Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC alumna named Sweetwater ISD’s coordinator of health services

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Kimberly Dean, a 2018 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s registered nursing program, was recently named coordinator of health services at Sweetwater Independent School District.

Dean, who is originally from California, has always been intrigued by medicine. She started her career as a certified nursing assistant and later became a licensed vocational nurse. She is now a registered nurse overseeing a group of nurses at each school in the district.

“I always thought it was amazing what the body can do,” Dean said. “I knew straight out of high school I wanted to study medicine.”

Dean is adjusting to her new role as a supervisor but is excited to be part of the school district.

“This is a little different than acute care,” she said, referring to her former job as a nurse at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital in Sweetwater. “I am more in charge of managing students’ chronic conditions and helping to keep everyone healthy at school.”

Sweetwater ISD Superintendent Drew Howard said Dean’s role will be necessary to students, faculty and staff members.

“This position will help us provide additional support to our campus nurses, as well as focus on one of our district goals: to increase the number of SISD Social and Emotional Learning and wellness checks,” he said.

Dean’s responsibilities include developing goals, objectives and priorities of the program, in conjunction with the district’s nurses and other district staff members. She will also be tasked with recommending policies related to health and safety, and provide advice on matters impacting students, staff and the community.

Dean said she will have to maneuver through a learning curve as supervisor.

“We have a good group of nurses. They are excellent at what they do,” she said. “I know that they do all the work, and we will make sure our students are safe.”

It was a tough decision for Dean to leave Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital, but she is pleased with her decision.

“These new hours of work are great for me and my family,” she said. “It was a bittersweet decision to leave Rolling Plains, but I am excited about this new adventure.”

TSTC Nursing instructor Lisa Van Cleave said Dean will excel in her new role.

“I know Kimberly to demonstrate compassion for her patients and families and to give excellent care,” she said. “We are fortunate to have Kimberly’s service and input into our nursing program.”

Dean, who serves on the college’s Associate Degree Nursing advisory board, will continue to promote TSTC’s program.

“I would love to see some of our students get into nursing. I hope to help direct them to TSTC,” she said. “There are excellent instructors at TSTC, and I have a lot of respect for them.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Automotive Technology student grew up building things

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Daniel Gainer, of Mason, has been building things his entire life.

He found a love of working on different vehicles in his father’s shop at a young age. He is preparing to enter the workforce after he graduates from Texas State Technical College’s Automotive Technology program this fall.

“I have had a lot of job offers the past few months. That is all thanks to TSTC,” Gainer said.

After touring TSTC in high school, Gainer said the choice to attend college was simple.

“I have always liked to make sure things ran correctly,” he said. “I also like the hands-on style of learning available at TSTC. You need to get in there and do the work.”

Gainer said instructor Mike Myers made learning easy and also exposed him to the way things will be done in the workplace.

“Mike will sit down in front of me and explain to me what I am looking for. I will sit down after that and do it correctly,” he said.

Even if he did something wrong, Gainer said Myers would be right there to offer input like a shop supervisor.

“Sometimes when we do not know what is wrong, he will ask us to look at it a different way,” he said. “That helps me think differently and look for a solution.”

Another aspect of the program Gainer appreciated was working with his classmates.

“We have basically become a family here,” he said. “We plan on staying in contact with each other after graduation.”

Gainer said that will be important to him because he knows they can help him if he encounters a problem.

“I know that if I do not have the right answer for a problem, they might. We will be a text message away from helping each other,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, we all know Mike will give us his input, but not the answer.”

Gainer’s favorite aspect of the program is working on diesel engines. Having worked on his father’s equipment led him to focus on the diesel side of mechanics.

“I go home, and all of my buddies have their minds blown with everything I have learned about working on diesel engines,” he said.

While not his favorite, Gainer said he picked up what he needed to do to repair a gasoline engine by watching Myers and his classmates.

“If you show me how to do something one time, it is stored in my mind,” he said. “I know then that I can do what needs to be done.”

