Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC alumnus returns to hometown hospital

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Seeing childhood friends will be a normal occurrence for Roby’s Kaycie Hills.

Hills, who graduated this spring from Texas State Technical College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing, was recently hired at Fisher County Hospital. Hills is also following in the footsteps of her mother, who has worked at the hospital for 26 years.

“I enjoy working in my hometown. I see a lot of people from my childhood, and they tell me how proud they are of me. That makes me feel good,” she said.

Hills said she wanted to be a nurse like her mother and worked to reach that goal.

“I was working three jobs and realized that I wanted a career,” she said. “I wanted to provide for my son.”

Hills admitted that she struggled in some of her classes at TSTC, but she feels a sense of accomplishment about finishing her degree requirements.

“It feels really good to be graduating,” she said. “The instructors really came through for me and helped me.”

It was not only with classwork that Hills said instructors helped her.

“They would always call and ask how we were doing and if I needed anything,” she said. “That is what I appreciated the most. They really care about their students. They are a huge part of my life now.”

Completing the registered nursing courses taught Hills lessons she will use daily.

“The program really dove deep into the entire disease process,” she said. “It helped me learn what the patient needs, and I can better care for my patients with that knowledge.”

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TSTC Automotive Technology instructors bring experience to the program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Students in the Automotive Technology program on the Texas State Technical College campus in Sweetwater listen when their instructors talk.

Mike Myers and Gerod Strother use their different backgrounds to teach the students what to expect on the job. Myers worked in the automotive industry for more than three decades, while Strother once served in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

“Mike knows what (auto) dealerships are looking for,” Strother said. “All of the students listen to him.”

Myers said knowing what is expected of a mechanic helps the students while they work toward a certificate or Associate of Applied Science degree.

“When I get onto a student about something they did, it is because I know that it could be a fireable offense,” he said.

Strother said Myers is quick to return to the student.

“After a couple of minutes, Mike will go back to that student, put his arm around him and explain what they did wrong,” he said.

Safety is the first lesson students learn in the program. Strother said students must pass the safety course before they are allowed into the lab.

Once students are in the lab, that is where the majority of their time is spent. Myers said students spend two hours in the classroom, but “we then go in the lab and perform what we learned in the classroom.”

Strother’s military career and the lessons he learned while serving the United States play a role in safety.

“I want to focus on people and make sure they are paying attention. It is always about safety for me,” he said.

Both instructors said one of the more difficult lessons is when students have to work on the vehicle’s electrical system.

“Over my 31 years, I went from basic electronics in a car to technology today, with which you can land on the moon. Some vehicles have more technology in them than the capsule that landed on the moon,” Myers said. “We go over all of it and make sure the students know what to do.”

Myers said graduates typically begin working at a dealership’s oil change station. Six to nine months later, students will go through an apprenticeship with a master technician. The final stop is the main goal, according to Myers.

“After working as an apprentice, most of our guys get their own bay at the dealership,” he said. “That is their goal. That is where the big money is for them.”

Myers said he receives phone calls and text messages from former students telling him about their journey. He also gets a call or two a month from some of them needing help.

“It amazes me that students still call or text me about something they are working on. I listen to them, and we discuss what they have and have not done,” Myers said. “Then it clicks, and they know what to do. That is what I appreciate.”

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TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology instructors preparing for enrollment surge

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – When oil prices decline, eventually they will increase. The biggest question is when.

When oil production increases, the demand for diesel specialists also increases. Texas State Technical College’s Sweetwater campus offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in heavy truck specialization and two certificates in heavy truck specialization.

“We are looking for a really good enrollment this fall, especially with the economy the way it is,” said instructor Shannon Weir. “The oil field is going to bounce back eventually, and companies will need people to work on the trucks and equipment.”

Some graduates of the Diesel Equipment Technology program are employed by established companies like Caterpillar, Peterbilt and Freightliner.

“Our students will be able to get work when they graduate,” he said.

Weir said most graduates have jobs prior to the end of their final semester. That is one of the selling points for the program, he said.

“Most of our graduates from Sweetwater get jobs in the oil field,” Weir said. “People trust our graduates.”

Students spend a majority of the time in the lab. Earlier this month, students returned to the Sweetwater campus to finish spring semester lab sessions.

