Category Archives: West Texas

TSTC Graduate Honors Instructor

(ABILENE) — Friendships can be one of the greatest things about a student’s time at college.  

Recent Texas State Technical College Emergency Medical Services graduate Ricki Coleman found a great friend in his EMS instructor, Ronnie Pitts. So Coleman took time to honor him at TSTC’s Fall 2018 commencement ceremony.

“Ronnie is the reason I’m graduating,” Coleman said. “He really listened to me and became a friend and a mentor, and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Coleman is a member of the academic honor society Phi Theta Kappa, and as a thank-you he gifted Pitts with an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole.

“I had no clue he was going to give me this, and I am so honored,” Pitts said. “We’re both about the same age and have gone through a lot of the same things, so I’m just glad I could offer some advice.”

Coleman served in the U.S Army from 1990 to 2004. After he left, he worked in several fire service and emergency medical service jobs.

“I’ve always had a calling to this field and just want to help people,” Coleman said.  

Despite years of experience in the industry, Coleman wanted to be an example for his children and get a degree.

“It’s showing that you can be committed and consistent in the business world, and I can’t tell my kids to do something if I can’t be the example,” Coleman said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, emergency medical technician and paramedic jobs are expected to grow by 15 percent over the next 10 years.

With the expected growth in jobs, TSTC in Abilene moved the EMS program to the new Industrial Technology Center that opened at the beginning of the fall semester.  

“The new building is beautiful, and I think it helps to teach these skills in a real-life setting,” Coleman said.

Wanting to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, Coleman hopes to become an instructor in TSTC’s EMS program.

“Ricki has always been an ideal student: respectful, professional and open to feedback,” Pitts said. “And I think anywhere would be very lucky to have him in their employment.”

Before the commencement ceremony, Coleman and Pitts shared a laugh and a hug as they celebrated his achievement.

“This was a bucket-list accomplishment, and there have been so many people — my kids, my wife and of course him (Pitts) — that helped to get me here,” Coleman said.

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TSTC and Goodwill-West Texas Partnership Helps Students Dress for Success

(SWEETWATER) — ’Tis the season for giving, and Goodwill-West Texas has partnered with Texas State Technical College in Abilene and Sweetwater to embrace the tradition.

In collaboration with TSTC Talent Management and Career Services, Goodwill has agreed to give graduating TSTC students vouchers for a free business professional outfit.

“Goodwill’s mission has always been to provide opportunities for people to overcome barriers,” Danielle Robertson, director of Communications and Development at Goodwill-West Texas, said. “We understand that going to an interview is stressful enough, and we want this to be one less stress.”

The initiative started when TSTC Talent Management and Career Services recognized that students may struggle financially to find business professional clothing that makes them feel confident while applying for jobs.

“TSTC provides the skills to make sure our students are qualified for the job, but we wanted to make sure they have the attire and the confidence to get the job when they interview,” Julia Humphrey, director of Talent Management and Career Services at TSTC in Abilene, said.

For students who need help preparing for interviews, creating resumes or finding a job, the Talent Management and Career Services department welcomes them to visit.

“This is just another feature we get to offer students to help them succeed,” Brittany Wilson, Career Services associate at TSTC in Sweetwater, said. “We want the best for these students.”

Goodwill encourages the community to donate gently worn professional clothes.

“We are happy to partner with TSTC because they align with our mission to help others overcome barriers,” Robertson said.

Goodwill has given over 80 vouchers for TSTC students at its campuses in Abilene and Sweetwater and plans to give more as needed.  

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TSTC in West Texas Holds Fall 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 140 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 10, at the Abilene Convention Center. Graduates from TSTC’s four West Texas campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater were recognized.

For Ronnie Pitts, an instructor and statewide department head in the Emergency Medical Services program at Abilene, watching his students achieve their educational goals does not get tiring. It was especially significant when one student bestowed upon him an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole as a thank-you.

“This is the event that makes everything we do as instructors worthwhile,” Pitts said. “Being able to watch our students succeed is what we live for. But, to be given this honor on top of it all is a special recognition that I greatly appreciate.”