Gainer said TSTC offers programs for different people, but one thing is the same.

“TSTC will teach you a good work ethic and get you set for the future,” he said. “The instructors will work hard to prepare you for where you want to go in life. This has been the best experience of my life.” 

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Nursing students have access to Nurse Anne Simulators

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Nursing students in Harlingen and Sweetwater will be able to use simulators that will help them in the future.

TSTC was recently awarded Nursing Innovation Grant Program grants totaling $153,205. The program is facilitated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is funded through the Texas Tobacco Lawsuit Settlement.

The Harlingen program was awarded a $75,000 grant, while Sweetwater was awarded a $78,205 grant. The programs will use the funds to improve simulation curriculum, scenarios and equipment, including the purchase of Nurse Anne Simulators. 

The faculty will be provided professional development to better comprehend and incorporate the simulation training into nursing practicums.

Mark Hampton, TSTC’s resource development specialist in Sweetwater, said the grant will allow students to work on skills in a controlled environment.

In the past, nursing students completed practicums in hospital wards or nursing home facilities. Over time, regulations changed, and the amount of time that students could spend in a medical facility decreased.

“Each of the practicums offered our students a little hands-on knowledge,” Hampton said. “It would have been the first time they did a real blood pressure check on a patient.”

With the new simulator, students will be able to complete half of their practicum requirements on campus and the remainder in the field, he said.

“These Nurse Anne Simulators will increase the realism of our simulations on campus,” Hampton said. “It will offer students real-life and real-job situations as best we can.”

The simulators may be programmed for any age group or condition, as well as a male or female patient. Hampton said instructors could ask students to perform a blood pressure check on a five-year-old child or find out what is wrong with a 70-year-old man.

“It has all kinds of changing parts,” he said. “Instructors can program the simulator for any situation, from an emergency room to a nursing home.”

Hampton said instructors will be able to watch a student examine, diagnose and treat the patient and then grade their work.

Instructors have been working to revise the curriculum to include the Nurse Anne Simulator. Software upgrades will also be made with grant funding, Hampton said.

TSTC was awarded the two-year grant and then began working to implement it into the curriculum. During the first year, instructors will revise the curriculum as needed, Hampton said, and implement the simulator.

“During the second year of the grant, we will perform an in-depth analysis and make sure everything is working to continue the simulations,” Hampton said.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Longtime employee knows importance of TSTC

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Joni Coons knows how important Texas State Technical College is to West Texas and beyond.

Coons was recently honored for 30 years of service to TSTC, but her time with the college goes back even further.

While serving as a secretary for an ambulance company in Ballinger, Coons was asked to help on a call.

“I knew after that first ambulance run I wanted to do this for a living,” she said.

In order to become a paramedic, Coons knew that college would be in her future. She enrolled in the Emergency Medical Services program that was offered at TSTC in Sweetwater. She served as a lab assistant, and after graduating she became an instructor in the program. 

She later served as the EMS program chair for the West Texas campuses, and when the program transitioned to Abilene, Coons worked as the Sweetwater campus nurse.

Eventually Coons became coordinator of intramural programs at TSTC’s Student Center.

“Every one of my positions was a stepping stone to the next,” she said. “I knew I would do better in my next position.”

In addition to working at TSTC, Coons is an American Heart Association licensed first aid and CPR instructor.

Coons said her biggest accomplishment was helping TSTC become one of the first colleges to own a fully operational ambulance for the EMS department in the mid-1990s.

“Our program chair at the time, C.L. Meeks, told me to go for it. So I wrote up the proposal, and we got it,” she said.

Coons is most proud of her time as an instructor and helping students succeed.

“I am proud of what TSTC stands for and all of the students we have helped through the years,” she said.

She stays in contact with many of her former students, including a single mother who was in an abusive relationship.

“Everything was going against her. We got her into counseling and helped with expenses for child care,” Coons said. “We even helped her get food stamps.”

Coons said the student worked hard to achieve her goal of graduating and getting a job.

