost of the program and career opportunities, which will give prospective students insight into career paths in the food industry.

“Information regarding both the associate degree and the certificate will be discussed,” Duran said. “The presentation not only provides information about Culinary Arts, but also about what TSTC offers, including admission requirements, food certifications, job fairs and much more.”

Duran added that attendees will also be given a chance to ask any questions or concerns they may have about taking the first step into the Culinary Arts program.

“Potential students can ask any questions they have during the information session,” he said. “Our team will be ready to assist with questions about financial aid, career services and academic courses.”

Instructor Emma Creps wants students to leave the sessions not only with an understanding of the program, but also with excitement as they choose a career goal.

“Selecting a career path can be a difficult choice for some people, and our objective is to make people feel confident when choosing culinary arts as their career choice,” she said. “We also provide support during the application process so students will not feel lost as they transition from high school to college, switch careers, or have had a delay in returning to school.”

Creps said that motivation and an interest in culinary arts are the keys to succeeding in the program.

“The most important attributes a student can have to succeed in the program are the willingness to learn and time management skills,” she said. “And of course, as with any career, it starts with passion. When a student has passion, the idea of learning the world of cooking is exciting to them, and they are eager to study in order to build their knowledge and skills.”

The first virtual session is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26, from 5 to 6 p.m. Additional sessions are scheduled for every second and fourth Friday of the month through April 23. Those interested in attending should contact Omar Duran at

February is Career and Technical Education Month.During this month, TSTC is proud to showcase the students, staff and faculty who support our mission of being the “most sophisticated technical institute in the country” everyday. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to


TSTC instructor dedicated to giving back to his community

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College instructor Sessia Wyche knows a thing or two about numbers.

The longtime educator previously worked at several other institutions before finding himself at TSTC, where he has been an instructor in the mathematics department since 2009.

Wyche, who last year was recognized by U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela with a Congressional Record for his dedication to teaching and ministry, knows that while his gift may be to teach, his calling is to give back.

Some of his volunteering has been spent as a chaplain at a juvenile justice center, a correction center and a hospital.

“When I was asked to be a chaplain at a hospital, it shocked me,” he said. “I thought they had the wrong telephone number. I was their chaplain for about 10 years.”

Wyche’s career as an educator found him when he was not looking.

“When I was working on my master’s degree, I was able to help students when I was a teaching assistant,” he said. “I loved helping others who were afraid of mathematics. I loved to see the expression on their faces change when they began to understand the numbers and problems.”

The Bay City native said that his inspiration to give to others comes from having felt the effects of segregation when he was growing up.

“I remember when I needed help, there was nobody who would help me,” he said. “I am the oldest out of nine children and the first to go to college. I was so lost. I was the only Black student in all of my classes for the first two years. I had never gone to an integrated school before, only segregated schools. It was a shock to me.”

Wyche said that the moments in which he felt alone are moments that he does not want any other student to feel.

“I did not know anyone,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be in a place where you are all alone and you need help, or you need help and are turned away. It used to hurt me so much. That’s why I like to help students and do community work.”

Wyche’s biggest influence was his father.

“My favorite teacher was a man who did not get further than the eighth grade,” he said. “My father taught me how to survive in the community. He told me that the system is not fair and that I cannot beat the system, but I can learn the system and work within the system and try to be as fair as I can to treat everybody else fairly. That is exactly what I try to do.”

Another inspiration in Wyche’s life has been his wife, Emilia, whom he married in 1976.

“Through everything that I have done, she has supported me 100 percent,” he said. “I am who I am because of her.”

Having spent his life solving equations, Wyche knows that age is nothing but a number.

“I have been blessed,” he said. “That’s why I am still teaching at the age of 75. I love giving back; it’s one of the reasons I don’t feel old. We should all pass out the knowledge that we possess.”

During the month of February, TSTC wants to honor the Black students, staff and faculty who make TSTC a special place to learn.