Students could be found thanking their instructors and excitedly talking about having accepted job offers.

Chris Russell, an Army veteran and member of Phi Theta Kappa, received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology Compliance. He started working full time last Monday at Clean Harbors.

“I worked in the oil field after the Army and saw that there was a way to make good money while staying clean and dry,” Russell said. “So now I get to do what I enjoy and be comfortable.”

During the commencement ceremony, Julian Alvarez III, the commissioner representing labor with the Texas Workforce Commission, encouraged students to be humble in their success and spend time with successful people.

“You will face careers, not jobs, the rest of your life,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is a first-generation college graduate. He said that, just like TSTC did for him when he was a student, the graduates have received the tools needed to think for themselves.

“You are ready to meet those challenges you will face in the workplace,” Alvarez said.

Many of Monday’s graduates were inspired and led to success by family members.

Mary Mares of Brownwood, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing from Sweetwater, said it was her son who inspired her to pursue her degree.

“My son was born with craniosynostosis, and it was his birth that motivated me to get this degree so I can help him and others to the best of my ability,” Mares said.

Phillip Cruz of Sweetwater received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He said his 6-year-old daughter was his inspiration for pursuing his studies.

“It’s a second career,” Cruz said. “I used to be a police officer. The country is changing to green energy. I figured I would help the country move forward.”

Cruz is considering job offers at energy companies in Michigan and Texas.

Earlier in the day, the Nursing programs held pinning ceremonies for graduates in Abilene and Sweetwater.

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TSTC and Colorado High School Work Together to Keep Students Moving

(SWEETWATER) — From horse-drawn carriages to vehicles that reach upwards of 160 mph, the transportation industry is constantly moving forward. To help students keep up with the evolving industry, Texas State Technical College hosted a program highlight day that allowed high school students from Colorado City to learn about transportation jobs in a hands-on environment.

“We’re trying to bring in the new age of mechanic-technicians and give them the skills they need to succeed,” Mike Myers, head automotive instructor at TSTC in Sweetwater, said.

The automotive industry employs over 749,900 technicians and mechanics nationally and is expected to grow to 795,800 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Automotive technicians are a dying breed,” Myers said. “We hope these students will stay in the program because it gives them an option to stay local and learn in a very strong program.”

For some students in attendance, the automotive industry runs in their family. Nathan Read, 17, a senior at Colorado High School, said his father has been a mechanic for over 20 years and he hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“I want to build my own shop someday,” Read said. “This a great experience because I really enjoy the hands-on training TSTC has to offer, and I plan on coming here after graduating high school.”

Students had the chance to change headlights, clean parts and explore different job opportunities available in the industry.

“This was great because I wanted to learn how to replace a headlight and got to do it,” Brandon Myers, 18, a senior at Colorado High School, said. “I like TSTC, and love that the school sponsored us to visit. I’m planning on coming to the automotive program after I graduate.”

For those interested in the automotive industry, TSTC offers associate degrees and certificates of completion at campuses located in Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco.

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TSTC Student Takes Degree Overseas

(SWEETWATER) — Living in a foreign country is a dream to most, but getting paid to live in a foreign country is the way Texas State Technical College student Kaitlin Sullivan is realizing that dream.

Sullivan is expected to graduate this fall from TSTC in Sweetwater with an associate degree in Wind Energy Technology and has already accepted a job with Koenig & Bauer, the oldest functioning printing press manufacturer in the world. She will complete her apprenticeship in Germany for two six-month terms, then train with a technician in Dallas for three months until being upgraded to a technician job herself.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” Sullivan said. “I am so excited to travel and learn more about the culture and lifestyle in Germany, all while doing something I’m genuinely interested in.”

Although this is not the path Sullivan ever expected to be on, she is not looking back.

“I did the traditional four-year college, how ‘society’ expects you to, and I couldn’t find a job I liked,” Sullivan said. “So after a year of job searching, I decided I needed something different and came to TSTC.”