“She came in at the end of her final semester and said, ‘I have something for you,’” Coons said. “She slid her food stamp to me and said, ‘This is the last one of these I want to see.’ I still hear from her today, and she is a successful EMT.”

Coons said some TSTC students have played important roles outside of Texas. One of her former students helped victims at the Alfred P. Murrah Building explosion in Oklahoma City, and another graduate helped counsel people in New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We have had a nationwide impact with our students,” she said. “Watching the professionalism of our students and graduates gives me the greatest joy.”

 For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC honors longtime employees with drive-thru celebration

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College honored 30 employees with service award drive-thru celebrations this month.

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting large gatherings, the celebrations were planned to honor employees with five to 35 years of experience. Celebrations were held at the Abilene, Sweetwater and Breckenridge campuses.

Lance Eastman, interim provost for the West Texas campuses, said the employees honored are appreciated by everyone at TSTC.

“Every position is important and about serving our students and industry,” he said. “These individuals have made sure that our buildings are clean and safe, food is provided, that equipment is in place and that instruction is relevant.”

Eastman was proud to be part of a creative way to honor employees.

“With the health restrictions, which we take seriously, we had to be creative of how we could distribute our service awards,” he said. “We are grateful for these individuals that have dedicated year after year of service.”

Each employee received a plaque, a yard sign noting their years of service, and a gift.

Sweetwater’s Maria Aguirre, the senior executive director of Communication and Creative Services, was honored for 35 years with the college. Joni Coons, the intramural programs coordinator in Sweetwater, was honored for 30 years of employment. Abilene’s Holle England, a learning and development trainer, received a plaque honoring her 35 years with TSTC.

Abilene employees honored for five years of service were Greg Nicholas, welding instructor; Amanda Suiters, library coordinator; Rikki Spivey, enrollment coach; Matt Briggs, Emergency Medical Services instructor; Susan Leda Cowart, English instructor; Randa R. Weeks, Health Information Technology instructor; Magaly Valdez, Drafting and Design instructor; and Miranda Thomas, technical physics instructor.

Mary Wilhite, a student services specialist, was honored for 10 years at the Abilene campus. Also honored in Abilene were Michael Soto, a Business Management Technology instructor, and Susan Hash, a testing administrator, both for 15 years with TSTC, as well as Pam Marler, a contract administration coordinator, and Julia Humphrey, career services director, for 20 years.

Sweetwater five-year employees honored were Frank Molini and Taylor Elston, welding instructors; Carla Becker, travel and expense specialist; Beth Hall, developmental math instructor; Brock Carter, chief of police; and Ray Carnathan, police officer.

Gloria Santiago, food service operator, and Jeff Olney, Electromechanical Technology instructor, received 10-year awards for their employment in Sweetwater. Fifteen-year awards were presented to Sweetwater’s Gail Lawrence, TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief of staff to the chancellor; Mark Hampton, resource development specialist; and Sandra Ortega, enrollment coach.

Brownwood’s Becky Jones, a licensed drug counseling instructor, received a 10-year plaque. Breckenridge’s Debra Bufkin, a developmental math instructor, and Vernon Akins, a building maintenance supervisor, received five-year awards.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Summer graduate returns to TSTC to expand learning

(ABILENE, Texas) – After earning a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology from Texas State Technical College last summer, Alfred Rodriguez, of Knox City, wanted to continue his education this fall.

The 39-year-old is now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program. He began classes in Abilene knowing that his oil field experience will help him.

“I figured working in the oil patch for 15 to 16 years that I needed to get an overall better understanding of machinery,” he said. “I have worked with a lot of equipment, but I know this will help me expand my knowledge.”

During his oil field career, Rodriguez worked on various equipment with different companies. Now he is studying electrical systems that he is familiar with and some he knew little about.

“I knew I would have to be knowledgeable in different things. For me, some of it is the basic stuff I have seen during my oil field career,” he said.