“It is good to get back to work. This is a very hands-on class,” said second-year student Jacob Rambo of Wichita Falls.

With registration for the fall semester underway, Weir said instructors are preparing for changes.

“When the students returned this month, we did not have any issues. Everyone is following the rules,” he said, adding that those rules include wearing a face covering at all times. “We are going to make sure to practice all of the safety guidelines in place. Safety is our top priority.”

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TSTC students practice social distancing during lab sessions

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – A limited number of Texas State Technical College students returned to campus Monday, May 4.

Students allowed back on campus are studying in programs that require them to complete hands-on lab work in order to finalize their semester. While on campus, students and instructors practiced social distancing guidelines and wore face coverings at all times.

Students were glad to be back on campus and have social interaction with classmates.

“I am excited to be back,” said Diesel Equipment Technology student Jacob Rambo, of Wichita Falls. “While we were away, I did a skills test and had to align my own vehicle.”

Devyn Johnson from Lubbock, who is also a Diesel Equipment Technology student, said he spent time at work and with his family while away from campus.

“It feels good to be back. I missed the bonding with my friends and the coming together we had before getting started with class,” he said. “I have learned a lot from these guys.”

The return to on-campus instruction is specifically authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which has identified career and technical education as one area of education that may continue under the Texas governor’s Executive Order No. GA-16.

“CTE programs that require hands-on instruction that cannot be delivered online can continue to be delivered, but in strict accordance with CDC guidelines,” the executive order states.

“It is good to be back in the groove,” said Diesel Equipment Technology student David Wilson, of Brownwood..

Welding students in Sweetwater were also excited to be back on campus. Brian Naza, of Colorado City, admitted he did not do any welding at home.

“It is important that I improve my cutting and torch skills,” he said about what his focus would be on during the on-campus lab sessions.

Welding student Hector Mendez, of Senora, said returning to campus was a fresh start.

“I am looking forward to finishing what I started. I want to make good grades and put my skills to use,” he said.

Mendez said that before starting the lab session, his classmates talked about what they did during the past five weeks.

“We were really glad to see each other, but more importantly we want to finish and graduate,” he said.

For more information about how TSTC has prepared to return students to campus, visit

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Salinas receives TSTC Chancellor’s Excellence Award

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Omar Salinas enjoys his job at Texas State Technical College.

Salinas, the production chef at the Sweetwater campus, received the 2020 Chancellor’s Excellence Award for his outstanding job performance and willingness to lead by example.

“The teammates who win this award model excellence for us all and are recognized for both their sound character and for advancing TSTC’s mission,” said TSTC Chancellor & CEO Mike Reeser. “Due to their caring and dedicated efforts, TSTC continues to make a difference in the employment success of our students.”

Salinas said he was surprised to receive the award.

“All I am really doing is enjoying my job and in a way helping my co-workers or any other TSTC teammate as much as I can,” he said.

“Each year TSTC employees have an opportunity to nominate fellow employees who display our core values on an ongoing and consistent basis. Regardless of their daily demands, these nominees have risen to the top through their dedication to TSTC customers, both internal and external,” said Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC’s West Texas campuses. “With multiple levels of vetting, only a small percentage of those nominated are awarded the Chancellor’s Excellence Award.”

Rick Nelson, supervisor of Food Services in Sweetwater, said Salinas is a “blessing for TSTC.”

“He has the skills to go to work wherever he wants, but he loves TSTC,” Nelson said. “He takes ownership of everything that goes on in the kitchen. He is willing to put in long hours to ensure the work is done correctly.”

After graduating from Menard ISD, Salinas graduated from TSTC’s Culinary Arts program. He has spent the past 12 years working for TSTC and does not see that coming to an end.

“Working for TSTC is a great opportunity. There is much to learn and do. We have many opportunities to grow within TSTC,” he said. “I want to learn more about the business side of running the kitchen.”

Salinas knows the importance of TSTC throughout the state and is happy he has a career helping others.

“TSTC offers hands-on training in many essential jobs that make this great state function,” he said.

Nelson said students appreciate Salinas’ efforts.

“Omar strives to be a good example to students through his words and actions,” Nelson said.

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Virtual events keep TSTC students engaged

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students are facing a new challenge with online learning.