To learn more about TSTC, visit


Army veteran’s commitment to service continues at TSTC

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Once a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Kenneth Buford is utilizing his military skills to resonate with fellow veterans at Texas State Technical College as director of veteran recruitment at the Fort Bend County campus.

For the past 11 months, the Rosenberg native has brought his worldly experience to TSTC, and he is eager to continue helping those who have served in the U.S. armed forces.

“My military experience makes it easier to relate to the changes and challenges facing active-duty personnel,” he said. “It also helps with challenges of those who are transitioning out of military services and service members making career changes.

Buford said that assisting those with the same life experiences as his has made his job very rewarding.

“The ability to continue to serve, guide and assist my sisters and brothers in arms is a very humbling experience,” he said. “Although our contracted time in the service expires, the commitment that was made by each of us never will.”

As he rounds out his first year at TSTC, Buford thinks back on some of his favorite memories with gratitude.

“Working with the soldiers to create strategic plans capable of meeting their financial needs, while ensuring each of them receives the technical training necessary to sustain success, continues to be my fondest memory,” he said.

His commitment is easily recognized in his work.

“Words are not enough to describe that one moment in time while taking soldiers through a campus tour and you see their eyes light up with excitement,” he said. “That’s the moment you know that soldier just found their next great adventure and path in life.”

As far as his advice on education, Buford said that you cannot go wrong with following your passion.

“Do what you love and love what you do,” he said. “Never pass up an opportunity to help another student or ask for help yourself. Not only are we all truly in this together, but no one can do it alone and claim true success.”

To learn more about veteran services offered at TSTC, visit

February is Career and Technical Education Month. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to


Kenneth Buford served in the U.S. Army for eight years and is now serving as director of veteran recruitment at TSTC. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

TSTC Nursing program welcomes lifelike equipment to the classroom

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Nursing students at Texas State Technical College will be learning with some new equipment, thanks to several grants that allowed for the purchase of a Nurse Anne simulator, a SimBaby simulator and a SimMom update, among other teaching essentials.

The simulators, which mimic real patients, give students a real-world sense of their future careers, as well as making for more learning time since clinicals and other outside practicums have been limited because of the pandemic.

TSTC Nursing program director and instructor Shirley Byrd said that TSTC has been very fortunate to have received several grants since 2019 that have helped update the technology and equipment for the program.

“We received funding from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Nursing Shortage Reduction Program, which provided us money for external educational resources for our faculty to improve their teaching methods and outcomes,” she said.

Funding was also received to adjust to the changes in learning because of COVID-19.

“Additionally, we received funding from the Coordinating Board Nursing Innovation Grant Program to support clinical learning experience to mitigate the impediments due to the coronavirus,” Byrd said. “This provided us with equipment and faculty education to facilitate online and distance teaching. We also received Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money from the federal government to purchase equipment that would facilitate our classes during this time, making online teaching easier and more effective.”

Nursing students will be closely monitored by instructors through their time practicing on the simulators and must receive their approval before assignments may be marked as complete.

“This equipment will help the students become independent practitioners without fear of harm to a live patient,” she said. “Students will be able to practice until they are sure of their skills and an instructor has checked them off prior to actually performing the procedure on a patient.”

Byrd said that the simulators are controlled by nursing faculty and can convey a range of reactions, such as pain, crying and even speaking.

“Each instructor has had intense instructions and workshops on the uses and functionality of all equipment and how to use it for the best outcomes,” she said. “The grant monies received were utilized not only to purchase equipment, but also to provide education to all instructors on-site and in distance learning.”

Byrd added that hands-on experience is a vital part of the program.

“This ability to teach students this type of care in the simulation lab is the closest thing we have to utilizing the clinical sites of the hospitals,” she said. “This does not take the place of hands-on nursing care, but it gives us the opportunity to instill confidence and a solid skill set in the student prior to their clinicals.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit


This lifelike simulator is one of the new pieces of technology that the TSTC Nursing program has introduced into the classroom. Students and faculty have aptly named this particular mannequin “Junior.” (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

TSTC Surgical Technology students utilize skills at COVID-19 vaccine distribution

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Some Texas State Technical College Surgical Technology students recently took part in an important effort for the Rio Grande Valley by volunteering their time and skills during a COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Ten students were divided into two separate shifts and tasked with data entry during the drive-thru clinic.

