Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC hosts welding competition for high school students

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Welders are naturally competitive.

Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor Stephen Hope decided to use a competition to promote the program and offer scholarships. High school students from New Castle and Trent competed on March 24 for a chance to win a welding scholarship.

On March 31, the competition will continue with high school students from Breckenridge, Rochester, and Seymour, with each student welding a 6-by-6-inch cube. The top three students who earn the highest scores will receive scholarships for TSTC’s Welding Technology program in Breckenridge. Each of the 17 competitors will receive a gift from TSTC.

TSTC will announce scholarship recipients on March 31.

“Our goal was to get more exposure to our program and to have some fun,” Hope said. “When we first started talking about doing a competition, we knew it would be a good way to get more kids into our facility.”

During the competition, everyone followed coronavirus safety protocols, and only five of the welding bays were used. The March 31 event will be divided into two sessions to ensure safety.

The students worked for up to two hours to make their cubes. Once the cubes were complete, Hope checked them for leaks, which accounted for the majority of points. TSTC Welding instructors Daniel Aguirre and Greg Nicholas then checked the cubes for clean welds, spatter removal, how they fit together, and quality.

At the end of the first day of the competition, Hope said he was pleased with the students’ efforts.

“The quality was really good for these students. I was really pleased with what I saw them accomplish,” he said.

Hope said the competition was initially scheduled to be held virtually. But after additional discussion, it was decided that allowing a certain number of students to come to campus would help promote the program.

“The most important thing was to get the students here and use the equipment,” said Chris Johnson, TSTC’s lead student recruitment representative for West Texas. “Using the equipment and seeing what we offer shows everyone why we are so special. It is also cool for the students.”

Raquel Mata, TSTC’s associate provost in West Texas, said it gave students the chance to meet instructors.

“The students were able to talk to our instructors, and we added the element of a competition,” she said. “Welders are known for their competitiveness, and we wanted to offer a fun event.”

A similar competition is scheduled for April 12 in Brownwood.

“This will be a great chance for me and the other instructors to talk to students about what we offer,” Aguirre said. “I am excited to see what the response will be like.”

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TSTC alumnus uses Business Management Technology skills daily

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – The skills that Josh Barron learned in Texas State Technical College’s Business Management Technology program are paying off daily.

Barron earned his associate degree in 2016 and is currently a training specialist for the Center for Life Resources in Brownwood. He also helps with the company’s grant writing process and credits TSTC for his success.

“I manage the training for each department at Center for Life Resources,” he said. “I am in charge of recording all the certification for those training sessions. I have a lot to do when it comes to documents, the policies and procedures for the training department, and getting everyone scheduled for training.”

Barron began working for the Center for Life Resources through a grant. He was first responsible for helping veterans with utilities and rent. Once the grant expired, he remained with the company in his current position.

“I decided I wanted to stay because it is a great company to work for,” he said.

Barron credits the skills he learned at TSTC for helping him today. He said his time studying at TSTC were two great years.

“Getting to learn something new was awesome, especially since I was the only member of my family to graduate from college,” he said.

His skills are paying off in different ways.

“I have encountered several people who do not have the same technical skills I learned at TSTC,” Barron said. “I assist them with many different issues on a daily basis.”

It took Barron some time to decide to enroll in college.

“I wanted to go to college for my family and myself,” he said.

He is glad that he chose to enroll at TSTC and was pleased with how well his time was spent on campus.

“Everyone was very welcoming, nice, kind, and offered to assist me,” Barron said, adding that he wanted to help others by being part of the work-study program.

When people learn that Barron earned an associate degree, they want to know more about TSTC and the degree programs. He is quick to point them toward TSTC.

“I always guide them to more information,” he said. “The culture and atmosphere are great at TSTC. I think for anyone looking to further their education, TSTC is the best place to start.”

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Del Toro’s welding confidence grows at TSTC

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Like some Welding Technology students, Rogelio Del Toro did not have much welding experience before enrolling at Texas State Technical College.

His inexperience did not stop him from setting a goal of earning a certificate and finding a job, however.

“My father did some welding, and I tried it in middle school,” Del Toro said. “I figured after high school I would study welding, and I plan to work on wind turbines.”

Del Toro’s inexperience is turning into confidence, according to TSTC welding instructor Daniel Aguirre.

“He has shown a lot of improvement since his first semester,” he said.

Del Toro plans to earn his certificate and graduate in August. He wants to prove to himself that he can work as a welder.

Aguirre’s teaching style and learning by watching other students is part of Del Toro’s strategy to succeed.