Rodriguez said the younger students may have an advantage over him in some areas, but his experience is guiding him in his pursuit of an associate degree.

“At first, I wanted to have some basic knowledge of how things work. That way if I wanted to build a building in my backyard, I would know how to wire things,” he said.

He admitted that he should have listened to his father after graduating from high school.

“My father told me that if I had applied myself then, it would not have been as difficult,” Rodriguez said. “That was another learning experience for me.”

Rodriguez said looking back, he should have pursued an associate degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. But he is happy that he completed the certificate program.

The classes did prove challenging for him.

“The last time I had to do math like that was in 2000 and 2001,” he said. “The instructors were good at walking you through the problems, and I was able to apply what I learned.”

Rodriguez even did some recruiting for TSTC.

“I got my wife turned on to the online Business Management Technology program, and she started this fall,” he said.

Rodriguez offered his wife some advice as she began her first semester.

“I warned her that there would be a lot of homework during the first semester and she would have to get used to it,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Automotive Technology students use knowledge at home

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – With graduation looming for Texas State Technical College Automotive Technology students, two men are already putting their knowledge to work at home.

“I am using what I have learned by working on my girlfriend’s car,” said Keith Guffey, of Lubbock. “I have retained so much during my time in school. I have been on the honor roll each semester while working a full-time management job. I am proud of myself and think I have found my calling.”

Hunter Yearian, of Ballinger, said he helped his father work on cars at a young age. Now he is showing his father what he has learned at TSTC.

“Now I am working on my stuff. It is nice to see my dad think I did not know how to do something, but I can,” he said. “He is proud of what I can do.”

Both students credit TSTC instructor Mike Myers for their success in the program.

“His teaching aspect is great. He teaches us real-life situations and uses his stories to make sure we know what to do,” Guffey said.

Yearian said Myers’ teaching style is perfect for students who do not have knowledge of vehicles, as well as for those who do.

“He shows you how to do things. He asks us to look at the problem and try and figure things out,” he said. “We start looking at it differently and are then able to go in and fix it.”

Both students want to make careers as automobile mechanics.

Guffey said that ever since he was young, he has enjoyed working on vehicles.

“I just started working on my own and fell in love with the trade,” he said. “I want to complete the Dodge Ram program and become a master technician. Eventually I hope to retire and open my own shop.”

Yearian also wants to be a mechanic. He credits touring TSTC while he was in high school with leading him to a career.

“I was able to walk around the lab, and I liked what I saw,” he said of the Sweetwater facility. “I really enjoy the hands-on aspect of the course.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC student finds blessing from life-changing situation

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Ronald Jones, of Hamlin, was laid off in the spring. He took the advice of his wife and enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program.

“At that time it was hard for people to get a job. My wife said I should take the opportunity and pursue the welding program,” Jones said. “With that happening to me, I did not get down. I took it as a blessing in disguise.”

Attending TSTC is not new to Jones. After graduating from Hamlin High School in 2003, he attended and later graduated with a certificate in Automotive Collision and Management Technology from TSTC. When it was time to look for a welding program, Jones knew he wanted to return to the TSTC campus in Sweetwater.

He got his finances in order and, with his wife’s encouragement, began classes this fall. Jones said he has not decided if he wants to pursue a certificate or an associate degree, but he knows he will receive a good education.

“I was blessed that I did not have to use student loans to go to school,” he said. “I know TSTC will prepare me for a career.”

Despite being one of the oldest students in his class, Jones said the camaraderie is what he enjoys most during lab sessions.

“I enjoy coming in here and talking to these guys. I know they are younger than me, but it is good to just talk prior to starting our labs,” he said.

Jones has always found welding to be an interesting field. He admitted that his only prior welding experience was doing some stick welding during high school shop classes.

“I told my dad when I was young that I would like to be one of them,” he said of welders in his hometown. “From age 16 on, I had been thinking of pursuing this field.”

Over the last four years, he thought more about pursuing a welding job but knew he would need to learn more about it.