Surgical Technology instructor Anna San Pedro said that it was a humbling experience.

“To have the opportunity to serve the community during this unprecedented time provided a greater perspective of who we are as health professionals and what it means to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” she said.

She added that the learning experience of assisting during the distribution was invaluable.

“I am confident that the experience has provided our students with a great platform to start their careers with a caring and selfless heart,” she said. “It will also give them a stronger perception of what it means to be a health care provider.”

TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez said that preparing students to enter the workforce with confidence is one of the primary missions at TSTC.

“TSTC prides itself on preparing our students to enter the workforce ready to work,” she said. “One of the ways we do that is by providing them with the best hands-on experience possible.”

She said that real-world learning is where students can blend their passion with their education.

“This is where training and their calling merges,” she said. “Students are able to experience that they are here for a bigger purpose.”

Hernandez said that this was an event that TSTC students, and history books, will not soon forget.

“Serving during a pandemic is a rare opportunity, but the lessons learned will be applicable for a lifetime,” she said. “Future generations will learn about this unprecedented time in history books, and our students will be able to say that they were on the frontlines, serving their community.”

To learn more about TSTC, visit


Some TSTC Surgical Technology students recently assisted with data entry at a local COVID-19 vaccine distribution site. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

TSTC alum brings HVAC knowledge and experience to current students

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – For nine years, Jorge Cabrera has been bringing his vast experience and knowledge of heating, ventilation and air conditioning to the classrooms of Texas State Technical College.

The military veteran graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC Technology from TSTC in 2007 before serving in the U.S. Marines for 10 years. He enjoyed every aspect of working as an HVAC technician, and now he enjoys teaching TSTC students the skills they need to be the best technicians in this growing career.

What do you enjoy most about your position as an instructor?

I have to say that I like when I walk into a place, and someone comes up to me to say hi. I might not recognize that person right away, but then he or she says that they were my student. And they thank me because they enjoy working in air conditioning and mention that what I taught them has really helped them out.

What do you think makes the HVAC program at TSTC unique?

In my opinion, here at TSTC we push our students to be academically successful, and we are always there for our students. We try to point them in the right direction if they are ever in need of assistance, and we are always willing to work with them one-on-one.

What is the job outlook for HVAC students?

Most of them find employment within the first three months after they graduate, especially during the summer. TSTC’s Career Services also helps with job placement. Also, if an employer reaches out to us, we definitely let our students know about who is hiring right away.

Why do you think HVAC is an important career?

From food preservation to keeping people comfortable, there are many paths you can take in our field. You will find technicians in hospitals, schools and stores. Additionally, we also contribute to keeping our planet clean if we use the correct processes to install and maintain air conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

Do you have a favorite TSTC memory?

I definitely have a few. I look back positively on when I received my degree from TSTC, as well as every commencement ceremony I have attended. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to change some students’ lives.

February is Career and Technical Education Month. To learn more about the programs offered at TSTC, go to


Prior to serving as a U.S. Marine for 10 years, Jorge Cabrera was an HVAC technician. Now he is bringing his experience to the classroom at TSTC. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Cabrera.)


TSTC Advocacy and Resource Center to host open house monthly through April

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Students may struggle with many different situations while attending college. Those attending Texas State Technical College can feel at ease knowing that they have guidance and support through the services of the Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC).

Formerly called Student Services, the Advocacy and Resource Center offers an inclusive environment that embraces the diversity of students and helps them achieve success in their academic and career goals.

This semester, the center plans to host an open house on Feb. 4, March 2 and April 8, which gives students the opportunity to connect with an ARC coach on their campus.

“The ARC is designed to assist students with nonacademic barriers and help them get back on the path toward graduation,” said TSTC Student Life coordinator Belinda Palomino. “The office functions as a resource and referral center. When life happens, we have resources that can help.”