“I like the way Daniel teaches us things. He has been out in the field and tells us what to expect,” he said. “I like the way we can talk to each other and look at the different techniques in class. That helps us improve as students.”

During the course of his studies, Del Toro has noticed a change in his approach before taking a project to Aguirre for review.

“I have learned how to inspect my own work before showing it to Daniel. We need to be confident in our work,” he said.

Aguirre said one thing he wants all of his students to have is confidence.

“Students need to build and maintain that confidence all the time,” he said.

Del Toro, who was raised in Brownwood, hopes more people will look at the Welding Technology program, which is available at all 10 of TSTC’s campuses around the state.

“This is a good program that will teach you a career,” he said.

A career opportunity for Del Toro was another reason he enrolled at TSTC.

“The hands-on aspect is great, and I really liked having people available to help me with resumes and interviews,” he said. “I have been able to learn and achieve a lot of things in school that I would not have dreamt of before. TSTC has made that possible.”

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TSTC Business Management Technology prepares students for a range of career options

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s online Business Management Technology program prepares students for a wide range of career options.

Graduates of the program have worked in different areas of business, from accounting to business management. Earning an associate degree or certificate has opened doors for many of the program’s graduates.

Ron Howard is now working for the Taylor County Veterans’ Service Office after earning an associate degree in 2019.

“Everything I learned in the program is helping me tremendously in my job. It has helped me with all of the computer skills and with Word documents,” he said. “My job all day is working on a computer.”

Howard said he could not have succeeded without the help of the TSTC instructors.

“The one-on-one time they give you is great. They do not tell you, ‘Here is the work, go do it’; they make sure you understand what to do,” he said. “The instructors will set you up to succeed.”

Howard would visit his former instructors before the coronavirus pandemic and now communicates with them via email.

“I hope we can get together again. They helped me so much,” the U.S. Marine Corps veteran said.

Instructor Duston Brooks said many students, including Howard, take the learning further by earning a bachelor’s degree.

With TSTC offering a certification and degree program online, Brooks said the cost is minimal.

“Students will need a laptop and good internet access, of course,” he said. 

Brooks said students would learn the skills needed for a business to succeed. These include a clear understanding of accounting and principles; efficient management processes; practical verbal, electronic, and visual communication skills, work; how to work with supervisors, customers, employees, and stakeholders; and knowledge of computer software, including word processing spreadsheets, and presentation software.

Small-business owners have taken the course to improve the company’s management end, Brooks said. He also has had students who worked in physical labor positions but took the course to work in an office.

Howard said the program offers people career choices.

“I think people should embrace what they learn in the program. They will succeed,” he said. “TSTC’s Business Management Technology program is the best out there.”

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Trying experience leads O’Byrne to TSTC Nursing program

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – The compassionate voice of a nurse led Blaine O’Byrne into the health care field.

O’Byrne is studying to become a licensed vocational nurse at Texas State Technical College and plans to become a registered nurse. For now, she is excited that she is able to complete clinical sessions while remembering why she wanted to become a nurse.

“I struggled with my pregnancies. But when God sent me our baby, I remembered all of the nurses who helped me during the pregnancy and delivery,” she said.

One nurse in particular stood out, according to O’Byrne. A nurse she met during a walk happened to be working on the day O’Byrne learned she would need an emergency cesarean section to deliver her first child.

“I was so scared because I was a first-time mom. She held my hand, telling me everything would be fine,” she said. “That just touched my heart. I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a person who would comfort my patients and help them through the tough situations.”

Helping others has come easy to O’Byrne.

“I consider myself a people person. I love hearing other people’s stories,” she said. “I wanted to be able to share God’s love through nursing.”

She is considering the obstetrics and gynecology field because of her own life experiences.

“I know there are a lot of young moms out there that will need help,” O’Byrne said.

The TSTC campus in Breckenridge is a perfect fit for O’Byrne. She said it is the midway point between her family and her husband’s family.

“I was looking at different nursing schools and knew it would be halfway between our families,” she said. “My husband got a job, and I started school.”

Stephens County is seeing an increase in the number of LVNs being hired. According to the Texas Board of Nursing, the county had 94 LVNs employed in 2017, and by 2020 that number had increased to 100.

“There is always a need for nurses, and I am happy to be part of the growing field here,” O’Byrne said.

She said the instructors show the same passion as nurses in the field.

“I love the school. I have a good relationship with all of my instructors,” she said. “The pace is fast, but I think that is a challenge. I always have something to do. I think that will make for better students and eventually better nurses.”