Sullivan completed her bachelor’s degree at Tarleton State University, but after having trouble finding a job she was interested in, she took some inspiration from her hometown and made a change.

“I’m from Dumas in North Texas, where there are tons of wind turbines,” Sullivan said. “They’re fascinating to me. So I did some research, and TSTC popped up with the right program.”

Upon arriving at TSTC, Sullivan immediately impressed her instructors with her drive and dedication to education. Wind Energy Technology instructor Billie Jones taught Sullivan in at least one class each semester and recognized her ambition.

“There is nothing Kaitlin can’t do once she dedicates her mind to it,” Jones said. “One of the first things she said to me was that she was in competition with everyone else, just that no one knew it yet. I believe it was that mentality and her willingness to learn that got her where she is today.”

While the job Sullivan accepted is not in her degree field, it is associated with the sister program, Electromechanical Technology. Since there was only a five-course difference between it and Wind Energy Technology, Electromechanical Technology instructor Ron Rendon agreed to meet with Sullivan and help her cross-train.

“Kaitlin is a great leader and very willing to learn. She doesn’t like not knowing,” Rendon said. “She will be a huge asset wherever she works, and I think she’ll do amazing things.”  

For anyone hesitant to take the alternative route from a four-year degree, Sullivan says don’t be afraid.

“People told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it,” Sullivan said. “And I’m glad I didn’t listen because I got this job offer two semesters before graduation. Don’t let them tell you you can’t, and if they do, prove them wrong.”

Sullivan is expected to graduate on Monday, December 10, at 7 p.m. in the Abilene Convention Center.

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TSTC Alumna Uses Degree, Experience to Help Heal Others

(BROWNWOOD) — Battling addiction takes determination, drive and a support system. Texas State Technical College alumna Stephanie Narramore used these tools in her own recovery and now uses them to help others.

Narramore graduated in 2015 from TSTC in Brownwood with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling and is now Associate Director of Clinical Services at Starlite Recovery Center in Center Point, Texas.

“TSTC was a really important part of me changing and my recovery. I suffered from a (drug) addiction for 14 years, and it was time for a change for my daughter and for me,” Narramore said.

When Narramore arrived at TSTC, she was nervous to be going back to school as a nontraditional student but was surprised by the support she found.

“I was scared,” Narramore said. “I was really scared to be going to school at my age, 38, but my instructors and the staff were amazing. They helped me to see something in myself that I didn’t at the time. They put in just as much work as I did.”

Elizabeth Jones, a Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor, recognized the willingness to change in Narramore.

“Stephanie came to school determined, prepared and totally ready to make a change in her life,” said Jones, who was also a mentor to Narramore. “She knew that hard work was in her future, and she never walked away from a challenge. She is a role model for other students in the Chemical Dependency Counseling program.”

Driven by her desire to create a better life as a single mother, Narramore earned not only her degree, but also a list of honors along the way.

“I was the guest speaker at my graduation, the Board of Regents Medal of Honor recipient and president of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. It was very validating,” Narramore said.

Narramore’s attitude and will to succeed left a lasting impression on the people she encountered at TSTC.

“Stephanie is hardworking and determined. She sets goals and doesn’t let hurdles get in her way.” Raquel Mata, associate provost of TSTC in Brownwood, said.

In her current position at Starlite Recovery Center, Narramore says she has found a way to help heal others.

“I’ve been where these patients have been, so I know exactly what they’re going through,” Narramore said. “I found my purpose, and it’s being able to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

The TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program is available at the Abilene, Breckenridge and Brownwood campuses.

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TSTC Nursing Graduates Needed to Fill Home Health Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – As Home Care and Hospice Month is commemorated nationwide in November, the Big Country has a need for qualified nurses to aid patients who want health care in the comfort of their homes.

Marchelle Taylor, a vocational nursing program director at Texas State Technical College, said graduates are encouraged to work in clinical settings first before moving into home health.

“Home health care is pretty independent, and new graduates don’t have the experience to work independently,” Taylor said. “Many do after getting some experience in clinics, nursing homes and hospitals.”