Michael LeRoux, coordinator of Retention Services for the West Texas campuses, said the staff wanted students to have a sense of normalcy. Through a brainstorming session with team members, LeRoux said the idea of a daily virtual experience was the way to go.

These experiences include Trivia Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, and discussions about what students face working at home.

“We are talking a lot about time management in what is our new normal,” LeRoux said. “We are doing things online that we did during our leadership luncheons. We had to adjust the approach by doing them online.”

Belinda Palomino, Harlingen’s Student Life and Engagement coordinator for TSTC, said students are wanting something positive to do with their time.

“We are there for the student experience on campus and wanted to keep that going in these times of uncertainty,” she said.

Eight students participated in the first Wellness Wednesday event, LeRoux said. However, as word spreads, he expects the numbers to grow.

There is an incentive for students, LeRoux said. Each student who signs in will have a chance to win prizes and shout-outs in future events.

There is also the chance to be the top campus. LeRoux said each of the 10 TSTC campuses is conducting virtual activities. But Wellness Wednesday is a statewide challenge. With the theme “Commit 2 B Fit,” students will have a chance to win prizes throughout the month.

“All students have to do is log 30 minutes of activity in order for it to count toward the challenge,” he said.

LeRoux and other staff members will send wellness tips and links to workout videos to help keep students active. One of the wellness tips was for students to do school work outside because, as LeRoux said, it can “break up the day.”

The experiences will vary by campus, and Palomino said Harlingen students can expect online hangouts with counselors, receiving positive messages. She said that a virtual movie night is in the works.

“With the different demographics, we are setting up each experience specific to where we are at,” Palomino said.

Fridays have been set aside as a virtual hangout for students just to talk about the week, LeRoux said.

“The students participating so far have really liked the activities,” he said. “We are getting some very positive feedback.”

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California Company Gives Money for TSTC Wind Energy Scholarships

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Carlsbad, California-based BayWa r.e. Wind has given $157,500 to Texas State Technical College’s Sweetwater campus to provide scholarships to students in three area counties.

Fifteen students graduating this year in Fisher, Kent and Stonewall counties — five from each county — will be eligible for the $10,500 Amadeus Wind Energy Scholarship to study in TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program in Sweetwater.

“This is a huge opportunity,” said Daniel Martin, TSTC’s student recruitment director for the West Texas campuses. “The scholarship is covering nearly 100 percent of their tuition costs. They should not have a reason to leave TSTC with any debt.”

Martin said TSTC has good relationships with the four high schools in the counties.

“We are not just there to recruit their students,” he said. “We are there to be helpful in the education process.”

Students receiving scholarships can take advantage of a growing career field. The number of wind turbine technicians is projected to grow to 10,300 through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobs have a nationwide median annual wage of more than $54,300, according to the agency.

The scholarship is named for the Amadeus Wind Project, which will encompass land in Fisher, Kent and Stonewall counties. The project is expected to have more than 90 wind turbines, according to information filed with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Construction is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

TSTC offers a wind energy technician certificate and Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology in Sweetwater.

TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program and BayWa r.e. Wind will host a Program Highlight Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, at Aspermont High School in Stonewall County. Students from Jayton, Roby and Rotan high schools are also scheduled to attend.

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Sweetwater Company Continues Financial Support for TSTC Veteran-Students

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – A Sweetwater company continues to provide scholarship dollars to military veterans studying at Texas State Technical College.

EMA Electromechanics, an international maker of equipment for the clean wind energy sector, has given $150,000 since 2015 for the Sweetwater Veterans’ Funds for College Education.

Company president Eduardo Montich recently presented TSTC with a $75,000 check, putting their total commitment for scholarships at $225,000.  

The scholarship funds have helped veterans complete their technical education at TSTC’s campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater.

“We are truly humbled by EMA’s generosity and desire to support veterans at TSTC’s West Texas campuses,” said Beth Wooten, chief executive officer of The TSTC Foundation. “Inspiring partnerships like this change lives. We are forever grateful to have the opportunity to work together on such a worthy cause.”

Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC’s West Texas campuses, said the company is an exceptional industry partner that not only sees value in TSTC graduates, but also supports them through their EMA veteran scholarship. He said the fund allows veterans to achieve their educational dreams when otherwise their college education might not be an option.