O’Byrne still remembers the nurse who visited her five years ago before her first child was born. They have become friends, and she was able to thank her for the career choice.

“I saw her during Christmas, and she was able to see my son. I told her I was going to start nursing school, and she cried,” O’Byrne said. “She means the world to me.”

During the month of March, TSTC wants to honor women in history and right on our campuses who work to make strides in STEM fields every day. For more information, visit

TSTC student travels unique path to Paramedic program

(ABILENE, Texas) – Erik Duenes was asked a simple question while working in his hometown of Ozona.

“I was working in maintenance at a nursing home, and the director of the EMS (emergency medical services) asked me if I wanted to drive an ambulance,” said the Texas State Technical College student. “I knew it was a chance to make some extra money.”

What Duenes, who is studying to become a paramedic, did not expect was for a career to unfold.

“I took my first emergency medical technician class at the local service, and I was hooked. I went on to earn advanced EMT certification, and now I am studying to be a paramedic. I never thought I would fall in love with the medical field.”

Duenes said he is working to become a paramedic to support his wife and two children.

“I wanted to be able to provide for them. They are the fire that drives me to succeed,” he said.

In his first semester, Duenes has been impressed with the lab sessions and clinical work.

“Everything has been really good,” he said. “I knew becoming a paramedic would be more demanding. I understood that there would be more studying and work, and prepared myself for it.”

Duenes said his experience at TSTC has been more than he expected, especially during the Wednesday lab sessions.

“I did not realize we would have so much one-on-one time and be able to work with each other,” he said. “I knew there would be studying, but to come here on Wednesdays and execute what we have learned is the best part of the week.”

Duenes also likes learning from experienced instructors.

“They know how everything is supposed to be done. They want everyone to work together to succeed,” he said.

TSTC was the perfect choice for Duenes, and he hopes more people study Emergency Medical Services at the TSTC campuses in Abilene, Brownwood or Harlingen.

“My EMS director in Ozona graduated from TSTC. So I am kind of following in his footsteps,” he said. “I have told other EMTs I know that they need to come to TSTC and study.”

The state of Texas has more than 20,600 EMT-paramedics employed statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Duenes wants to be part of that group.

“I am ready to get back out there and work with the new skills I am learning,” he said.

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TSTC Wind Energy Technology instructor wants students to climb high

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Billie Jones takes pride in watching her students succeed, both in college and in the workforce.

The Texas State Technical College Wind Energy Technology instructor and statewide division chair works daily to make sure that students will be ready to work on day one.

“I want our students to have the best education and college experience they can. I want them to go to work and excel at what they do,” she said.

Jones, who has taught at TSTC since 2017, does not ask her students to do anything that she would not do herself.

“I love climbing the turbines with them, and I still do the workouts with our students,” she said. “I like to give the students a hard time when I beat them up the tower. I always look back at them and tell them they need to keep up.”

Jones’ teaching style is something that she learned from her father while growing up on a ranch.

“My dad always told me to prove to the boys how to do things right,” she said. “That is what I am showing our students.”

Student Rebecca Fortuna knows that having Jones as an instructor is helping her plan a career.

“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.”

When Jones gets the chance, she enjoys talking to prospective students and their parents.

“I love doing the recruiting events and talking to students when they come on campus,” she said.

She also enjoys hearing from WInd Energy Technology program alumni who have been working in the field.

“I love it when our former students come back and talk to the class,” Jones said. “They can give them more of a perspective of what to expect in the field. Many of our former students tell the classes to work toward an associate degree because they know that is where the money is going to be.”

Jones and her fellow instructors work together to promote and improve the program.

“We want to give our students more of an advantage in the workforce. We want them to be the best for their company,” she said.

Jones hopes to continue improving the program in order to accomplish the ultimate goal.

“I want to make our wind program the best in the country and the world,” she said.

During the month of March, TSTC wants to honor women in history and right on our campuses who work to make strides in STEM fields every day. For more information, visit

Female TSTC Automotive Technology students building confidence

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Working on a car most of the week is building confidence in two women at Texas State Technical College.

Kelsey Rice, of Abilene, and Nianica Dorado, of Wichita Falls, had different reasons for studying Automotive Technology, but they have similar goals.

“I wanted to learn for myself all of the ins and outs of a car,” Rice said. “I did not want to take my car somewhere and they told me one thing was wrong and I knew it was something else.”

Dorado began the program after being injured in an automobile accident in 2019.

“It took six months to fix my car. I decided then I wanted to learn more about what to do if something happened,” she said.