In Texas, there are more than 319,000 Medicare beneficiaries who use home health, according to the Alliance for Home Health. More than 60 percent of them have at least five chronic conditions.

In early November, Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene had more than 80 openings in the 19-county region for nurses to work in home health, hospitals and other medical facilities. Steve Collins, a business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions, said there is a nursing shortage in the region indicated by the number of open job positions.

Job experience is important, said representatives of two Stephens County home health agencies.

James Curtis, a TSTC nursing alumnus and branch office manager at Renew Home Health in Breckenridge, said knowing the county’s nurses helps him fill job openings when needed. The business works with clients in a 45-mile radius of Breckenridge.

“I require one year of experience,” Curtis said. “You never know what kind of situation you can get into.”

Kim Mahan, an administrator at Beyond Faith Homecare and Rehab in Breckenridge, has hired TSTC alumni in the past. The business is a branch of the Graham location, which serves clients in a 50-mile radius.

“One of the struggles with the staff coming here, especially on the home health side, is the documentation,” she said. “It is extremely stringent. There is a lot of documentation that is involved in home health.”

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TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology Program Helps Meet Growing Demand

(SWEETWATER) – Jackson Gardner, 19, of Abilene sees a big future in his career plans as he works toward a certificate in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College.

“The demand for diesel mechanics in big companies sparked my interest,” he said.

Gardner will not be finished after he graduates in 2019 because he wants to pursue certificates in Automotive Technology and Welding Technology.

“I believe it will lead to many more job opportunities since I will be a well-rounded employee,” Gardner said.

Diesel service technician jobs are expected to grow to more than 304,000 by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Employees are looking for students that have basic technical skills and are eager to learn,” said Mark Koslan, a TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology instructor. “As with most businesses, they want employees that are hardworking and dependable with good communication skills.”

Koslan said some of the area options for graduates include truck and equipment dealerships, independent repair facilities, fleet truck companies, and the oil and gas industry.

Ryan Herrera, operations manager for the Concho Valley Rural Transit District in San Angelo, has seen the impact the oil and gas industry has on getting maintenance done on his fleet of 62 vehicles, including five diesel-engine buses.

The transit district does not have its own maintenance facility, so work has to be locally contracted out. Herrera said as the oil and gas industry booms, there are less workers available to do preventive maintenance. As the oil and gas industry’s impact decreases, there are more workers, and demand for repair work is high.

Herrera said the transit district has also seen the impact on its drivers.

“We have a good benefits package here,” he said. “When the boom started back up about a year and a half ago, we lost a lot of drivers. At the end of the day, they realize they had it made here. We are always looking for drivers.”

Herrera said there are plans for the transit district, which serves 12 Concho Valley counties, to build an on-site maintenance facility. This means the transit district will have a need in the future for diesel mechanics and other workers.

“We are doing the planning right now,” Herrera said. “We will go to the state to ask for money to help build the facility.”

Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores Inc., which has a location on Interstate 20 in Sweetwater, uses online job boards, recruiters, and partnerships with technical colleges and universities to find qualified diesel mechanics. Some of the qualities the company seeks in job candidates include up to two years of experience working with Class 7 and 8 trucks, knowledge of basic electrical theory and troubleshooting, and the willingness to mentor diesel mechanic apprentices.

“It’s very difficult to find candidates to fill diesel mechanic positions,” said Tara Carr, a media relations supervisor for Love’s. “This is not Love’s-specific, (but) the entire travel/transportation industry is feeling the effects of a lack of skilled tradesmen. Mechanics have options; getting them through our doors is only half the battle.”

Roy Banda, 32, of Comanche is studying for the Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. Banda, a 2004 Comanche High School graduate, chose to pursue the field because of its specializations.

“I feel great about my job plans and outcomes, and I am willing to relocate for employment opportunities,” said Banda, a former U.S. Marine. “I already have companies interested in me, and I am looking for great benefits for my family.”

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TSTC Unveils New Emergency Medical Services Simulator

(BROWNWOOD) – Texas State Technical College’s Emergency Medical Services program celebrated its new ambulance simulator with an open house on Wednesday.