“We are deeply appreciative of EMA’s continued support of veterans enrolled at TSTC’s West Texas campuses,” he said.

EMA Electromechanics was founded in 1952 in Argentina. The company’s VDH Series Vacuum Circuit Breaker was first sold in the United States in 2003. The company began its American operations in 2010 in Sweetwater.

“EMA believes if it weren’t for our veterans, their company would have been unable to locate, operate and flourish in our fine country,” said Gail Lawrence, TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief of staff to the chancellor. “Our partnership with EMA is incredibly important and serves to further our mission and commitment to supply a highly skilled workforce for Texas industries and this region.”

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TSTC to Offer Paramedic Program in Spring

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Texas State Technical College will offer a certificate and an associate of applied science degree in Emergency Medical Services Paramedic at the Brownwood campus beginning next semester. 


“We are very excited to offer the paramedic program at the Brownwood campus and believe this will be a great opportunity for local community members,” Andy Weaver,  TSTC director of EMS and division director of Allied Health Services, said. 


While the paramedic program was offered at the Brownwood campus over 10 years ago, TSTC phased it out due to lack of interest. With rising job demand and need for those with paramedic licenses, the program has been brought back. 


“There is a huge need in this community for paramedics, and now we can fill that need and allow our students to further their career path in their hometown area without having to commute or transfer,” Stephen Sharp, instructor for EMS at the Brownwood campus, said. 


TSTC is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs and recently received approval to teach the paramedic program at the Brownwood campus. 


“We are so excited and ready for this program to get started. We have the right staff and the right equipment to serve these students at the highest standard,” Weaver said. 


The paramedic program is now offered at the Abilene, Brownwood and Harlingen campuses.


Sharp encourages anyone interested in attending the paramedic program at the Brownwood campus to attend an information session hosted every Tuesday at 2 p.m.


“My door is always open to provide information about this career field because it such a rewarding field. If you feel called to this line of work and are ready to work hard and help people, we want you,” Sharp said. 


Registration for the Spring 2020 semester is underway. For more information about TSTC, go online at

Texas State Technical College will offer a paramedic program in spring of 2020 at the Brownwood campus. 


TSTC Students Volunteer With Houses for Healing

(ABILENE, Texas) – When someone is in need, you can count on Texas State Technical College students to answer the call. 


On Friday morning, more than 25 TSTC students, faculty and staff, along with some of their family members, volunteered their time with local nonprofit organization Houses for Healing. 


Houses for Healing provides free temporary housing to those who are receiving medical treatment away from home.


Michael Leroux, coordinator of Student Retention Services for TSTC’s West Texas campuses, said he was more than happy to partner with the organization. 


“I think that it is important that the school gives back to the community it is part of, and it’s important for the students to experience this,” Leroux said. “When we decided to work with Houses for Healing, I discovered the founder, Brian Massey, is a TSTC alum. So I think this makes it an even better opportunity for the students to see someone who has gone through what they have and to learn from him.”


Massey graduated in 1991 from the Sweetwater campus after earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Automation Robotics. Following a successful career, he felt called to do something else with his skills.


“We are supposed to love our neighbor, really love them. And after talking and praying about it with our church, we decided this would be how we would embrace that charge,” he said. 


Massey said Houses for Healing plans to construct 20 mini-houses total, one for each county of the Big Country, plus a home specifically for veterans. The organization has four homes completed.


TSTC welding student Daniel Trevino said it was a great opportunity to get involved in the community.


“I love doing stuff like this. After learning what this company was about, it makes me feel even better to be here,” he said. 


The volunteers worked from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., clearing away debris and a fallen structure, as well as gutting the interior of an older home on the property. The land is where the next 16 homes will be built.  


For aviation maintenance student Omar Alvarez and welding student Curtis Sonstegard, it was a day to meet fellow classmates while doing some good. 


“We get to help people who need it. Of course we wanted to be here, and it’s great to be meeting other students and working with our hands,” Alvarez said.  


As the event finished, TSTC students and employees alike agreed it was the perfect way to spend a Friday morning.    


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Some Texas State Technical College students and employees, along with some of their family members, volunteered their time with Houses for Healing Friday morning.