One of the hardest parts for him is learning to read blueprints and then welding to the specifications. Jones said over time he will learn to do it without thinking about it first.

With a goal of making welding a career, Jones is looking at West Texas opportunities.

“I was really surprised by the number of opportunities. I figured West Texas would be like a lot of the bigger cities, and it would be hard to find a job,” he said. “The jobs available out here are actually surprisingly good.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Drafting and Design students learn more than building design

(ABILENE, Texas) – Students will be able to design more than buildings when they complete Texas State Technical College’s Drafting and Design program.

Instructor Justin Price said students will have the skills to work in different industries, including the oil and gas industry.

“Our graduates will be well rounded to go into the architectural field or any other field that involves design,” Price said.

One of those areas is the oil and natural gas industry in West Texas. Price said graduates could be employed by companies such as Chevron, Conoco or Kinder Morgan because of TSTC’s advanced pipe and basic pipe curriculum.

“Our graduates will not be specific to just drawing buildings. They will be able to hit the ground running in designing something once they start a job,” Price said.

Drafters will work to put their ideas into a drawing that will detail the size, shape, materials and other specifications needed in a project. Texas employs the second-most drafters in the nation, and Price said there is always a demand in the field.

The TSTC program is offered completely online, and Price said that has helped draw students looking to expand their resume.

“We have seen a steady incline in students in West Texas,” he said. “During this time of COVID-19, the oil and gas industry has been shutting down some of its rigs, so some people are moving to bigger companies.”

Because of the wide range of oil and gas equipment in West Texas, companies need to document where the equipment is located. That is where a drafter comes into the picture.

“Companies have to document so many pieces of equipment a year, and that takes drafters,” Price said. “They are out there documenting what is in the field. We will train our graduates to use various methods to complete that type of project.”

The West Texas program is available through the Abilene, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses. Price said instructors have been working to move the program completely online for some time, and it was a smooth transition this fall.

“We were geared up to tackle any problems we might encounter so we could be ready to rock this fall,” he said. “Students can complete our program anywhere in the state.”

Students have the option to learn during live online sessions or prerecorded sessions. Price said instructors also use online video services to interact with students.

“We want to keep the students engaged during the program,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit

Agility, fitness important for TSTC Wind Energy students

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Climbing a wind turbine is not as easy as it looks.

First-year students in Texas State Technical College’s Wind Energy Technology program are getting in shape for such climbs. Over the first two weeks of the semester, students had to stretch and prepare their bodies for the remainder of the program.

“We have stretched a lot to begin the program,” said Hunter Anglin, of Roscoe. “I started working out some before beginning school. I am happy I did that now.”

Anglin’s stepfather works for a crane company that is used by wind turbine crews in West Texas.

“He has taken me out there a few times in the past, and I was always fascinated by what I saw,” Anglin said.

He said the best advice his stepfather gave him was to go to college.

“He told me that I need to know what I am doing. He said it would be better to get a job knowing something than going in and not knowing anything,” Anglin said.

Evan Cheyne, of Jayton, said he is also preparing himself for future climbs. Knowing that he would need to be in shape was something he learned during a TSTC highlight day at Aspermont High School last spring.

The Wind Energy Technology department allowed students from Fisher, Kent and Stonewall counties to rappel down the mobile lab. It was part of a highlight day announcing the scholarship opportunity funded by California-based BayWa r.e. Wind.

“I talked to my counselors, and they told me about the scholarship. I was able to go down the tower, and I loved it,” he said. “If I did not get the scholarship, I probably would not be able to attend school.”

Cheyne said he liked how current TSTC students presented themselves in Aspermont. He added that was another reason why he chose to attend TSTC.

“Everyone has been quite accepting of the students. The third- and fourth-semester students have been helpful with anything we need,” he said.

Both students are looking forward to the program, knowing that at some point they will be able to climb turbines.

“I have to be in good shape to do that, so working out now is important,” Cheyne said.

For more information about TSTC, visit