The Brownwood Municipal Development District and the city of Brownwood provided about $50,000 in funding for the simulator, said Andy Weaver, TSTC’s statewide director for Allied Health and Emergency Medical Services.

“This will help grow the program for students to have better learning opportunities,” Weaver said.

He said students will get as close to a real-life experience as possible while working in the simulator, which is roughly the size of an ambulance without the cab and engine.

Ray Tipton, executive director of the Brownwood Municipal Development District, said the organization is committed to helping educational entities develop skills to drive economic development.

“TSTC has been a valuable partner with Brownwood in developing technical skills,” he said. “We have a lot of highly technical-skilled jobs here. TSTC is a tool we use a lot to talk to companies when recruiting.”

Some students said they have enjoyed being in the simulator, which features operational blue and red lights.

Kaitlyn Gipson, 21, of Brownwood is a certificate student in the technical program she described as intense and fast-paced.

“It gives us a real look in the ambulance and how we do certain things,” she said. “You have to be committed to this field to work in it.”

Gipson said she was inspired to pursue the field because some of her relatives are in the medical field.

“I wanted to be on the front lines,” she said.

Ethan Rhodes, 18, of Brownwood is studying to earn an emergency medical technician certification to help him become a firefighter. He said he likes being in the simulator because he can learn with his hands.

The simulator is in the Emergency Medical Services program’s new lecture and lab space in TSTC’s Welcome Center. The program also has a new mock emergency room and video capability for lessons.

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TSTC Alumnus Moves On to Start Welding Career

(SWEETWATER) – One of Texas State Technical College’s recent alumni from the Welding Technology program has left a high mark for future students to attain.

Luis Rueda, 20, of Colorado City took dual credit classes while a student at Colorado High School and received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology in August. He also earned two other graduating honors.

“Luis has continually proven that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make a great hand,” said Taylor Elston, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor.

Elston awarded Rueda the Outstanding Graduate Award, a recognition putting him at the top of his Welding Technology classes.

“He is constantly asking knowledgeable questions, diligently checking his work, and he focuses hard on perfecting his craft with great efficiency,” Elston said.

Rueda also earned the Provost Award from TSTC in West Texas Provost Rick Denbow. Denbow chooses one student each semester to receive the award from those who have received the Outstanding Graduate Award in their program.

“I am so proud of Luis,” said Elston. “I’m glad he got the Provost Award too. He worked hard to earn it.”

According to Elston, Rueda was a consistent leader in the classroom.

“Luis never stops working,” said Elston. “He can work circles around everyone else and still always seems to be the happiest and the least tired.”

In between welding sessions, Rueda found time to enjoy himself and make friends on campus.

“(My favorite memory is) the day we had at the cook-off at the lake,” said Rueda. “It was pretty fun.”

Rueda has always shown promise.

He has been a student at TSTC in Sweetwater since 2015, when he enrolled as a Welding Technology dual credit student through Colorado High School. He first entered Elston’s class as a timid junior but quickly began to show signs of a talented craftsman.

“His junior year he mostly kept to himself,” said Elston. “However, as a senior he was in a fabrication course during the same hours they were juniors in an intro welding course. After he had all his own assignments in, he would hang out with the younger guys and watch them weld and give them pointers.”

Rueda decided to go into the dual credit program after his brother told him how fun and interesting welding was.

“It was a great opportunity that not all schools offer you,” said Rueda. “I just thought it was a great opportunity that my school was offering and that it was gonna help me in my future since I decided that I wanted to be a welder.”

After graduating high school in 2017, Rueda continued his education at TSTC with 15 college credit hours on his transcript, saving him time and money. Rueda was already in the know about  how college worked and what his instructors expected of him, putting him ahead of the game from his first semester as a college student.

“I already knew how to weld by the time I graduated high school, so I didn’t have to worry about that and already knew my instructors well and how they worked,” Rueda said.

Since Rueda’s graduation in August, he has recently been hired to build pressure vessels at Tri-Point LLC in Midland.

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