Both students plan to complete their certification and enroll in TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program.

Rice said working with her classmates has helped her build confidence in herself.

“It is a good feeling, knowing you have done something right,” she said.

Dorado and Rice both like the hands-on approach that TSTC provides.

“I love the hands-on work we do. It offers a person great experience in the shop,” Dorado said.

They agreed that working in a male-dominated field is not a concern for them, but they acknowledged that there can be some disadvantages. Rice said loosening or tightening bolts has been challenging for her, but she is working to correct it.

“I have been working out a lot to increase my strength,” she said. “Some of the guys like to jump in on my work, but I tell them I have it, and they step back.”

Dorado said she has to overcome her height limitations when vehicles are on the rack.

“I know I am short, but I work hard to make sure I get the work done correctly,” she said.

Both students said they have one advantage over the men in the program.

“Sometimes the guys ask us for some help in those tiny spaces. It pays to have tiny hands in that situation,” Rice said.

The two students hope to continue working together.

“When I see Kelsey walking into the shop, it brightens up my day,” Dorado said. “We are showing people this is not just a man’s job.”

During the month of March, TSTC wants to honor women in history and right on our campuses who work to make strides in STEM fields every day. For more information, visit

Vess likes pace of TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Working on vehicles is not new to Snyder’s Kaden Vess.

Vess wanted to expand his knowledge by enrolling in Texas State Technical College’s Diesel Equipment Technology program. Now nearing the end of his first semester studying for a certificate, Vess has not been disappointed.

“I have learned a lot really quick,” Vess said. “Some of the work is hard at first. But I know once I study what to do, it will be easier for me to complete.”

Instructor Keith Aguirri said Vess is showing promise in his first semester.

“He has come a long way in a few weeks. He is showing a good work ethic,” he said.

One aspect of lab sessions that Vess appreciates is how instructors treat it like a job setting.

“They like to throw a curveball at you. I know if I am not right, I will be thinking about it to make sure it is done correctly,” he said.

Vess’ interest in engines comes naturally. His father was a mechanic, and his stepfather ran derby cars.

“I have worked on vehicles with my family for a long time,” he said. “I took a mechanics class in high school and decided I wanted to learn more options and make it a career.”

He chose the diesel profession because of its flexibility.

“Anywhere you go, there is going to be a diesel,” he said.

Vess was drawn to the TSTC program because of its recognition.

“I knew TSTC had a good diesel program, and I read several good reviews,” he said. “The reviews showed me that it would set me up for a good-paying job. TSTC’s program has good name representation in our area.”

Vess said there is an added bonus that he did not know about before enrolling in the program.

“TSTC is going to help prepare me for my job with interview skills and resume writing,” he said.

When he is not in class or studying, Vess likes to show his father the different things he has learned during his first semester.

“I talk to my dad every day. My dad likes to learn things from me now, and that is great,” he said. 

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TSTC Welding Technology student eyes oil fields

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – James Martin, of Mason, has always liked to work with his hands.

After four years of welding classes in high school, Martin is furthering his education in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program. He is planning to obtain a certificate of completion in order to work in the West Texas oil fields.

“I have always liked the feeling of working with my hands,” he said. “I like to do that more than sitting at a desk.”

Martin said studying welding at TSTC is easier than his high school welding classes were.

“It is easier because of the amount of time you can spend on a project. We also get more one-on-one time with our instructors,” he said. “It is easier to learn when you can talk to the instructors about what you are doing right and wrong.”

Instructor Taylor Elston said Martin is a hardworking student.

“He completes most of his projects first and takes a lot of pride in his work,” he said. “He will probably be one of the first students to complete all of his projects this semester and will do them well.”

The reason that Martin chose to attend TSTC was simple.

“I knew how TSTC was known to produce good welders. I wanted to learn to be the best I can,” he said.

One portion of the program that Martin enjoys the most is working in the lab, but he also said it is the most difficult.

“We have to get used to the moment that we are doing our profession all day. That is the way our labs are set up,” he said.

He also likes working with his classmates.

“We are very comfortable in class. We are respectful of each other’s work and want to make sure we succeed,” he said. “While it is like a work environment, it is easygoing for all of us.”

Martin also appreciates TSTC’s pledge to help graduates with job searches.

“That is a very good thing, and I am looking forward to working with the staff in helping me find my career,” he said.

Martin said he plans to buy his own welding equipment, knowing that TSTC will prepare him for work. He tells his friends about his experience anytime he can.

“I let people know what a great opportunity they can have by studying at TSTC,” he said.

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