There are a variety of resources shared with students who turn to the center, such as TSTC’s lending library, food pantry, and child care assistance.

“TSTC is known for being a family-oriented campus,” said senior staff assistant Lisa Garza. “We are always happy to welcome our students with open arms and help guide and support them every step of the way.”

TSTC’s mission of ensuring that students are equipped with everything they need to thrive in the Texas workforce goes beyond academics, an objective that the ARC represents well.

“The staff is passionate and genuinely cares about helping students reach their academic goals,” Palomino said. “Our coaches know the students by name and will work with them until whatever situation they are in gets resolved. The student experience matters.”

Garza added that the size of the campus also makes for a positive learning environment for those who want more personal guidance through their college journey.

“TSTC is the perfect campus for one-on-one guidance and education,” she said. “Being that we are a smaller campus, we have the opportunity to offer more direct instruction and support.”

To learn more about the Advocacy and Resource Center, visit

TSTC hosts digital event to educate students about abusive relationships

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Office of Counseling and Student Rights and Responsibilities will host a digital event called “Love Is Not Abuse” on Thursday, Feb. 11, at noon in an effort to give students advice and statistics about abusive relationships.

TSTC student counselor Angela Dunn discussed what she hopes students will learn from the event, as well as what students should do if they have additional questions or are seeking more resources.

“Attendees will learn about healthy relationships and boundaries,” she said. “They will also learn about resources if they are experiencing dating violence or stalking.”

She said that college is a pivotal time in the personal lives of students, and this information will be beneficial to those in new relationships.

“It’s a crucial time for individuals to learn about red flags when they date,” she said. “Dating violence does not discriminate and can affect all genders, races, ages, cultures and socioeconomic levels.”

According to, dating violence affects 43 percent of female college students, and, according to, it affects 27 percent of males.

Dunn wants students to utilize the digital event to ask as many questions as they need to.

“Our goal is to empower the attendees to reach out to resources if they are experiencing dating violence, as well as being able to provide resources to others,” she said. “Dating violence is typically not a singular incident, so it is important to know the steps to make sure students can safely exit a relationship.”

Should students have additional questions or want to talk to a counselor personally, Dunn said they should not hesitate to contact the Student Counseling department.

“Counselors are available at TSTC to assist students,” she said. “All communication with a counselor is confidential and at no cost to currently enrolled students.”

TSTC students who wish to participate in the “Love Is Not Abuse” digital event can go to

To learn more about TSTC, go to


TSTC’s RISE program sees success with first cohorts

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Last year, Texas State Technical College deployed the Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program to allow students to quickly learn the skills needed to help get them started on the path to a new career.

The courses were introduced to help combat the impact that the coronavirus has had on employment in Texas.

Hector Yanez, TSTC’s senior vice president of Student Learning, said that the first cohorts of the RISE program have seen success, and he expects to see additional interest from potential students as word spreads.

“The RISE cohorts have been doing well,” he said. “We have gathered data and continue to comb through it to get a better understanding of what is working great and what needs to be tweaked. In order to maintain rigor and quality, we inspect things very closely so that students can achieve success in their cohort.”

The courses are implemented in areas with high industry demand so that jobs can be readily available for students once they receive their Occupational Skills Award. However, Yanez said that he has noticed a surprising trend.

“An interesting thing that we observed immediately after the first cohort was that students wanted to continue their education and explore TSTC’s certificate programs and associate degrees,” he said. “Students enroll knowing that they could get even higher wages with just a few more courses.”

Yanez said that TSTC is currently in the process of adding 14 new Occupational Skills Award-eligible courses to the RISE program, which will double the opportunity for interested students.

“The RISE awards give the students the knowledge to work more efficiently, boost their confidence and make them a more valuable candidate for employers,” he said. “Businesses are always on the lookout for knowledgeable staff, and these RISE awards will offer the students the opportunity to attain these in-demand jobs.”

Limited scholarships are available for those interested in the RISE program.

To learn more, visit